Difference Exists

As a 1970s era feminist and lesbian I have been angered and puzzled by the ocean of bullshit regarding “gender”.  To me it is just sexism in post-modern drag.

I was around in 1969, I may have smoked pot and taken acid in those days but I not only took photographs and kept clippings, but have a library full of works from that era.  I have been disgusted by the way 1960s and 1970s era feminism has been reduced to a caricature, as though the only thing either feminism or lesbian feminism stood for was the trashing of transsexual and transgender people, as though is was purely  reactive instead of being actively pro-woman.

I never saw there being a “T” in the L/G communities until about 1995.  I never saw transsexuals as being part of the “Trans-Ghetto” until our colonization during the 1990s.

I was on a very argumentative mailing list called Trans-theory about a dozen years ago when the point was argued that one could queue in line with women or one could queue in line with transgender but that one could not do both.

As a 1970s era feminist, indeed some might say, radical feminist I believe in putting women first.  To me women are simply adult people with vulva/vagina (the parts that cause someone to be labeled female at birth by the commonly applied standards).  Both the religious right and the Transgender Borg want to apply stricter standards in order to maintain their colonial rule over post-transsexual women.  Ironically they do this at the same time they argue that one can have a penis and still be a woman.

Today, Joann Prinzivalli presented a comment/argument on the post “Get In Line” that had me sputtering WTF?, WTF?.  She argued that instead of women working for the ERA they should instead assent to being folded into an amendment protecting LGBT/T people.  The disregard for women was stunning, unfortunately it is all to common in the arguments of both Transgender Inc. and the Transgender Borg Collective, who have embraced the idea of gender defining who is a man and who is a woman with out examining the potential consequence such an appropriation and repurposing of woman might have on actual women.

Too often transgender people assigned male at birth seem blind to their own expectations of male privilege and show a total disregard for both women and for the feminist struggles of women, they claim womanhood but rather than queue with women in common cause they queue with “Transgender” and push for their rights without regard for any harm they might cause actual women.

I have also been part of  Lesbian Communities since the 1970s because, “Feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.”  I never needed a “T” to be part of that community, being  just another woman who loved  women and who understood the oppressive nature of the patriarchy was sufficient.  So much of my opposition to both  Transgender Inc and the Transgender Borg is rooted in the sense that it doesn’t give a rat’s ass if it harms women or adds to the oppression of women.

From Baltimore Out Loud:  http://www.baltimoreoutloud.com/k2-fetch-latest/thinking-outloud/opinion/item/602-difference-exists

Written by  E. Hungerford and Cathy Brennan
Friday, 01 July 2011

Reposted with permission

Something has gotten lost on the way to liberation for the GLBT community – females.  Females have been the backbone of the movement, with lesbians playing key roles in the 1980s fighting the “Gay Plague” of their gay male brothers, working to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and fighting for anti-discrimination protections at the state and national level.  Lesbians deserve a pat on the back for their contributions, and the gratitude of their GBT brethren.

Lesbians also deserve recognition with regard to state legislation that has been advanced in the last 15 years by GLBT civil rights organizations, most notably the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, to ban discrimination based on “gender identity.”  “Gender identity” sounds like a great concept; and one that – you would think – lesbians should embrace, as lesbians know full well the harm caused by sex stereotyping. But the gender identity legislation presents two fundamental problems for all females, and for lesbians in particular.

First, we are female.  As females – like all females – we are vulnerable to harm based on our biology.  Humans are a sexually dimorphic species. Females and males are reproductively different. Yes, there are Intersex folks, and we do not deny their existence, but it is not a female’s “brain sex” that puts her at risk of sex-based male violence. It is her reproductive capacity. When females are raped by males, we suffer all the physical and emotional traumas associated with rape, in addition to the potential for impregnation.

This is a massive problem for females, who represent approximately half of the world population.  We live in a rape culture.  Females are assumed de facto available to males. Indeed, even Bristol Palin writes in her new autobiography about her “magical” first sexual experience – and it turns out she was drunk and not conscious.  Some of us call that, well, rape. But no matter what you call it, female sexual assault is alarmingly common. So common, in fact, that Bristol Palin’s story is barely scandalous. It is a testament to why we, as a GLBT movement, should care about female reproductive vulnerability and support legal protections that recognize female harm and harm potential.

