Letting them demonize us

So, in Gainesville, there's yet another group using the "predator in the woman's room" scare tactic to encourage the repeal of laws to protect transpeople.

I'm sick of this. But what's even more frustrating is the lack of alternate images we're presenting to the public. While it's nice to tell people that we're not a bunch of predators and pervs, we aren't really giving them any examples of real transpeople to base their opinions on. That's why I'm suggesting a project.

The goal of this project is to give exposure to the people who are most affected by the law being protested- trans people who wish to use a bathroom in peace, without the fear that someone's going to call security, or worse. We need to let people know exactly who they're taking rights away from, and what that really means.

To participate, make a video, and tell the world how laws preventing transpeople from using the bathroom that best matches their identity hurts transpeople. Mention incidences of discrimination from your own life, or from the lives of others you know. Finally, finish off with the words "I just want to pee in peace" (or some variant of that).

It's time to stop letting anti-equality groups define transpeople in the eyes of the public. Let's let them know that we're real people who just want a chance to pee in peace.

More Information:
Equality is Gainesville's Business
MSNBC: Conservatives fight transgender bathroom rule

Edit: The Pee In Peace YouTube group


Newsweek and Larry King

Aqueertheory has posted a great analysis of Newsweek's article "Young, Gay and Murdered," which focuses on the death of Larry King. You can find it over at Below The Belt.

From Below the Belt:
While murder victim Larry King recently become a sentimentalized martyr for the LGBT rights movement, Setoodeh tries to show that ‘the reason Larry died isn’t as clear-cut as most people think.’ He suggests that the victim brought the violence onto himself by stretching ‘the limits of tolerance’ and ‘push[ing] his rights as far as he could’. Larry ‘was a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon’ - therefore, we should avoid turning him into a poster-child for the LGBT movement. He is not the right kind of victim.

We cannot allow ourselves to keep blaming the victim; we need to stop assuming and legitimating heterosexual privilege. Following Setoodeh’s logic, Larry should have been ‘on the down-low’, he should not have defended himself from homophobic abuse, and he should have refrained from acting on any of his crushes. While any ‘reasonable adult’ would have probably done this, to badger a child into stifling hir identity is cruel. Larry tried to live a queer life to the fullest, but he was brutally cut off because of homophobic social norms. Unfortunately, all LGBTQ people face this risk. Believe it or not, we all have a gun to our heads.
Sara Whitman also offered this terrific commentary on the article at the Huffington Post.

Young, Gay and Murdered. Lesbian assistant principal suspected of a "gay agenda." King's troubled past leading him to a group home placement shrugged off as a minor event in a series of his own trouble causing.

As if kids get taken out of homes because they "accuse" their parents of hitting them. Another top notch effort of reporting, the adoptive father gets to simply say, "Not true," and that's it.

Because it's really about this bad boy, who wore girls clothes, got what he deserved. Homosexuality was the evil here. Playing "grown up" without knowing it could get you killed.

Personally, I'm not surprised by the Newsweek article- after all, what's more likely to sell papers, a condemnation of queerphobic violence, or criticism of us "freaks" who won't conform to the heterocentric norms like those "normal" people who make up their target audience?


Congratulations, Thomas!

Thomas Beatie has given birth to a beautiful daughter, Susan Juliette.
The Bilerico Project has more information, including an awesome video from Good Morning America.


Musings on Gender and Definitions.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to Kate Borenstein's Gender Aptitude Test. Now, this isn't the first time I've taken the test, but it got me thinking. You see, I identify as male. I don't give a rat's ass about how others view me, I feel that I am supposed to have a penis. This seemed to really mess up my score, however, as I felt that many of the answers didn't actually reflect my thoughts.

I've been told that I am TS because my gender identity is male, and there is a growing body of research that suggests that there is some sex differentiation within the brain. The majority of transpeople I know (which consists of a fair number of non-binary individuals) tend to relate their gender identity to their bodies, and specifically the presence or absence of features typical of a certain biological sex. I don't assume that every TG individual is within the binary, yet there are numerous answers offered that suggest that, if one identifies strongly as a member of a binary gender, they must assume that others do also.

