Science July 11 issue cover

Science July 11 issue cover

Note: this is an updated version of my recent article at Autostraddle.

Update 2: I noticed that Science Careers editor Jim Austin has quietly deleted the most egregious of his tweets.  I take that much as a small, positive development.

One of the best known and most respected publications in science and technology chose to run a sexualized, trans-misogynistic photo for its cover this week, and when the editor was challenged on twitter for pandering to the male gaze, he responded that he thought it would be interesting what would happen when those males “find out” the women in question are transgender.

While the focus of Science magazine’s July 11 issue on combating HIV and AIDS worldwide is laudable, the editors unfortunately chose the route of crude sensationalism to present that story to the public. The magazine cover features a dehumanizing image of trans women sex workers in Jakarta that focuses on their bodies, crops out their faces and primarily centers on their exposed thighs. The text accompanying that picture says, “Staying a step ahead of HIV/AIDS,” as if trans sex workers are somehow an image that is naturally synonymous with this disease.

And while, yes, trans women globally, on average, do face significantly elevated risks, could you imagine how out of place it would be for Science to run the same cover text accompanied by an image of two men in a sexual embrace, and further only showed them from the neck down? It has also been pointed out that apparently Science has never previously run any similar cover image that crops human bodies in a sexualizing manner.

However, when one of the Science editors was challenged on twitter over this image, the situation worsened quickly. Read the rest of this entry »

Loretta Saunders

Loretta Saunders

Note: the following is a (rather belated and slightly edited) archival post of my piece lost month at Autostraddle.

Communities across Canada gather every year on October 4th for “Sisters in Spirit” vigil, an event to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women of Canada and to demand justice in the face of stubborn indifference from both government and police. This indifference appears despite a very clear pattern of racist-misogynist violence under which Indigenous women in Canada are five to seven times more vulnerable than non-Indigenous women according to the government’s own statistics; however, Amnesty International speculates that even this may be understating the problem as a result of deficiencies in state reporting.

Loretta Saunders, a 26-year old Inuk woman who was studying Criminology at St. Mary’s University, turned in her 28-page thesis proposal in late January of this year in which she intended to detail the cruel violence faced by Canada’s Indigenous women. Yesterday, her body was found in a wooded median along a New Brunswick highway. She was pregnant before her murder.

Her roommates, 25-year old Blake Leggette and 28-year old Victoria Henneberry, had already been arrested by police on charges related to her Feb. 13 disappearance. On Feb. 18 the pair were arrested on charges of fraud and possession of stolen goods — Loretta’s car.

Police have stated that they have identified suspects in the homicide case and that they are not presently seeking any further suspects.

Her thesis advisor Darryl Leroux had given her glowing remarks in response to her thesis proposal (detailed in his own words here), which sadly she will never be able to complete.

At a press conference held within hours of the discovery of Loretta’s body, Cheryl Maloney, President of the Nova Scotia Women’s Association, stated

“I’m never going to let Stephen Harper or Canadians forget about Loretta and all the other missing or murdered aboriginal people.”

and further,

“She wasn’t what society expected for a missing aboriginal girl. Canadian society, and especially our prime minister, has been able to ignore the reality of the statistics that are against aboriginal girls… This is not what everyone expects, but she is at risk. Every aboriginal girl in this country is vulnerable. For Canada to be ignoring it for so long, it’s disheartening. How many more families does this have to happen to before they take seriously the problem?”

Loretta joins a staggering number of other Indigenous women whose families are left grieving and wondering if they’ll ever see change or accountability. We can only hope that her tragic death will serve as a wake-up call to the Canadian government and police forces to take the issue seriously and to empower local communities to prevent violence against vulnerable women in Canada.

Jewelyes Gutierrez

Jewelyes Gutierrez

Note: the following is an archival post of my recent piece at Autostraddle.

Most people would hope that when extreme bullying occurs and is brought to the attention of authorities, the bullies in question will be punished. The opposite happened to Jewelyes Gutierrez; when she was “tormented and harassed” by other students because of her trans status, she was charged with misdemeanor battery for defending herself.