Second, as females, lesbians have been subjected to all measure of sex stereotyping as a means to keep us excluded from full participation in society. False assumptions about our biological sex’s capacity to perform specific jobs, for example, have been used to justify sexist stereotypes and marginalize women since the founding of this country. Lesbians know this all too well. Many of us transgress “norms” of so-called appropriate female behavior and appearance. For decades, members of the lesbian community faced social censure, alienation, job loss, and sexual assault for refusing to wear “women’s” clothing in public. For these women, defying gendered norms of feminine appearance is not cross-dressing; it’s just dressing. Similarly, lesbian attraction to other women in defiance of compulsory heterosexuality – a term coined by Adrienne Rich, a lesbian and Baltimore native – is not reflective of lesbian desire to be male. Rather, it is an authentic expression of desire unbridled by social duress.

Gender identity, rather than rejecting the notion that there are traits associated with genital sex, instead elevates this notion to fact – that there ARE “gender identities” that go along with your biological sex. Rather than acknowledge that there is no “way of being” that goes along with your anatomy, gender identity allows anyone to “claim” a gender based solely on a willingness to adopt stereotypical mannerisms, appearance or “behavior” of the opposite sex.

As lesbians, we accept “gender identity” as a means to provide protections to the T under our umbrella.  We also abhor irrational discrimination, knowing all too well the detriment it causes both to the individual and to a society deprived of the full participation of all its members. But we need to draw a line, because lesbians endure – like all females – the specific harm that results when males run roughshod over sex-based protections. Women require distinctive legal protections that acknowledge both our biological vulnerability and the socio-historic context in which gender norms operate.

Laws that offer sex-based protections do so for a rational basis – the harm that females can and do suffer at the hands of males. If gender identity replaces sex, and “gender identity” allows every Tom, Dick, and Harry to decide “I feel female today,” females will have essentially no protection under the law. We oppose irrational discrimination against transwomen – but in their desire to use the ladies’ room, we kindly ask that they shut the door quickly behind them. A narrow definition of gender identity accomplishes this. Limiting the protections of “gender identity” to people committed to transitioning with a medical need to do so properly weighs the interests of all community members under our colorful umbrella.

Movement to Abolish Corporate Personhood Gaining Traction

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/01-14

by Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap
Published on Friday, July 1, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

In the year and a half since the Citizens United decision, Americans from all walks of life have become concerned about corporate dominance of our government and our society as a whole. In Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court (in an act of outrageous “judicial activism) gutted existing campaign finance laws by ruling that corporations, wealthy individuals, and other entities can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Throughout the country people have responded by organizing against “corporate personhood,” a court-created precedent that illegitimately gives corporations rights that were intended for human beings.

The movement is flowering not in the halls of Congress, but at the local level, where all real social movements start. Every day Americans experience the devastation caused by unaccountable corporations. Thanks to the hard work of local organizers, Boulder, CO could become the next community to officially join this growing effort. Councilmember Macon Cowles is proposing to place a measure on the November ballot, giving Boulder voters the opportunity to support an amendment to the U. S. Constitution abolishing corporate personhood and declaring that money is not speech.

At the forefront of this movement is Move to Amend, a national coalition of hundreds of organizations and over 113,000 individuals (and counting). Move to Amend is committed to building a grassroots movement to abolish corporate personhood, to hold corporations accountable to the public, and ultimately to fulfill the promise of an American democratic republic.

Boulder is not alone in this fight, nor is it the first community to consider such a resolution. In April, voters in Madison and Dane County, WI overwhelmingly approved measures calling for an end to corporate personhood and the legal status of money as speech by 84% and 78% respectively. Similar resolutions have been passed in nearly thirty other cities and counties. Resolutions have also been introduced in the state legislatures of both Vermont and Washington.

Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/01-14

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Rachel Maddow on the GOP’s defense of tax breaks for corporate jets

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Rachel Maddow on the GOP’s defense of tax breaks for corporate jets

Decolonizing Trans As Allies

From Bilerico:  http://www.bilerico.com/2011/07/decolonizing_trans_as_allies.php

From Dented Blue Mercedes:  http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/decolonizing-trans-as-allies/

By Mercedes Allen
July 01, 2011

Reposted with permission.

I’ve mentioned alliance when dissecting the problems with umbrella thinking in transsexual and gender diverse activism, in “The Death of the ‘Transgender’ Umbrella” and “Why The Umbrella Failed.”  It’s easy to pull something apart — the more challenging question now becomes: how do we do activism if not as a single umbrella community?  Why do transsexual and gender diverse peoples ally, and how do we ally?  Or should we ally at all?

