By Paris Lees
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Does the star of Channel 4’s Very Important People congratulate herself when she spies a woman with large shoes? Does she smile and think “Ah, look, it’s one of those trannies”, or is she humble; does she see it as an easy-peasy guessing game? I can only speculate.
I’m a trans woman and I hear these stupid comments daily. “Transsexual” has become shorthand for someone ridiculous, someone unnamed, someone that nice, middle-class people probably don’t know. Transphobia has passed the dinner table test because those who mock trans people simply don’t expect to see one of us at their dinner tables. I’d like to petition high profile trans newsreaders and politicians to raise awareness, but none exist. Trans people are today’s Aunt Sallys – and comics throw pies at us with impunity.
Take BBC3’s Snog Marry Avoid! If you’re lucky enough never to have seen it, the format involves a fictional computer called POD who “makes-under” anyone with a remotely individual look. Participants are dressed down both verbally and physically before finally emerging in exquisite blandness. Here’s how it went last week:
POD: Who are you?
Participant: I’m Rachel
POD: Are you sure it’s not Richard?
POD: POD computes that with those eyebrows, eyelashes and ridiculously big hair, you look like a transsexual
Rather poor form from a channel aimed at young people, don’t you think? As Julia Serano remarks in the wonderfully polemic Whipping Girl, as well as being offensive to trans people, the “you look like a tranny” line is also deeply misogynistic. Look, it says, you’re doing femininity all wrong – you must be a man! The BBC dismissed complaints against SMA with a sorry-you-were-offended, and described POD’s pejorative use of transsexual as “a light-hearted comment”. I disagree. I don’t know if I meet BBC3’s ideas of what trans people look like, but the fact I’ve got a reasonably acceptable face is something of an achievement. It was punched, kicked and spat on repeatedly during ten years or so of “light-hearted” bullying at school. Ha-ha.
People some times confuse me with nice polite squishy liberals. I’m generally puzzled when they do and say something snarky like: It’s pretty obvious you don’t regularly read this blog.
Because if you regularly read this blog you are aware of my left wing/anarchistic leanings. I don’t go looking for fights but I don’t shy away from them and I believe in giving bullies and bigots the exact same treatment they dish out.
Indeed I consider an attack on me and my own kind a general call to arms.
I may be old and never much given to physical violence but I use my words as weapons.
Over the years I have watched as RadFem Thugs have attacked TS/TG people.
As long as they were content to have their little hate fest in the woods of Michigan I didn’t much give a shit.
But they have sided with the Christo-Fascists and the hard core right wing in their most recent attacks on TS/TG people. Spreading lies and interfering with political efforts on the part of TS/TG people to obtain the same rights and protections normborns take for granted.
This is unacceptable and they are acting like fascists.
I’m Anti-fascist. They want to attack my rights, then I will attack their right to discuss the denial of my rights in a pleasant environment.
I hereby applaud Conway Hall’s decision to deny RadFem2012 the use of their facilities as a meeting place to promote hatred and bigotry.
From Conway Hall: http://conwayhall.org.uk/statement-regarding-radfem-2012
In consultation with the organisers of RadFem 2012 and our legal advisors, Conway Hall has decided not to allow the booking in July 2012 to proceed. This is because it does not conform to our Terms and Conditions for hiring rooms at Conway Hall. In addition, we are not satisfied it conforms with the Equality Act (2010), or reflects our ethos regarding issues of discrimination.
We had sought assurances that the organisers would allow access to all, in order to enable the event to proceed at the venue. We also expressed concern that particular speakers would need to be made aware that whilst welcoming progressive thinking and debate, Conway Hall seeks to uphold inclusivity in respect of both legal obligations and as a principle.
In the absence of the assurances we sought, the event in its proposed form could not proceed at Conway Hall.
That said, we recognise the breadth of debate to be had amongst the feminist and transgender communities and it is our sincere hope that there will be constructive and positive dialogue on these matters going forward.
In response to Sheila Jeffreys’ online Guardian article in their ‘Comment is free’ section, dated 29th May 2012, we would like it to be known that Conway Hall has in the past made clear that speakers / attendees at events for other hirers will not be permitted where we have felt that these individuals have expressed and may express (on our premises) views which conflict with our ethos, principles, and culture; the reference to David Irving was simply one of the examples given.
By now you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that the war on women has escalated and shows no sign of abating. Maternal health and reproductive rights continue under siege while overshadowed by the president’s public stand on gay rights and the necessary focus on economic issues. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that in the first three months of 2012 nearly 950 provisions were introduced targeting women’s health services, contraception and abortion.
To put a human face on it consider this real-life woman profiled by blogger Peter Daou. Leticia lives in a small Texas town where her husband works construction. Mother of five, Leticia relied on the local Planned Parenthood clinic for basic health screening and free birth control pills until the clinic closed because Republicans in the state legislature cut the budget for women’s health care by two-thirds. Now Leticia’s closest clinic is sixteen miles away and the waiting list is at least a month long. Like her friend who discovered a breast lump, she wonders how she will get to the clinic for the care she needs. These two women have become victims of a war we glibly call the “war on women” right here in our own country.
But what about women elsewhere? Sadly, the outlook isn’t any better. Activists in countries as diverse as Turkey, Israel, Romania, Austria and Poland are alarmed by rising violence, renewed efforts to curtail birth control and abortion, and reduced access to safe, affordable health care. Last year, for example, calling it a “lifestyle drug,” Slovakia explicitly banned contraceptive coverage from public health insurance if the contraception was used solely to prevent pregnancy. (Sound familiar?)