So, that got me wondering: how were people defining gender when they wrote or spoke of it? It all seemed to fall into two categories: How one relates to their bodies, and how one's body affects how they relate to the world. So, I have to ask- how do we make a distinction between the two? This isn't the first time I've voiced my frustration on the lack of distinction between the various facets of gender. Gender's a complicated thing, and yet we use the same term to refer to vastly different things. The idea that "gender is caused by socialization" is just as true as the term "gender is biological and innate," depending on how one defines gender.

Seriously, people, we need some new terminology. I have yet to see two definitions that refer to identical aspects, and it's getting frustrating. How are we supposed to get real dialogue going regarding gender if we can't even agree on a definition? Yes, gender refers to whether a person identifies as a member of a certain sex. Yes, gender refers to how one portrays themselves as a member of the sex they identify as. Yes, gender is how a person allows their biology to influence their roles, actions, and thoughts. Yes, it's socialized, but it's also inborn. And yes, you can agree with everything said there, if you use various legitimate definitions of the word gender. Add to this the constant confusion of the words sex (referring to a person's biological and/or genetic state of being male, female, intersexed, or a eunich) and gender, and you get something that seems somewhat scary and overwhelming to the average person who never really has a reason to wade through this stuff when they have someone willing to tell them that gender is just another word for sex, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a freak/sinful/sick/whatever.

Frankly, I can't blame them- I grew up in an environment that pushed that type of thought, and I've seen how pervasive it can be. The term gender has become some sort of monolith, and the number of conflicting yet accurate definitions in use makes it complicated, especially since many authors do not explicitly state which aspect of gender they're referring to. I had a textbook which contained three different definitions of gender, while my professor used a fourth in her lecture (which differed from the fifth used by a substitute when she fell ill part way through the semester).

So why haven't we come up with any new terminology? I'd like to see some thoughts on the matter.


LGBT Rights groups ask that Lawrence King's killer be tried as a juvenile

A coalition of groups, including Lambda Legal, have asked that Brandon McInerney be tried as a juvenile rather than an adult for the murder of Lawrence King, according to this article in the Ventura Country Star.

Personally, I applaud this. As upsetting as the murder has been for queers and allies, we have to remember that McInerney is a 14 year old boy who was following through on the message sent by most of society. I'm not excusing his actions- he made the decision to bring the gun, and he made the decision to pull the trigger- but I am stating that demonizing a child while ignoring the influence of the queerphobic society that taught him that the proper way to respond to homosexuality and gender non-conformity is violence is bullshit.

Brandon McInerney is a product of our society. He simply happens to reflect that part of it which most people do their best to ignore until it hits the front page- and the obits. Pretending otherwise doesn't do anything to stop violence from occurring, but rather, merely helps people expunge their own guilty consciences.

try him as what he is- a juvenile. Instead of placing the blame solely on his shoulders, work to fight the queerphobia in our society before it claims more victims.


Another gay man denied refugee status; Sean gets sarcastic

So, Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has denied the Refuge claim of Joaquin Ramirez, who fled from El Salvador after he was raped by police officers.

Ramirez, who volunteered with the Salvadoran Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, says that his rapists threatened to kill him after contracting the virus from him.

All around, I'm disappointed. The thing that pisses me off the most though, is the fact that he was criticized for not bringing his complaints to the police in El Salvador.

Because, after all, he has a reason to trust that the police will act in his best interest, right?

Another complaint was that he was already considering moving out of the country before the assault. Of course, no gay man would ever want to leave a country known for it's strong homophobia- that would be just silly!

Yes, Canada, I'm really proud of you right now. Who knows what horrible things might happen if you granted this man refugee status! Just look at what he's done with his life so far- gainful employment, volunteer work with several organizations, and providing education on safe sex! We wouldn't want anyone like that in our country, would we? *headdesk*


Obama's "Advocate" Interview

Barack Obama's interview with the Advocate was released earlier today. In it, he discusses a number of queer issues, including "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," same-sex marriage, and a trans-inclusive ENDA, as well as how his own views on queer issues were formed. It's an interesting read, and, while I'm not a complete Obama fanboy, I do appreciate that he's done this interview, and I support Obama, even though I'm Canadian and therefore my opinion really won't make a difference come November.

On his lack of interviews and appearances in queer-specific venues:
"I’m raising issues accordant to the LGBT community in a general audience rather than just treating you like a special interest that is sort of off in its own little box – that, I think, is more indicative of my commitment. Because ultimately what that shows is that I’m not afraid to advocate on your behalf outside of church, so to speak. It’s easy to preach to the choir; what I think is harder is to speak to a broader audience about why these issues are important to all Americans."
My view: Alright, I'll buy it, though that doesn't mean I don't want to see more interviews with queer news sources.