For the moment, I’m speaking specifically about the rifts between transsexual and gender diverse groups, although many of the same principles apply to LGBT activism as well.  Personally, I’m in favour of building communities and building alliances — but ones that are not fraught with the structural framing issues or conformity requirements that umbrella activism is susceptible to.  I don’t expect everyone to be on board with that, and that’s fine — but there are excellent reasons to seriously consider it.

This assumes that you’ve read parts one and two, and recognize how conflict, erasure and conflated narratives cause strife between transsexual and gender diverse communities.  In part one, I provided examples of where the drive for third-gender designations on identification led to othering of transsexuals via India’s 2011 census, and where drives for third-gender washrooms potentially leads to segregated facilities, such as what happened for all LGBT people at a samba school in Brazil (albeit caused at least as much by “bathroom bill” -style rhetoric as third-gender washroom lobbying that our communities sometimes do).  There is an additional example, this time where where it’s quite possible that genderqueer and all other (non-transsexual) gender diverse people are excluded from protections, in legal wording that was enacted as law in Connecticut this June:

“Gender identity or expression” means a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth, which gender-related identity can be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity or not being asserted for an improper purpose. “

“Gender expression” appears to have been defined with medical transition and gender identity diagnosis as a requirement.  For all the points we voiced during the HRC / United ENDA debates about gender expression also protecting cissexual “butch” women and “effeminate” men, that benefit is completely lost if we promote this kind of definition.

There are some distinctions to note: this terminology invites documentation rather than requiring it.  Also, the “evidence” is not limited to those listed — a utility bill sent to ones address might suffice, depending on court interpretation.  But because of linking (unless some form of clarification is made later) gender expression has been interwoven with transition between sexes, in law.  That needs to be a discussion all its own, and I won’t be able to do it justice here.  But unfortunately, we have another tangible example that single-name, single-issue framing when speaking to legislators, lobbyists and organizers has left open a possibility of people being defined out of human rights.  And evidence that it’s urgent for us to reassess how we’re doing transsexual and gender diverse activism, before the mistake is repeated.

And while not all gender expressions are ones that we might be comfortable with being out there, we have to remember the human rights principle that all individuals need to be regarded according to their individual actions, behaviour, merits and faults, rather than their belonging (or perception of belonging) to a characteristically-defined group.

Without allying in such a way that all parties affected can have a clear voice in shaping the discussion, there continues to be a danger that transsexual and / or gender diverse people will be erased, abandoned or even harmed by what we are doing.

“Transsexual and Gender Diverse People”

I’ve used the phrase “Transsexual and Gender Diverse” in this discussion.  I consider “gender diverse” a temporary designation, since I’m quite comfortable in the binary, and shouldn’t be the person defining someone else.  I also realize that any umbrella term is likely to be flawed, although I’ve tried to acknowledge diversity.  And it’s clunky.  I’m open to something better.  Maybe gender diverse people — whether genderqueer, crossdressing, agender or otherwise — will prefer to retain “transgender.”  That’s not my call to make.

I’m probably stating the obvious here, but for the sake of clarity, when I use that phrase for issues that both share, I’m denoting a visible difference in narrative and needs between:

  • Physical transition between sexes (usually with binary identification), and
  • Expression of gender that varies from societal expectations, for many different possible reasons (typically not with a medical or life-change track)

We know that both kinds of paths exist and that the people who follow them need to do so, in order to be true to themselves.

I do sometimes use “trans” to keep discussions from being clunky, but using two designations where possible to ensure greater visibility and distinction.  “Trans” alone is still vulnerable to umbrella thinking.

Denoting Separate Characteristics, Not Invalidating People

It’s important to note that I’m talking about dividing characteristics, and not people.  People can be both.  I’m not talking about divorce and repudiation of anyone who doesn’t fit certain preconceptions — that is not decolonialism, but rather the creation of new borders and hierarchies.

The whole concept of human rights, for example, is that everyone needs to be treated according to their individual merits and actions, and not be prejudged based on a real or perceived membership in any particular class. If we truly believe in the concept of human rights, then we believe in human rights for all. If we seek to make exceptions, then we aren’t seeking human rights, we’re seeking special rights, which is oppression. We don’t put into place protections for disability and then seek to exempt mental disabilities simply because what we believe about this-or-that condition intimidates us.

Not Just the Same-Old Same-Old

If alliance is to be something significantly different from umbrella activism, then it’s not likely to follow exactly the same rules. We can’t just change the name and proceed exactly as we did before.  Being that I’m not the “Supreme Dictator,” I can’t dictate what those rules should be.  I can suggest what I think would make sense — but again, I speak only for myself.

