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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 »

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 »

In a victory for women across the U.S., today Congress decided to stop playing games and finally passed the overdue Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Importantly, in the end Congress passed the far superior Senate version of the bill that included support and resources for trans women, queer women, undocumented women and all women living on native lands.

VAWA was allowed to expire during last year’s election cycle as a result of GOP foot dragging, although many expected that would end in the aftermath of the election (especially one in which Republicans performed particularly poorly with women voters).  However, the foot dragging continued, even after the Senate recently passed a fully inclusive version of VAWA.  For a moment, it looked like the GOP might attempt to pass a much more narrow version of the bill, which would have almost certainly lead to difficulties in passing the bill at all.  Luckily, women’s groups across the country stood their ground, the Senate stood with them, and finally today the GOP accepted reality: all women deserve support and the resources to combat pervasive misogynistic violence throughout the country.

See here to learn more about and sign a petition in support of an ongoing campaign by women anti-violence activists at the University of North Carolina.

Roseanne Barr, the well-known comedian and actress from the popular 90’s show Roseanne is presently running for President of the United States at the head of the Peace and Justice Peace and Freedom Party. Roseanne originally ran for the nomination as a member of the Green Party, but eventually lost to the present candidate, Jill Stein.

Late last night, Roseanne wrote a few tweets challenging her former opponent for the Green Party nomination on several issues. One of the issues that came up was Jill Stein’s stance in favor of trans rights (which she discusses a bit in an interview here), which was challenged in a tweet by one @ATagonist (who’s twitter account has since been suspended). She tweeted:

Jill is also in favor of letting men [sic.] into spaces where young girls get changed

followed by a link to a recent local news story out of Olympia, Washington about a trans woman who, like any woman, was using the women’s locker room to change at a local swim facility. Two girls from a high school swim team who also use the pool complained about sharing the facilities with a trans woman, with the result that the swim team has now been asked to use a separate locker room.

A couple of points need to be made about this story right from the start. First of all, this is not a story about sexual harassment or body parts being exposed. No such accusation has even been made in the story. So those who are creating such accusations out of thin air are simply being dishonest in hopes of pushing their agenda. A couple of girls from the swim team were apparently uncomfortable sharing the locker room with a trans woman. Well, now they are using separate facilities. I suppose they are within their rights to use separate facilities if they wish, but then again I suspect that if they had just let it go then these girls and the woman in question would have hardly noticed each other after sharing the facilities once or twice.

Secondly, one of the girls from the swim team has herself commented on the article under McCassidy123, specifically stating she had no problem sharing the locker room with the trans woman. This comment seems pretty key to the conversation, yet nevertheless gets completely ignored by those who are trying to project that someone being “uncomfortable” about sharing the locker room with a trans woman is just some obvious reaction anyone would have. Well, no it’s not.

Now, let’s go ahead and deal with this issue in a calm, rational manner. Here’s a very simple rule about the locker room that pretty much addresses all of these questions: Any woman, whatsoever, cis or trans, who goes into the locker room with the intention of exposing her genitals to young women should absolutely be kicked out of the locker room.

But that isn’t what happened. By all accounts, even by the two girls who didn’t want to be in the locker room with her, she just used the facilities like anyone else and then went on about her business. So you cannot accuse her of doing things that even people who were actually there never accused her.

Well, here is how Roseanne Barr chose to respond to to @ATagonist’s anti-trans woman tweets:

Read the rest of this entry »

Following is the approximate text of my comments at the 2012 Trans Pride Toronto rally that took place 29 June. Before my formal remarks, I drew attention to the news from earlier that day that Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution Panel had concluded there was no basis for the claims from Israel lobby groups that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) should be excluded from the parade, or any other part of Pride week. Members of QuAIA and Dykes and Trans People for Palestine were proud to participate afterwards in the trans march.

Sisters and brothers, friends and lovers; I think we are experiencing an important moment in the evolution of the placement of our community in relation to wider society. In the last few years in particular I think trans people have begun to take on larger and more visible roles that society had previously denied us. Simultaneous with that however has come a backlash, which has taken many different forms, both explicitly and implicitly violent.

In my home country of the United States we saw a wave of violence against trans women of color in the last few months. While this phenomenon is unfortunately nothing new, it is a stark reminder that violence is very real, and if often acts as the final act of silencing.

Furthermore, it calls attention to the often-overlooked fact that not all of us in the trans community are equally vulnerable.

Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs that the fact that trans women, and particularly trans women of color, sex workers, and those living in poverty, are most vulnerable often passes without comment, even by those who stand up, generically speaking, for “trans rights.”

That has to stop, and we all should commit ourselves to trying to build a trans community with more representative leadership of the community as a whole.

Further, there is the critical issue of prison justice here in North America that is often overlooked. Perhaps these issues are best exemplified by the case of CeCe McDonald, a black American trans woman who was attacked along with a few friends by a group of anti-trans white supremacists one year ago in Minneapolis.

When this gang of thugs hurled racist and trans-misogynistic epithets at her, CeCe stood her ground. And when one person in that group started a fight by slamming a glass across face, lacerating her salivary gland, CeCe stood up for herself and her friends and fought back. And in the end she killed an aggressive man with a swastika tattoo on his chest in self-defense.

And that’s when the system stepped in to reinforce racism and trans-misogyny by charging CeCe despite the fact that the County Attorney’s office had previously declined to press charges against other people under similar circumstances. While the charges were at least dropped to manslaughter at a later point, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that CeCe has been punished for surviving her attackers.

Further, there is the fact that CeCe is now forced to inhabit a men’s prison, where she is potentially vulnerable to coercion and abuse, and further largely forced to live cruel conditions under solitary confinement. Of course, this is not unique to CeCe as this is the situation for countless trans women, particularly trans women of color, across North America. We must begin to have a serious conversation around these issues.

And finally, I want to make a small statement that the reason for fighting, for standing up for ourselves and for others who are even more oppressed than ourselves, is not because victory is assured. If you are here because you believe victory is assured all I can say is I think you don’t understand the meaning of honor. Victory is never assured, and if it were it would not be worth fighting for.

The reason we fight is because it is the process of standing up for ourselves that we obtain our dignity, we stand up and we take our honor. And I want to emphasize that our dignity does not come from Pride Toronto. Our dignity is not given to us by the federal government, the provincial government, the city or any other such entity. Our honor does not come from the government or society’s acquiescence; rather, it comes from our demand.

Our dignity is not give to us by anyone other than ourselves. We bestow upon ourselves our own honor in the act of standing up as individuals and as a community for ourselves.

Free CeCe! Free Palestine!


Update: Here is a short video my friend Cathy made of the Dykes and Trans People for Palestine/QuAIA contingent at the Trans March:


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