HB2PROTEST-0324-JFK-01

Source: CharlotteFive.com

As most of us are probably aware, the conservative movement’s attacks on trans people and trans rights have gotten particularly ugly in recent months. Most prominent in the spotlight has been North Carolina, where Republican governor Pat McCrory recently signed HB2 into law, which, among other things, requires everyone in North Carolina to use gender-segregated bathrooms in public institutions according to the gender appearing on their birth certificate.

The radical law is part of a wider political wave aimed at creating obstacles in the lives of ordinary trans people (among other communities) that has taken hold across parts of the U.S., including the underhanded campaign that last November resulted in the overturning of Houston’s anti-discrimination ordinance HERO as well as the recent passing of a “Religious Freedom” bill in Mississippi that, like HB2, unambiguously codifies discrimination into law.

As a native North Carolinian, it’s difficult to express my disappointment; while the conservative movement has often had influence, I’ve always thought of my home state as having a more complex balance of political forces and ideas. Unfortunately, supposedly moderate Governor McCrory has played into the reactionary forces within his party, likely as part of a cynical re-election ploy.

While it is not yet entirely clear exactly how these kinds of laws will ultimately impact people’s lives in day-to-day circumstances, there are already indications what may be on the horizon. It’s rather obvious that the bathroom aspect of HB2 cannot possibly be enforced in any consistent manner; however there have already been signs that it may enable targeted harassment of trans people by law enforcement and civilians alike.

It should also be kept in mind that trans people, especially trans women, can face harassment and discrimination with regard to bathroom usage even in the absence of such laws. A recent story from neighboring South Carolina illustrates the point in an unfortunate way: at White Knoll High School in Lexington, a young trans girl named Anna is facing expulsion simply for using the ladies washroom.

Anna had been told she could not use the gendered bathrooms of either sex, but instead must use a single bathroom in the nurse’s room. Obviously this places a special burden on her since she must travel further throughout the grounds to use the bathroom than anyone else at the school, which places her at risk of being tardy for classes, for example. Teachers have also asked Anna inappropriate questions about her gender, even in front of other students.

Finally the bathroom issue has come to a head, as Anna is now facing expulsion from her high school for nothing more than harmlessly using the women’s bathroom between classes. What’s more, this comes a mere four weeks before her planned graduation.

It’s very difficult to understand why school officials would ever escalate this issue to the point of kicking a young girl out of high school, and I can’t help but think this is a sad result of the hyper-sensationalizing of trans bodies and trans lives that has been pushed in recent years by so-called ‘radical feminists’ and conservative extremists alike. In any case, Anna’s supporters have raised a petition to push back against her expulsion; please sign the petition in Anna’s defense here.

Meanwhile, it will probably take years before the full fallout of HB2 and similar hate bills is clear. Much of it will likely depend on how it is enforced on the ground; if the history of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” provides any example, it’s very possible that some agencies will choose to implement these laws in the most anti-LGBT manner possible. And although the date of the incident is not clear, a recently widely shared video of a butch cis woman being kicked out of a public bathroom by police illustrates the point that these laws will likely also impact on gender non-conforming cis women, among others.

Laverne_Cox_allure

Laverne Cox in Allure Magazine

Laverne Cox, along with several other women, recently appeared in a nude photo shoot for Allure Magazine, which was perhaps the first time that a woman who is openly trans had been included in such a feature in a women’s magazine and was widely hailed for this in progressive media, especially given the context in which trans women of color like Cox are forced to negotiate the complex intersections of racism and misogyny in the patriarchal world we inhabit.

On Feminist Current, Meghan Murphy, who has been criticized for transphobia in the past [1], took a very different view: that Laverne Cox’s body naked body in a women’s magazine represents nothing more than an attempt to appeal to the male gaze. Why the other women in the photoshoot were not subjected to similar criticism is not stated.

Murphy writes

If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture. The fact that Cox’s body is seen as “subversive” because she is trans doesn’t change that. Her body doesn’t look subversive. It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.

Murphy hypocritically refers to Cox as a ‘cartoon’ while decrying the objectification of women.  Also one will notice the dogwhistle trans-misogyny throughout the article such as putting “women” in quotes, which is successful in that the article attracts even more blatant hateful transphobes in the comments section who misgender Cox and gleefully trash her further.  (And notice that while Murphy challenges many other comments, she never responds to these blatantly hateful comments, which are heavily upvoted on her site).

I argued with Murphy in the comments section myself, where she makes the utterly silly defensive claim that her comment about “cartoonish” bodies didn’t refer to Cox at all.  Nobody would believe her in this claim, including her own transphobic supporters in all likelihood.

Here I created I relatively brief storify documenting some of the awesome responses to this hateful trash from feminist twitter.  I’m sure I’ve overlooked a lot of awesome responses, but hopefully this gives an overall idea.

[1]  Regarding Meghan Murphy’s history with transphobia, see this uncritical interview with Sheila Jeffreys focusing on her elaborate transphobic conspiracy theories.

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 »

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