The question now becomes “why ally?” and that has been an ongoing debate in trans and LGB(T) circles.  Because we’re thinking in terms of umbrellas, we look for “sames” that unite us — the nature of homophobia and transphobia, the general public’s perception of us, gender expression and societal expectations, areas of overlap — and then we face challenges to that by people who focus on the differences.  When we’re arguing this, we’re still thinking in terms of forming colonies and mapping their borders.

Why ally?  Well, for social justice purists, the answer is usually simply “because there’s a need,” or “because it’s the right thing to do.”  But becoming involved with everything that has a need is obviously going to drive people to burn themselves out.  So ultimately, we need to be somewhat selective and limit this to “because there’s a need and because I can.”

Why: Being on the Same Page for Clarity

For those coming from positions of lesser power — or in this case, when both are in positions of equally reduced power — the answer to that question is also often in part, “so we can be heard.”  Without a presence in a dialogue, one is unable to shape it.  So we seek to be involved with movements that are active in issues that directly and sometimes indirectly affect us, or have the potential to define us in the public arena.

The latter is important, because from a pragmatic point of view, transsexual and gender diverse communities have already been so closely linked that each will probably shape the other for years to come whether they intend to or not — unless both can be on the same page about clearly presenting multiple communities, with multiple sets of issues and needs.

Why: Empathy

But most often, the answer to that question comes down to ones willingness and/or ability to empathize.  For many of us, those umbrella “sames” we mentioned give us a reason to care, and help us understand another’s issues to a greater or lesser degree.   Not everyone agrees with those “sames,” so trying to force those points of empathy that appeal to you on someone else is a cornering argument, and inevitably will get a cornered response.  We care — or we don’t — on our own terms.  But if we don’t, we can’t play the victim when others view us in the same manner.

Likewise, if we have a common “same,” it doesn’t give us a right to speak on behalf of everyone with that commonality (and that’s something that thinking in terms of an umbrella sometimes seduces us into doing), but it does give us ample reason to speak our own perspective, listen (and parse), and find a middle ground if it’s needed.

Why: Consistency

There is sometimes also a responsibility.  For us to protest how a group or society at large disenfranchises or had previously disenfranchised us, we take on a responsibility to not perpetuate that same marginalization on others.  This means being involved enough to understand the perspective of people we might be affecting through our movement, or at least honestly seeking ways to minimize any harms we might cause them.  Alliance is a process of oppressed classes abandoning many of the internal struggles that cause them to further oppress each other, and look for a path by which they all can progress.

And if we do ally, then there is something that becomes admittedly more difficult than they were when we were expecting people to simply get under our umbrella: building mutual solidarity.  This is more difficult because we can no longer simply assume that our vision is right for everybody.  And this is more rewarding because it provides a check and balance to ensure that we are seeking out the voices of others, instead of just our own.  We cannot presume to change a “father knows best” social structure by adopting our own “father knows best” perspective.

The oppressor is in solidarity with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor — when he stops making pious, sentimental, and individualistic gestures and risks an act of love. True solidarity is found only in the plenitude of this act of love, in its existentiality in its praxis. To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce. — Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

How: Listen

“Divide and Conquer” is not the point.  Transsexual narratives do not need to trump gender diverse perspectives. Gender diverse understandings do not need to be predominant over transsexual ones.  We do not each have to rule The Other, in order to be heard.  By separating characteristics in naming, we make clear that we’re defining multiple identities.

This will mean reassessing views to see that others’ experiences can be different from our own, and equally valid. This means being conscious of language used to judge or invalidate others. This means putting aside words and phrases like “lifestyle choice,” “elitist,” “fetishist,” and “bigot,” and listening to how others describe themselves.  And there might even be times when one such word is called for with an individual, but keep it clear that you’re not accusing everyone on the opposite side of the binary divide of the same thing.  We can communicate without generalizing about a person based on their membership in a perceived group.  That is, in fact prejudice, and we all have them — but we don’t need to keep brandishing them.  Instead, we need to listen to what people say about themselves.  Keep personal issues separate from the dialogue on characteristics.  We cannot define for someone else who they are, what they need and what their life experiences mean.

I haven’t delved into it as much as I should have, but invalidation is not simply limited to those terms.  There are times that umbrella activists takes up the opinion that “you can never become completely male or female” (chromosomes, skeleton, or some other reason — despite the fact that gender diverse people are often well aware that these things were never infallible in nature in the first place).  In doing this, they invalidate transsexuals and people of transsexual history.  Most times, this comes about through one of those cornering arguments on why people should get involved, rather than leaving that up to being a question of empathy.  Invalidation of transsexuals as men and women is often why we/they are triggered, and why people likewise respond with invalidation.  It doesn’t excuse that response, but it is a large part of why it happens.