"But I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy -- ya know, we’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need."
My view: Right on! Now, let's see if you follow through on this one.

On same-sex marriage:
"an area that I’m very interested in is making sure that federal benefits are available to same-sex couples who have a civil union. I think as more states sign civil union bills into law the federal government should be helping to usher in a time when there’s full equality in terms of what that means for federal benefits."

"[M]y commitment is to try to make sure that we are moving in the direction of full equality."

[Q:By asking the LGBT community to accept civil unions for now, aren't you asking them to "wait their turn?"]
"Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn.""
My view: Obama tends to waffle a little around this point. He's made a fairly good point though: We won't gain equality by waiting for it to be handed down to us. And he doens't speak of civil unions as the best we're going to get, but rather, as a step in the right direction, which I can appreciate.

On the ENDA:
"I have been clear about my interest in including gender identity in legislation, but I’ve also been honest with the groups that I’ve met with that it is a heavy lift through Congress... my goal would be to get the strongest possible bill -- that’s what I’ll be working for."
My view: While I'm disappointed that he's not pushing harder for a trans-inclusive ENDA, the fact that he doesn't dismiss us out of hand is still a good sign.

On Religion and Homophobia:

"Well, I think what’s important is to have some of that church leadership speak up and change its attitudes, because I think a lot of its members are taking cues from that leadership."
My view: Easier said than done.

On Donnie McClurkin, the "ex-gay" gospel singer who was listed as the headline performer for Obama's South Carolina tour:
"[M]y campaign is premised on trying to reach as many constituencies as possible and to go into as many places as possible, and sometimes that creates discomfort or turbulence... And that creates some discomfort because people discover, gosh, within the Democratic Party or within Barack Obama’s campaign or within whatever sets of constituencies there are going to be some different points of view that might even be offensive to some folks. That’s not unique to this issue."
My view: While I feel that letting McClurkin use this as an opportunity to spout off on homosexuality was a poor decision on Obama's part, I can see where he's coming from with his explanation. Freedom of speech is important to me, and that freedom can't be limited to those with certain views. People have a right to say what they believe (so long as it is not meant to incite hatred or violence), even when there's absolutely no evidence to support their views.

Overall: I don't agree with him on everything, but if I were a US citizen, I'd likely vote for him. He comes off as sincere, rather than patronizing. He's not offering quick-fix solutions, and is admitting that there will be barriers, but he seems to have a plan to work around those barriers to do what he possibly can. Personally, I appreciate that, as it shows a level of honesty that politicians tend to lack.

I'm waiting for the backlash on this from the religious right. After all, when a presidential candidate does an interview in a queer publication and states that he'll work for equality, you know that someone from the "moral majority" is going to have a meltdown over his support of "faggotry," "sodomy," and "perversion."

The "Blame the Victim" Game

A friend of mine just passed on this article about an abuse victim who has been jailed.

Noellee Mowatt has vowed never to call police again – in any situation, even if she's suffering.

Through choking sobs yesterday morning, Mowatt, 19, made the pact from a pay phone at a Milton jail, where she's spending the last few days of her pregnancy.

Due to deliver next Tuesday, the teenager has been detained at Vanier Centre for Women since Thursday, when a justice of the peace denied her bail.

Mowatt, who faces no criminal charges in this case, won't be let out until she testifies at her boyfriend's domestic assault trial on Friday.

So, apparently it's alright to imprison a 9 month pregnant woman who has not been charged with a crime, simply because she was victimized. It's just another example of the tendency to punish victims of crimes. Somehow, I doubt this is going to encourage abuse victims to stand up to their abusers.

Let's put it this way: abusers often work to annihilate their victim's self-esteem. They make them think that they're the one at fault, and that they deserve the abuse. Or at least, that society will hold them accountable for it, rather than the abuser.

Unfortunately, cases like this only go to support such notions, rather than dispel them, and give the victim more of a reason to trust their abusive partner's words.


Positive Spaces

Alright, Just a short post- Kudos to UBC for their Positive Space Campaign!

The official UBC website can be found here.

I'd personally love to get something like this started at my school. Hmm, looks like I've got another project- and since classes are ending, I've go the whole summer to figure out the details *goes off to plot*.