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Note: the following is an archival post of my recent blog piece at Huffington Post.
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 »
On Sunday, Nov. 4, someone walking through the forest of Roumare (outside the French city of Rouen) discovered the body of Cassandra, a trans woman who was apparently burned to death in a fire. Cassandra immigrated to France at some point from Peru and may have been a sex worker.
The essential background for this story is that around 2003 a “battle against prostitution” was declared by French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The goal was apparently to push sex workers off the streets, which resulted in forcing the sex trade underground, hence sex workers being forced to trade under riskier conditions. The Forests of Boulogne in particular are well known for being extremely dangerous for the sex workers who have been denied any better or safer place to work.
Recently, there is talk in France of changing from a legal model that criminalizes both sex workers and clients to one that exclusively targets clients, which would be based on the so-called “Sweden model.” However, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law recently released a report that makes clear that the Sweden model does little or nothing to improve the lives of sex workers, as criminalizing clients still results in the trade being driven underground where women are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
All these problems tend to be greatly exacerbated for trans women sex workers and sex workers of color who already inhabit the intersections of social oppression, as sadly illustrated in the case of Cassandra.
As an American, I can’t help but feel anguished that in an election where progressive issues otherwise triumphed, California over-whelmingly passed Prop. 35, which is almost certain to result in greater criminalization and social stigmatization for sex workers, and probably little else.
Rest In Peace, Cassandra.
Last January, a campaign was set in motion to repeal a law in Sweden requiring trans people to undergo sterilization procedures in order for the Swedish government to recognize their gender identity change on government-issued ID. While a petition to this effect received over 77,000 signatures, it appeared that a small rightwing party in Sweden’s government would block the repeal.
However, just recently it has been announced that this party has changed its position and will now allow the repeal to move forward 🙂
Unfortunately, there is still plenty of work to do, as it is clear that many governments around the world have similar laws. For example, it has been pointed out that, other than Sweden, the following European countries still require sterilization for gender change recognition: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia Switzerland, Turkey and the Ukraine.
In my own experience, I’m glad to say that Texas (where I recently obtained a court order for name change and gender marker change from ‘M’ to ‘F’) has no such legal requirement (although it seems the rules are a bit vague and perhaps interpreted differently in different circumstances). I recall that I once had a thought about storing sperm myself before starting transition, although in the end it turned out to be too expensive. However, when I mentioned this idea to my doctor (who had otherwise been generally helpful) she gave me a strange expression and simply said she’d never heard of anyone doing that before.
Finally, here is the video featuring a Swedish trans man that was used to promote the campaign in Sweden (and worldwide). The campaign was spearheaded by AllOut.
For my first entry, I would like to describe the orientation that I foresee for this blog. I envision the focus of my writings here will be left-leaning social critique and analysis from a trans perspective, and more specifically from a trans woman perspective (hence the handle ‘leftytgirl’).
Trans issues will be one focus of my writings, but not the only focus. My view is that all oppressions (racism, patriarchy, heterosexism, transphobia, imperialism, etc.) are interconnected, woven together in the larger fabric of our (self-created) human social structure. Hence from my perspective intersectionality is the rule rather than the exception, and I will aim to reflect that in my blog posts.
As an example, sex work and related issues occupy a particularly complex corner in the struggle against patriarchy as well as transphobia. When I say that the issue is ‘complex,’ I refer more so to the social associations that many people have made (i.e. created) with the issue, rather than the issue itself.
I hold that every woman (cis or trans) has absolute authority when it comes to her own body and that sex work is a valid occupation like any other. It should of course be understood that some women choose sex work as an occupation, while some women have few other choices whether due to poverty, family situation, or any complex interconnection of the oppressions that I have mentioned above. For example, many young trans women have little choice but to turn to sex work if they are pushed out of their home. Criminalization of sex work, however, only serves to reinforce social exclusion and further stigmatize trans identity.
Most importantly, all women deserve love and respect.
As an American, I also have an interest in U.S. foreign policy and will provide analysis from time to time on this and related issues. For example, I consider myself a supporter of the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond. I was bitterly disappointed with Barack Obama’s administration in its decision to back Hosni Mubarak’s rule over Egypt until almost the very end.
Further, I have seen little in Obama’s foreign policy decisions to give much hope of a significantly new direction after the Bush years. The recent killing of an American citizen in Yemen— without the slightest pretense of due process— represents an outrageous extension of executive power and is obviously an affront to the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Perhaps most important of all are the impending economic issues that we are all facing, whether as citizens of the U.S. or as citizens of the world. The economic crisis of the latter half of this decade has pushed middle class families into poverty and has intensified the already tremendous burdens of those just struggling to get by. Further, and this must never be forgotten, the crisis has propelled some of the rich into the stratosphere of the super-rich. It is with these developments in mind that we must challenge the extremist free-market ideologies that are presently proliferating around the globe under the guise of ‘neoliberalism.’
Under the guidelines for ‘writing a good blog’ I’ve come across online, one of the typical recommendations is to stick to a certain topic or narrative and not veer too much into other territory (or else risk losing readers). Nevertheless, I do hope to escape politics a bit at some point, and just write about some of the things I love in life. So for example eventually I’ll probably give an album or a concert review (most typically I listen to post-rock, avant-garde metal and metalcore, though lots of other things as well). Or who knows, maybe I’ll even discuss physics at some point… hopefully I won’t lose too many readers for that one lol!
So of course feel free to comment or respond to anything I write here, or offer suggestions if you think there is a topic I should look into. Although I probably can’t predict exactly where this blog will lead in the end, I do look forward to working on it and hopefully bringing a few of you along for the ride 🙂