How: Respect

Which leads to a related principle: according respect.  Every functioning relationship must have that.  The idea that “respect must be earned” harkens to the idea that someone needs to meet your prerequisites.  Instead, each individual needs to start out being respected, unless their individual deeds warrant a change to that.  And if / when someone does something that merits disrespect, it should not then be extended to everyone else who shares a characteristic with that person.

Respect needs to be a part of the equation, but it has to be a kind of respect that doesn’t imply a need for conformity and conversion.  (Which I don’t think was what most people were consciously asking, but it was still what the umbrella implied)

How: Realize That Nothing Happens in a Vacuum

By defining ourselves narrowly, we are turning away more than we realize.  There was an excellent post by hepshiba at DailyKos about people of colour and feminist organizations:

… What I had planned for my meeting with the white women of [feminist organization. I’ve left off the name because we don’t have the context of the full article here] was a set of introductions, and an initial discussion of what, in their opinion, a truly diverse organization would look and feel like.  As I expected, their views were universally that a diverse [organization] would be just like the current [organization], except there would be more women of color attending events and volunteering for the organization.  Their focus was on “attracting” more women of color.  I urged them to shift the focus in two separate directions:

Question 1:  ”How do women of color stand to benefit by joining the current [organization]?”

Question 2:  ”Can you see anything about the current structure of [organization] that might serve as an impediment to attracting women of color.”

Answers to Question 1 were clustered around the belief that [organization] helped “all women” and that a woman of color’s interests were also served by the work of the organization because “they’re women too.”  No one on the board suggested that the category of “women” was not universal, and that communities of women (or women from different communities) might have different needs, and different opinions on how to achieve those needs.  There was a distinct air, in some of the comments, that women of color should be “grateful” that organizations like [organization] were fighting for “their” interests, and that the failure of women of color to join [organization] was a kind of ingratitude.

Answers to Question 2 were a bit more interesting.  Some suggested that [organization] events were not held in black or Hispanic neighborhoods, that public transportation in the city was terrible for people who needed to travel from those neighborhoods, and that perhaps the hours of meetings were not convenient.  Others attempted to argue that [organization] placed no impediments in the way, but that women of color “were just not interested” in participating — the flaw was in them and not in the organization. The President of [organization] seemed to be in the latter camp.  She mentioned, repeatedly, that they did have women of color on the Board, and that Jeannie (the African American board member) had no problems participating.

After that part of the discussion ended, I suggested that they not think about race in isolation, but also include the dimension of class.  Is it easier to be a contributing member of [organization] if you are upper- or comfortably middle-class?  Is it harder to attend events if you are a working mother? What class of women were [organization] events attracting? Were they serving poor women as well as they were serving everyone else?  I asked them to take notes and return with their observations…

The point on including additional dimensions (i.e. class) rather than looking at single-characteristics is particularly revealing.  I’d hazard a guess that our communities as we currently perceive them are fissured by more than transsexual versus gender diverse.  Involvement in communities is affected by ability or disability, family circumstances, age, economic status and employment.  The differences are profound, and the consequences of not seeing and not listening to them are that our communities are defined by narrower visions than we realize.  The umbrella never really did cover all as well as we wanted to believe.  Just like “LGBT,” transsexual and gender diverse advocacy only ever functioned well when it did so as an alliance of perspectives.

How: Revisit How We Frame Our Struggles

“Transgender” as an umbrella implies that we are one issue, with one solution.  We’ve seen now that that isn’t the case.

In Canada, when we were lobbying for Bill C-389, activists approached the debate differently.  This was at the insistence of someone who I’ve sometimes disagreed with, but I’ll give her credit for seeing this before I did.  From the outset, the bill was framed to address protections for both gender identity and gender expression (not “gender identity / expression”), for “transsexual and transgender” people.  And it was thus easier to clarify that there were two sets of needs, and why.  It made some discussions much clearer in focus.

Having an umbrella made it easier for medical professionals, legislators, media, employers and the public at large to engage with transsexual and other trans people, and find reasons to care about the issues faced by them.  One concern raised was that by changing how we frame things, we’ll be destroying everything we might have accomplished and starting over.  This is not the case.  But we need to reassess and refine our message to make it clearer and more comprehensive.  “Gay” doesn’t adequately cover lesbians and bisexuals — we can’t expect any one word to adequately do the same for all trans people.

