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.)

Note: This is a guest post from Prettyqueer editor Red Durkin, who started the recent petition to boycott Michfest until trans women are included. Just FYI I didn’t provide any additional editing or formatting.

This is part of a response I just wrote to a woman who contacted me to ask the age-old Michfest question, “what about naked trans women being seen by children and sexual assault survivors.” I generally don’t engage this because it never feels sincere, it’s literally traumatizing for me, and I don’t expect it to go anywhere. However, something about the way this woman approached me made me want to engage her. So I did. This is my official resignation letter from ever engaging this question again:

Let me first say that you’re not the first person to bring these concerns up. As I believe I said before, I recently experienced a traumatic flashback (and was subsequently barely able to get out of bed/stop crying for a week) because of this exact line of questioning. I’m not at all sure how I’m able to interact with it right now, to be honest. I’ll respond in a couple of ways.

1. the practical: Something that I’ve never seen proposed is “separate nude space for trans women.” Assuming that trans women will be inclined to be publicly nude (something I’ll address more in a minute) it is entirely possible to designate “trans nude” space on the land where anyone potentially scandalized or traumatize by trans women’s nudity can be aware of and not go. Frankly, I think this is a nasty idea as well, but it would constitute a compromise and I’ve never heard it genuinely suggested. Why not? I think the reason is, quite honestly, that this isn’t a practical concern. That presenting the “challenge of trans women’s bodies” an insurmountable logistical concern, supporters of the exclusion are able to skirt the real issue, which is that they just don’t want trans women around at all. But yeah, practically speaking: separate nude space on the land, a policy of “no nude trans women” outside of that space, separate showers OR specific “trans friendly” shower times. Same for massage. Again, this isn’t an ideal. In fact, it’s still highly offensive to me, but it’s a compromise and I’ve never heard it taken seriously by anyone.

2. the reality: Every time this question comes up, my first reaction is “have you ever met a trans woman?” I can speak for myself when I say that I have had //lovers// who have never seen my penis. I would literally rather be beaten up than walk around naked in public. My shame about my body is DEEP and the same goes for most of the trans women I know. I’m not saying that it’s IMPOSSIBLE that a trans woman would want to walk around naked, but I, frankly, see that as being so unlikely that it’s almost ridiculous to worry about.

3. the philosophy: Putting it bluntly, if we ACTUALLY accept that trans women are women, why is it okay to tell them that their bodies are inappropriate for children to see and traumatizing for other women? Especially in a space that LITERALLY boasts about the “diversity of women’s bodies” that can be seen there. Can you imagine facing these charges as a woman? Please, take some time to think about what it feels like to be a woman with deep seated shame around her body, to have a body that the world deems disgusting and wrong, and to then have other women, other //feminists//, tell you that yours is a body unworthy of care, that it must be kept from the eyes of vulnerable women, because it is a vulgar weapon. Women kill themselves over that kind of ostrecization. I have come close, myself.

Specifically speaking to the issue of sexual assault survivors: Especially in a queer/lesbian space, I find it incredibly dangerous to equate penises with sexual violence. This erases MUCH of the assault/abuse/violence that happens within lesbian communities. It also erases the women who experience that violence. As I mentioned in my initial reply, I am a sexual assault survivor myself. I feel completely ignored/unseen when trans women and sexual assault survivors are spoken of as though they’re mutually exclusive. I am the cross section of those identities. So, so, SO many trans women are. Do we not deserve healing? I hear so much about the “healing energy” of Michfest. Honestly, I have the exact opposite feeling. At this point, that space has wounded me so VERY deeply that, even if the policy changed, you couldn’t drag me onto that land with meat hooks. MANY trans women I know feel the same way. The healing that non-trans women recieve in that space has been, in part, cut out of OUR hearts for decades. I don’t fight the policy for my sake, but in the hope that some day trans women who have not been scarred by the Land can go and be healed of their pain and trauma and shame, just like other women.