Given that the incident arose in response to intense, ongoing bullying, observers had already widely questioned the decision by Contra Costa County District Attorney Dan Cabral to charge a 16-year old transgender high school student with a misdemeanor count of battery following a schoolyard altercation between her and three other students. However, it now appears that trans teen Jewelyes Gutierrez may be able to avoid charges after all, as she enters restorative justice, a court-ordered conflict resolution program.

Jewelyes, a Hercules High School student and a young trans woman of color, had been facing ongoing harassment and bullying at school from a group of cisgender girls; when she went to the school administration to report the situation was becoming intolerable, nothing happened. Finally, one day one of these girls assaulted Jewelyes by throwing used chewing gum in her face; Jewelyes had had it, she fought back, although she ended up being ganged up on by three other girls in the fight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Note: the following is an archival post of my recent blog piece at Huffington Post.

Janet Mock

Janet Mock – photo by Aaron Tredwell (source: http://janetmock.com/janet-mock-bio/photos/)

Earlier this week, Piers Morgan interviewed transgender advocate Janet Mock for his CNN show, focusing on her new book, Redefining Realness.  The interview quickly set off a critical response on social media as Morgan focused his questions on Mock’s transition history and the moment she came out to her partner as transgender.  The captioning on the program (and Piers Morgan’s tweet to promote the interview) referred to her as formerly being a “boy,” and Morgan himself used similar language throughout the interview.  He also referred to Mock’s male-typical birth name several times.

When I watched the interview, it felt like the questions towards the beginning of the interview, focusing on Mock’s gender expression through adolescence, were leading specifically towards one of the media’s favorite tropes regarding trans women: surgical status.  When Morgan actually asked the question, it came out about as awkwardly as one could imagine: Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this week, the anti-LGBT, anti-family organization Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) brought it’s campaign against a young trans girl in Colorado to an all new low. Readers will recall that PJI had previously made false accusations in the media that a trans girl (we’ll refer to her as Jane Doe) at a Colorado high school had supposedly committed harassment against cis girls in her school’s bathroom. When confronted with the facts that this never happened, PJI simply changed it’s story to claim that the young trans girl was committing harassment simply by being in the bathroom at all.

The campaign of public abuse has been so intense that it was recently reported that Jane Doe is now on suicide watch.

However, a couple days ago the organization upped the ante on its public campaign against a trans child by releasing a sensationalistic video interviewing the other schoolgirls that Jane Doe had supposedly harassed. Of course, no actual incident of harassment is described any where in the video because none ever occurred. Instead the video sensationalizes in an attempt to manipulate the emotions of the viewer, complete with foreboding background music (seriously?!) in their attempt to portray a teenage girl as a monster.

Please click here and report the video for what it is: abuse.

And of course, in their endless cynicism, PJI actually goes so far as to include a fundraising link on their video bullying a teenager:

Harassing a teenager is just another way to make money for the Pacific Justice Institute

Publicly bullying a teenager is just another way to make money for the Pacific Justice Institute

Note: The following is a repost of my most recent article at Autostraddle.

On October 10, the California-based right-wing law firm Pacific Justice Institute issued a press release on its website titled “Nightmare: Teen Boy Harasses Girls in Their Bathroom, Colo. School Tells Girls They Have No Rights.

Like a page out of the right-wing playbook on trans issues, the press release read, in part:

Attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) sent a strongly-worded letter this afternoon to school officials at Florence High School, warning them against squelching student privacy and speech rights in order to cater to the wishes of a teenage boy who has been entering girls’ bathrooms on campus…

Parents at the school, located near Colorado Springs, became irate when they learned that a teenage boy was entering girls’ bathrooms and, according to some students, even making sexually harassing comments toward girls he was encountering. When the parents confronted school officials, they were stunned to be told the boy’s rights as a self-proclaimed transgender trumped their daughters’ privacy rights. As the controversy grew, some students were threatened by school authorities with being kicked off school athletic teams or charged with hate crimes if they continued to voice concerns. The parents became aware of PJI’s Notice of Reasonable Expectation of Privacy and contacted PJI for help.