This does affect how we approach questions affecting overlapping communities.  This comes up when we say things like “intersex is a trans issue.”  That implies ownership, and is obviously wrong.  There are certainly areas of overlap and reasons to empathize and ally.  In the case of intersex, there may even be forthcoming science to bolster that.  But alliance is the better solution, done by empowering intersex people to speak to what they’ve experienced, and also educating ourselves by listening so that in those moments that intersex perspectives are not available, then (and only then) we can fill the void (with caveats that make clear that we’re not the final authority).  It also means being conscious of those areas where transsexual and / or gender diverse activism can actually harm intersex people.

Are Transsexual and Gender Diverse Issues LGB(T) Issues?

As within, so without.  Lesbian and gay advocacy functions as alliance, and periodically, it happens that one speaks for the other and gets called on it. But because bisexual, transsexual and gender diverse groups don’t have the same visible numbers and the same number of overlaps, they’ve often been likewise victim to umbrella thinking, and it has caused deep rifts and bitterness.  Which is a road I hope transsexual and gender diverse activists can commit themselves to avoiding.

This is a loaded issue, and one I’m not going to be able to do justice to here.  I’ll expand upon it at a later date.  Some of my thoughts are probably obvious, but I want to reiterate that what I want to see is the building of communities and building of alliances.  This is not a clarion call for further rifts.

How: Mutually Empower

Which leads to the next logical step: if colonization is the problem, then the antithesis is to empower.  This means providing opportunities for diverse voices to speak, acknowledging clear distinctions and recognizing that there isn’t a single solution to trans struggles.  There are in fact more than simply two voices (“transsexual” and “gender diverse”) that need to be represented, too — for example, I as a transsexual woman cannot claim to speak for transsexual men.  As capable people become active and available, invite them into the levels of advocacy that shape the movement.  This is both true without and within our own movements.

Any organization aiming to undertake transsexual and gender diverse advocacy does need to invite available, capable and willing trans people to be at the forefront of that, and understand that they need to have a place in shaping the script.  Because all too often, when you advocate for people without involving them in directly framing the discussion and without a deep understanding of the range of their experiences, this can happen:

A rift has emerged among advocates for Australia’s sex and gender minorities, with the peak intersex advocacy group Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia refusing to participate in the first national sex and gender diverse people’s rally on May 12.

OII Australia president Gina Wilson said the rally had misrepresented intersex needs by applying its demands to all “intersex, sex and/or gender diverse (ISGD) people,” when some did not apply to intersex people and, if applied to them, could be detrimental…

How: Preemptive Resolution

We can’t simply attempt to make the gains that are within our reach now and let the conflicts that later arise sort themselves out.  We need to consciously drill down to find where our conflicts are, and shape what we’re asking accordingly, to ensure that the gains we attain now will not harm others later.  Some of those conflicts we’ll need to examine include:

  • Clarity on when accommodations in gendered spaces is needed and when third-gender accommodation is appropriate,
  • Clarity on the existence of two or more narratives when lobbying legislators or addressing the public,
  • Clarity on when identification as men and women is needed and when third-gender identification is appropriate

Can we advocate for transsexuals’ integration into a binary world and for non-binary spaces at the same time?  I’d think it should be easier and make more sense to the public from an allied “transsexual and gender non-conforming” position and language than otherwise.  This is where an alliance makes far greater sense than an umbrella.

Envisioning Alliance

In envisioning an alliance, I’m not picturing simply changing a word, although the clarity of giving name to multiple communities is a part of that improvement.  But there also needs to be a wholesale rethinking of how we take ownership — often without realizing it — and voice one narrative without making it clear that one narrative does not represent the whole.  Anything less than a commitment to clarity is half-hearted at best.

Words are absolutely important.  When “transgender” was used as an umbrella term, it was meant to be a union of purpose, not a union of narratives or an intent to erase.  The trouble is, the latter still happened regardless of what we intended, by the faulty language we’d adopted.  That language has to evolve in a meaningful way.

At the same time, though,”The Community™” needs to be seen as communities, neighbourhoods of people who don’t always need exactly the same things that we do, and to whom we should do no harm — or better, when there is the opportunity, with whom we should work together.  And if we do choose to build those alliances, then it will sometimes mean standing up for things that don’t directly affect us sometimes.  Because that’s what alliance is.