Note: the following is an earlier draft of an article that just appeared at Autostraddle; the draft below focuses slightly more on a Toronto perspective, while the final draft at Autostraddle gives a more complete analysis (I’ll recommend the Autostraddle version for most readers).

Word has quickly spread on the web in the last couple of days that Rachel Ivey, a member of the Deep Green Resistance environmentalist movement that holds openly transphobic views as “core” principles, is putting together a tour consisting of a few relatively high profile speaking events in June and July.  This speaking tour supposedly includes events at City College of NYC as well as the University of Toronto.

You can see the webpage for Rachel Ivey’s online fundraiser for her speaking tour here, along with several planned dates and speaking venues.  This includes her planned July 4 speaking engagement at the University of Toronto.  The page also mentions that further events will be listed in Ontario.

From there, I’m guessing that it’s not a coincidence that this date occurs right before the radical feminist RadFem Rise Up conference, which is scheduled for Toronto on July 5-7.  My guess is that Ms. Ivey will be be speaking at the conference as well.

One point however is that the venue for the ‘Rise Up’ conference is being kept secret, at least for now. That is clearly because anti-trans radfem activists have found it increasingly difficult in recent years to find institutions and organizations that are willing to host them and promote their views on account of their bigoted views regarding trans individuals.

Indeed, one of Ms. Ivey’s scheduled speaking events on her fundraiser page has already been cancelled by Bluestockings Bookstore, the venue that had been scheduled to host her second speaking event in NYC.  Bluestockings cited DGR’s “blatantly transphobic rhetoric” as the reason for the cancellation.

As a trans woman who has strong ties to Toronto, however, I will say that I don’t necessarily think that calling for these events to be canceled is the best course of action.   Read the rest of this entry »

Last Sunday, Ashley del Valle was in Savannah, Georgia’s historic City Market, enjoying time on vacation when she was approached by two police officers. The officers claim that she was sitting on a park bench with her breasts exposed, and that she cursed at them and walked off when they approached. Del Valle, a Queens native who was spending time on vacation with her cousin, says that she was merely wearing a sheer top. She was subsequently arrested for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.  (And why should a woman have to listen when a man complains about what she’s wearing anyways?)

Her ordeal grew steadily worse when jail personnel realized she had a penis, as she was subsequently moved throughout the jail system over the next few days. She spent two days in a holding cell, during which jail personnel were reportedly rude to her, calling her “a thing.” She was then moved to a cell in the men’s section of the prison. During this time, del Valle reports that men in the surrounding cells “were banging on walls, calling [her] names,” and that she was afraid for her life.

Chief Deputy Roy Harris claims that since the other cells were locked, del Valle was not in any danger. Of course, this argument completely ignores the obvious emotional and psychological trauma that a woman would likely experience from being locked up with nearby men hurling abuse at her. While the information we have available to us from the single news story on the incident isn’t very detailed, it’s not hard to imagine such abuse might well have continued throughout the day and into the night.

On the fourth day, Harris claims that del Valle was placed in an isolation cell. While perhaps solitary confinement might be viewed as a temporary improvement over having abuse hurled at a woman held in a men’s prison facility, this points to a much larger problem that trans women face when pushed into the prison system. Many trans women who are incarcerated in the United States are forced into long-term solitary confinement by a prison system that either doesn’t care or just doesn’t know what else to do with women whose bodies don’t conform to society’s cissexist norms.

The fact is however, that long-term solitary confinement is incredibly psychologically damaging and cruel.

Fortunately, Ashley del Valle has at least now exited the prison system and has been able to speak out publicly about her ordeal. However, her case points to several issues. First, her case calls attention to the contradictions that trans women are forced to negotiate in a trans-misogynistic society: she was arrested for allegedly showing her breasts, then placed in prison with a group of men who themselves almost certainly never would have been arrested for exposing their chest in public. Secondly, this itself draws attention to one of society’s many misogynistic double standards: no big deal for men to appear topless in public, but the same behavior from women is viewed as criminal.