Brad Dacus, President of PJI, was quoted as saying:

“We’re not going to stand by and let 99.7% of our students lose their privacy and free speech rights just because .3% of the population are gender-confused. LGBT activists are sacrificing the safety and sanity of our schools to push an extreme political agenda. This battle is no longer confined to California or Colorado; it is spreading to every part of the nation. It is crucial that we act now to prevent a crippling blow to our constitutional freedoms.”

From here, the situation quickly exploded over the next few days as the story began to appear in local news before breaking in several high-profile tabloids and right-wing news sites, including the UK’s Daily Mail.

The problem with all this, of course, is that the story is largely fabricated.   Read the rest of this entry »

Amidst violence and escalating tensions in Egypt in the aftermath of the recent military coup, visiting queer filmmaker John Greyson and emergency room doctor Tarek Loubani were arrested in Cairo on Saturday.

John Greyson (still image from a video interview with Daily Xtra)

John Greyson (still image from a video interview with Daily Xtra) – source

Read the rest of this entry »

from Chanelle and Savannah:

A group of so-called “radical feminists” are coming to Toronto July 5-7, including those who have denied that 2-Spirit women, trans women and sex workers are real women, even claiming that we are at fault for male violence we have experienced and who have themselves harassed, bullied and abused members of our communities. However, on July 2 a fierce, beautiful and badass group of us are standing up for women’s solidarity and speaking back.

These radical feminist events are concerning to many women whose lives may be affected by the politics put forward– including the authors of this piece. One of us, Chanelle, is a feminist writer and sex worker rights activist with Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, while the other, Savannah, is a feminist writer and trans activist. One of us is cis and the other is trans. We stand together in our concerns about supposedly feminist politics that denies sex-working women their own voice, denies 2-spirit and trans women their womanhood, and constantly reduces feminism to purely reactionary politics.

The fact is that sex working, 2-Spirit and trans women’s communities are strong feminist leaders, thinkers and community architects, skilled at surviving and subverting sexism–including racist and colonial-sexism–and on July 2 we are bringing our communities together to define our own lives, our own boundaries and to envision/remember feminisms that do better for all of us. We’ll be gathering community leaders such as legendary artist and activist Mirha-Soleil Ross, community leader Monica Forrester (2-Spirit trans women and sex workers who created many of the first programs and services for trans people in Toronto) as well LA-based artist and activist micha cárdenas, beloved powerhouse Kim Katrin Crosby and the amazing Eagle Woman Singerz for art performance, an innovative anti-violence workshop, film and discussion.

Trans, 2-Spirit or cis, sex working or not, we know that women are strongest when we stand together!

Reclaiming Revolution

Reclaiming Revolution

presented by Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
RECLAIMING REVOLUTION: SEX WORKING, 2 SPIRITED, TRANS* FEMINISTS RISE UP!

Tuesday July 2 | 519 Community Centre | Free

5-6:30PM MOVEMENTS THAT KEEP US SAFE: AN ANTI-VIOLENCE SKILLSHARE w/ micha cárdenas. ***This workshop is intended for 2 spirited people of all genders, trans* women and sex working women***

7-7:30 PM LEAVING EVIDENCE: A COMMUNITY ARCHIVING PROJECT. Queer and Trans young people from The People Project will conduct short video interviews about how you identify & what feminism looks like to YOU!
Anonymity is available. OPEN TO ALL

7:30 PM PERFORMANCES, FILM AND PANEL
OPEN TO ALL
-Eagle Woman Singerz
-Mirha-Soleil Ross performing an excerpt from her acclaimed play “Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thoughts From An Unrepentant Whore”
-Panel featuring:
Mirha-Soleil Ross
micha cárdenas
Monica Forrester
Kim Katrin Crosby
-Short film on “Ho Feminism” (captioned)
-Closing Performance by… to be announced!