I’m not expecting to win over hardliners on polar opposites of the “don’t call me transgender” debate.  When people simply outright refuse to respect anyone who doesn’t fit the narrowest interpretation of an outdated clinical diagnosis that was written by (and continues to be written by) John Money disciples who still try to divide transsexuals by their sexual orientation, or insist that potentially trans kids can be cured by aversion therapy, that is not something that will ever build alliance or empower.  And likewise when someone has had their eyes opened to how single-naming erases, annexes and ignores some critical differences in need trajectory that are destined to conflict, and then still insists that complaints are solely bigotry and otherwise substanceless, that is likewise a presumption of governance that is unwilling to question itself and change to avoid errors before they lead to further harm. Most of us are further toward the middle, and it is those people who I see as best able to start building the alliances in their friendships, homes, support groups, communities, social networks, cities, organizations, states and provinces that I’m referring to.

An alliance is a compromise, but a compromise on an equal footing, entered into with conscience.

It’s Time For Me to Shut Up Now

Thank you to everyone who read through some really long and sometimes pontificating posts.  In the end, this series needs to be a conversation starter, and not an ender.

Thanks to April and Jill who offered suggestions to the drafts, and also to the many commenters who have also visibly shaped how this series has evolved.  It should probably be noted that of the many who have commented on the threads, it has been a small few who hung around to the end to invalidate people — the rest, I see, are looking to move forward.  I see that as positive.

Antonia did this previously, but at that time, it’s likely that people didn’t really see the extent of the distinction between umbrella activism and alliance, or umbrella thinking as a form of colonialism that needed to be taken off the table. It’s my turn to shut up on the subject for awhile, and turn direction over to readers, whether here or on your blogs or Facebook or anywhere else:

  • Should we seek to create an association of all transsexual and gender diverse organizations that would allow communication among the many groups now in existence?
  • What would you envision an alliance or alliances to look like?
  • Should there even be an alliance?
  • If so, what are you prepared to do to forge those alliances?
  • How do you feel about doing so, without the sameness that an umbrella implied?
  • What do you require from others to be able to ally with them?

There is a reason that the last question was placed last.  In alliances, that question can’t be your first and only concern.

Which is why they can be difficult.  Better isn’t always easier.  But I believe it’s where we need to go, in order to avert growing stalemate and division.

Pesticides and Farm Labor Yield a Bitter Harvest

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/11580/pesticides_and_farm_labor_yield_a_bitter_harvest/

By Michelle Chen
Thursday Jun 30, 2011

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of card check legislation underscores the priorities of the powerful

Shortly after the group of Mexican “guestworkers” arrived at a Tennessee tomato farm, they realized that their job was killing them, literally. In addition to being crowded into filthy trailers with no source of clean water, they and their living quarters were regularly showered with poison. Despite requirements for protective equipment, they had to go into the fields while exposed to pesticides. Risking abuse and retaliation for challenging their boss, some tried to use cellphones to record the spraying. In the end, they got their evidence, but then got fired.

The workers’ struggle, which led to a lawsuit filed earlier this year, illustrates all the paradoxes of America’s natural bounty. No form of labor is more ingrained in humanity than farm work, but the people who grow our food are being eaten alive every day by the toxins of modern industrial farming. Though consumers are more anxious than ever these days about the effects of pesticides on the food we eat, they seldom consider the health hazards facing the workers who feed our consumption. Yet the further you get up the production chain, the greater the danger.

Farmworker Justice has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to demand the bilingual labeling of pesticides for Spanish-speaking workers, many of whom cannot read English. The fact that after generations of importing migrant labor even this most rudimentary safeguard is still lacking, shows how little the government and employers value workers’ health.

We should all know better by now. Various studies, including a new one on Monsanto’s infamous Roundup Ready, have shown major threats from the chemicals sprayed on crops. In the Lake Apopka area of Florida, exposure of black farm workers to pesticides has been linked to horrific patterns of disease and birth defects, on top of the backbreaking labor they suffered. Their attempts at seeking legal redress have so far failed.

Continue Reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/11580/pesticides_and_farm_labor_yield_a_bitter_harvest/

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Perry’s Prayer-Palooza

From Other Words:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/perrys_prayer-palooza

I’m fairly certain that God doesn’t want anything to do with this goober’s show.

  By Jim Hightower 
June 27, 2011

When Texas became a republic in 1836, its constitution banned “ministers of the gospel” from holding any political office.

Our problem these days, however, isn’t ministers in office, but politicians posing as ministers, seizing the pulpit to preach and proselytize. To see such Elmer Gantryism in action, look no further than the showboating Texas governor, Rick “The Pious” Perry. Embarrassingly inept at governing, he has lately turned to prayer as his official solution for all problems. I don’t mean a quiet, contemplative kind of praying, but garish public displays.