To place this more fully in the larger context, one should also note that the violence and unjust incarceration experienced so often by trans women in general are social cruelties disproportionately inflicted on trans women of color and trans women sex workers. As an example of the former, consider the case of CeCe McDonald, an African American trans woman who was incarcerated in Minnesota after killing one of her white-supremacist attackers in self-defense, and who was later herself held in long-term solitary confinement.

Note: This is an archival post of a recent column at Autostraddle.

Last Monday, March 25, about three hundred people gathered outside of the offices of the Daily Mail in Kensington, London to hold a vigil in honor of Lucy Meadows, a British school teacher who was found dead at her home about a week earlier. The vigil was held at the Daily Mail headquarters in silent protest of how the UK tabloid (and other elements of the British press) had strewn details of a small-town teacher’s personal life across national headlines – likely playing a role in her apparent suicide. Many of those same members of the press hardly flinched as they continued disrespecting Meadows, even in reporting her death.

On December 19, 2012, the story appeared in the local Accrington Observer that Lucy Meadows, who had formerly lived as a man, would be returning to her teaching duties at St. Mary Magdalen’s School after Christmas break now living as a woman. The story incorrectly gendered Meadows as male throughout and featured a scowling picture of Wayne Cowie, a parent of one Meadow’s pupils, holding a copy of a letter to parents informing them of Meadows gender transition. Mr. Cowie was quoted speaking about his son, “He has had this teacher for three years. All of a sudden [she] is going to be coming to school after Christmas as a woman.” He added, “They are too young to be dealing with that.”

I would argue that children are perfectly capable of dealing with the issue of gender transition; my experience is that beyond perhaps vague curiosity, they usually don’t care very much (if at all). This naturally leads us to a more immediate question: why would anyone, unless perhaps they are directly connected to the school, care about this story? I have difficulty seeing how this story is worthy of any news coverage, even at the local level.

Of course, the press has every right to ask questions when it has some kind of (even broadly-defined) relation to the public interest. Usually that would mean asking questions of public figures or focusing on issues that affect a significant number of people. Lucy Meadows is not a public figure and her gender transition had a direct impact on very few people.

The manner in which the press was obviously bottom-feeding to dig up dirt in this case was a bit unreal. Read the rest of this entry »

Note: This is primarily just an archival post of my recent article at Autostraddle, however I added a few comments below to clarify a couple of points (the added/edited parts will appear in underline). Anyone who feels the urge to argue with me over this article, please feel free to go to the original Autostraddle post, as I will continue reading every comment that is posted there. Also note that I have already posted a follow-up comment on this.

This article also appeared at Huffington Post and Everyday Feminism.

Recently, I went on a dinner date with a cis woman that ended a bit awkwardly. Some of the conversation we shared was nice, we talked about film (fyi – an easy topic to hold my interest, ladies!), our common roots back in the States, and her background in performance art. At one point she shared with me her frustrations over a performance meant to showcase artists from our region in the U.S. The thing is, whoever put together this particular exhibition had invited a number of men from her theatre program to participate — meanwhile she and several of the other women who graduated from the program found out about the event later when one of the guys posted it on facebook.

It’s pretty easy to feel anger over such blatant sexism, and it immediately reminded me of some of my own experiences of feeling ignored at times in my own workplace. But then she said something that struck a really odd chord:

“Yeah, it’s supposed to represent artists from the South, but it turns out it’s just a total sausage fest.”

Okay, we all get the basic intended meaning here. But is she really implying that the men who were invited to exhibit their work were asked to do so on the basis of their genitalia? I have to say that, since my transition, being a woman with a penis never got me special treatment in the academic world. And given that she was aware of my body configuration I have to think that is a strange comment to make to me on a date.

Sadly, the situation only further deteriorated with the appearance of the word “ladyboy,” and the fact that somehow the subject kept getting changed when I tried to discuss these things. Read the rest of this entry »

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