ASL interpretation for panel and performances | Wheelchair accessible | ttc tokens available to Maggie’s lounge members | watch online! check our facebook or website for livestreaming details

for more info:
facebook.com/maggiesto
www.maggiestoronto.ca

Wow. I hardly even know how to react to this one, except I guess just to say that Julian Vigo takes an extended opportunity to lay it down on us annoying, “hyper-feminine” trans women.

While I don’t really have time to sit down and write a proper response, there were a few immediate thoughts I had in response that I wanted to write out while they were fresh on my mind.

In the first paragraph, Vigo writes

“Even to undertake a strictly political analysis of the trans community one risks being labeled ‘transphobic’ especially if one is a radical feminist. As a result of this assault on dialogue, the true violence of transphobia (ie. assault, rape, murder and many other forms of discrimination) is cheapened and diluted in the larger space of discursive disagreements with feminists. Conterminously, the mislabeling of dialogue under the guise of ‘transphobia’ masks another type of violence perpetuated towards radical feminists who speak about these discursive differences with trans activists.”

So apparently Vigo thinks that calling out individuals (including but certainly not limited to “trans-critical” radical feminists) for making dehumanizing statements about trans women cheapens our efforts to combat sexual violence and other forms of violence against trans women.

A friend of mine Jordana Greenblatt called my attention to an interesting question on this point earlier. When mainstream media and other voices in society make dehumanizing comments about women, would Vigo accept patriarchy’s claim that calling these voices out for misogynistic speech cheapens the “real fight” to end sexual violence and other forms of violence experienced by all women?

Read the rest of this entry »

Note: This post also appears at Autostraddle.

“To the members of the press, I say shame. Shame on all of you.”

These were the words of Michael Singleton, the coroner assigned to the case of Lucy Meadows, the British school teacher who took her own life shortly after her gender transition made national gossip headlines in the UK earlier this year.

As I previously wrote, in late 2012, St. Mary Magdalen’s School informed Lucy’s students that Lucy, who had previously lived outwardly as a man, would return after the winter break as a woman. And although this story is something that has virtually no news value whatsoever for people who aren’t directly connected to Lucy’s classroom, for some reason a series of sensationalized stories on the subject appeared in the British press; this started with a story in the local Accrington Observer, featuring a scowling picture of the parents of one of Lucy’s students, and then spiraled up to the UK national press, including two articles that appeared in the Daily Mail tabloid.

The most over the top of these was an opinion column from shock jock commentator Richard Littlejohn titled “[S]he’s not only in the wrong body… [s]he’s in the wrong job” that implied Lucy should be fired or moved to another school. The article also included pre-transition pictures of Lucy with her then-wife; in clear breach of any kind of journalistic standards, these pictures were directly lifted from Facebook.

Lucy chose to end her life in March of this year.

While we can never be certain exactly what role the harassment she faced from the press played in that decision, it is clear that Lucy bitterly resented the press intrusion into her life, and it is clear that the behavior was entirely inappropriate. Lucy did file a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about the Littlejohn column; it took two months for the process to be resolved and in the end the Daily Mail offered nothing more than to simply take the story down from its website. That was about a week before Lucy’s death.

The coroner Singleton described the gesture as merely tokenistic, stating, “It seems to be that nothing has been learned from the Leveson inquiry.” It was during the Trans Media Watch presentation to the Leveson inquiry that it became widely public that the British press has gone so far as open up the lives of trans children for public ridicule and abuse.

It is heartening to see that Singleton was willing to come out and make such a strong statement to the UK press (and elsewhere, by extension) that the harassment and abuse of trans people’s lives and stories needs to end. Let us all remember Lucy’s story as we demand that the press starts to listen.

(Edit: It’s also worth noting that the Daily Mail has declined to publish anything on this story now that the role of the press has come into question. In other words, they were eager to inject themselves into the story when it was utterly unimportant to people who weren’t directly involved, but when it actually became a national issue– regarding the press involvement in people’s personal lives– that’s exactly the point at which the Daily Mail refuses to discuss the issue further.

Also check here for some right-wing dribble attempting to defend the press behavior in this case.)

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