In April, with a Biblical-level drought and some 800 wildfires ravaging the state, Perry’s gubernatorial response was to proclaim three “Days of Prayer for Rain.” Three days came and went, but no rain. Presumably, Perry the Pious was praying up a storm, but not a drop fell from the heavens.

Undeterred, the gubernatorial padre simply doubled down on prayer politics. Proclaiming August 6 as a “Day of Prayer and Fasting,” he invited all other governors to join him in Houston for a seven-hour prayer-palooza, dubbed “The Response.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/perrys_prayer-palooza

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State:  http://blog.au.org/2011/07/01/the-fourth-of-july-and-freedom-why-texas-gov-perry-doesn%E2%80%99t-understand-america/

By Sandhya Bathija
July 1, 2011

I will be celebrating this July 4th with my family in Michigan, where I’m about to head in a few hours.

I’ll be attending a parade on Monday and watching some fireworks with my niece and nephew, who are second-generation Americans. Since my niece was three, she’s boasted that she is an American. Now that she is a bit older (she turned five in June), she may finally start to understand what that really means.

Though she and the rest of my family belong to a minority ethnic and religious group, as Americans, we are all guaranteed the same rights as everyone else. It doesn’t matter whether someone is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish or subscribes to no faith at all – we are all a part of this country.

That’s because our government has remained neutral on religion – making sure that all faith groups and none are welcome. It’s the government’s constitutional duty to ensure that no one feels like an outcast because of his or her belief system.

For the most part, our elected officials do a great job of upholding that principle. But every now and then, someone like Texas Gov. Rick Perry comes along who just doesn’t seem to care how he makes Americans who don’t subscribe to his beliefs feel.

As you may recall, he’s sponsoring a fundamentalist Christian prayer rally at Reliant Stadium in Houston. He has proclaimed Aug. 6 to be an official day of prayer and fasting and is urging Christians to ask God for the “[h]ealing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life.”

Continue reading at:  http://blog.au.org/2011/07/01/the-fourth-of-july-and-freedom-why-texas-gov-perry-doesn%E2%80%99t-understand-america/

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Citing Homeless Law, Hackers Turn Sights on Orlando

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/us/01orlando.html?_r=1&nl=technology&emc=techupdateema1

By Jr.
Published: June 30, 2011

MIAMI — The hacker group Anonymous has declared a cyberwar against the City of Orlando, disabling Web sites for the city’s leading redevelopment organization, the local Fraternal Order of Police and the mayor’s re-election campaign.

Anonymous, a large yet loosely formed group of hackers that claimed responsibility for crashing the Web sites of MasterCard and the Church of Scientology, began attacking the Orlando-based Web sites earlier this week.

The group described its attacks as punishment for the city’s recent practice of arresting members of Orlando Food Not Bombs, an antipoverty group that provides vegan and vegetarian meals twice a week to homeless people in one of the city’s largest parks.

“Anonymous believes that people have the right to organize, that people have the right to give to the less fortunate and that people have the right to commit acts of kindness and compassion,” the group’s members said in a news release and video posted on YouTube on Thursday. “However, it appears the police and your lawmakers of Orlando do not.”

A 2006 city ordinance requires organizations to obtain permits to feed groups of 25 people or more in downtown parks. The law was passed after numerous complaints by residents and businesses owners about the twice-weekly feedings in Lake Eola Park, city officials said. The law limits any group to no more than two permits per year per park.


This week Anonymous offered a “cease-fire” if no volunteers were arrested during Wednesday evening’s feeding of the homeless. But the police arrested two volunteers, and on Thursday morning Anonymous disrupted the Web site Downtown Orlando, which promotes redevelopment there and is run by the city. An organization spokeswoman confirmed the attack but declined to comment, referring questions to the mayor’s office.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/us/01orlando.html?_r=1&nl=technology&emc=techupdateema1

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Koch Industries Subsidiary Admits Illegal Campaign Contributions

From The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/01/koch-industries-subsidiar_n_888996.html

07/ 1/11

WASHINGTON — After admitting in June to making illegal campaign contributions, INVISTA, a foreign subsidiary of Koch Industries, finally paid the small $4,700 fine it owed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week.

The case relates to $26,800 in campaign contributions the company made to candidates, political committees, and political party committees from 2005 to 2009. The recipients of the contributions have since paid back the contributions except for the Democratic Governor’s Association, which received a $15,000 contribution in 2007.

Complete article at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/01/koch-industries-subsidiar_n_888996.html

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