In an attempt to reveal the “horrifying reality” of El Salvador’s ban on abortion, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a petition in March with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calling attention to the “tragic and often fatal consequences” of the ban. According to the document, women having miscarriages and complicated pregnancies often suffer arbitrary imprisonment. The petition, filed on behalf of a 33-year old mother convicted of murder during her third difficult pregnancy, states that “El Salvador’s laws have turned emergency rooms into crime scenes, forcing pregnant women to live under a dark cloud of suspicion.” The young mother profiled in the petition was given a 30-year sentence for miscarrying. Denied a lawyer or an appeal, she was jailed and treated abusively before being diagnosed with cancer, which likely caused her pregnancy problems. She died, incarcerated, in 2010.
In Africa and Asia the war on women and girls is profoundly disturbing, and goes beyond reproductive rights. Here is just one chilling story, reported by Peter Daou: “Thirteen year old Aisha was stoned to death in Somalia by insurgents because she was raped”by three men ” When she reported the crime to authorities they accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death. Aisha was forced into a hole in a stadium as 50 men buried her up to the neck and cast stones at her till she died.”
By DENISE LAVOIE
BOSTON — Fresh from a favorable ruling by a federal appeals court, Dorene Bowe-Shulman can’t wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on whether same-sex married couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
“I really look forward to the next step,” said Bowe-Shulman, one of 17 people from Massachusetts who sued to challenge the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
On Thursday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law’s denial of an array of federal benefits to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, affirming a ruling by a federal judge in 2010. Opponents and supporters of gay marriage said the case is now almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court.
Bowe-Shulman, 46, said she wants the case to go before the Supreme Court because it will put a national spotlight on the law and “expose the injustice of DOMA to more people.”
Bowe-Shulman said she and her wife pay about $100 more in taxes each month because she is taxed as part of her wife’s health insurance.
“The harm that DOMA has done hasn’t been so apparent to the general public,” she said.
From The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/blog/168157/what-would-george-tiller-do
on May 31, 2012
Today is the third anniversary of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. On May 31, 2009, Tiller was shot and killed by Scott Roeder while he served as an usher in his Wichita church. Tiller was one of the only abortion providers in the country to provide late-term abortions. He often wore a button that said “Trust Women.”
I wonder, if Dr. Tiller were alive today, what he would think about the unwavering attack against women’s reproductive freedom and bodily integrity—if he could ever of imagined that American women would still not just be fighting for the right to abortion but for birth control. Or that there would be a national debate on whether or not it’s appropriate to call a woman who wants contraception coverage a “prostitute.” I imagine that even for a man who had seen a lot of misogyny in his life, the current climate against women would be shocking.
Since Tiller’s murder, the legislative agenda against reproductive justice—and common-sense decency—has been staggering.
We’ve seen mandated ultrasound laws that not only put an undue financial burden on women seeking abortions but that also require patients to be penetrated against their wills in order to procure a legal medical procedure.
Continue reading at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/168157/what-would-george-tiller-do
From RH Reality Check: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/05/28/terrorism-in-georgia
by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
May 30, 2012
It seems that anti-choice extremists have declared all-out war on pro-choice gynecologists, health care workers, and their patients in the wake of a contentious debate over a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The latest attack in a series took place at a Cobb County clinic and is notable in that the arsonists attacked not just clinic workers, but also threatened the lives of patients. Most anti-choice terrorists fall in line with the larger movement, which tries to avoid charges of sexism by disingenuously refusing to blame women themselves for abortion, instead painting women as thoughtless children misled by supposedly evil doctors. This fire, however, was deliberately set during the day and it’s only by a measure of extreme luck that no patients were under anesthesia when it happened, which would have dramatically increased the chance of a fatality.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that this attack happened in a state where debate over 20-week abortion bans is the current focus. Traditional, bad faith anti-choice arguments that avoid blaming the woman for abortion don’t work particularly well when it comes to the 20-week ban. Usually, anti-choicers prefer to paint women who have abortions as imbeciles who, being too stupid to know they want a baby, allow evil doctors to pressure them into abortions they then supposedly regret. That doesn’t work so well when addressing women who are 20 weeks along, and presumably have had some time to think about it. (Usually who struggled against other obstacles or who have medical problems necessitating an abortion.)
So instead what comes out is the older stereotype: The stupid, evil slut. The woman who has an abortion on a whim. The notion that women wait five months and say, “Nah, I changed my mind,” is the only one that works that doesn’t create sympathy for women who need these abortions, and so that’s the argument that gets more play when discussions about later term abortions are going on. It’s an image that gets a lot more play within the anti-choice community than when they’re communicating in public, where they need to be mindful of their image. (See this bit of internal anti-woman propaganda.) No doubt the proliferation of this argument — that women get abortions because they’re careless sluts — makes it that much easier for someone who makes the choice to cross into violence to attack patients themselves in a clinic.
Continue reading at: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/05/28/terrorism-in-georgia
By Adam Peck
May 31, 2012
Republicans in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania have elected Steve Smith, a lifelong white supremacist with close ties to neo-Nazi groups and groups like Aryan Nations, to the county’s GOP Committee.
The elections, which took place in late April, were certified by the committee two weeks ago, and Smith notified supporters of his victory last week by posting a message to the online forum White News Now.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Smith’s participation with known skinhead organizations like Keystone State Skinheads, (now Keystone United) which he co-founded in 2001. And his racist activism extends far beyond violent rhetoric as well, into actual violence:
In March 2003, he and two other KSS members were arrested in Scranton for beating up Antoni Williams, a black man, using stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation.
Smith is also an active member of local Tea Party groups, a network that he used to gain support for his bid for the committee seat. According to the SPLC, Smith referred to the Tea Party as “fertile grounds for our activists.”
Lawrence M. Krauss
I happened to leave the country on the day that President Obama made his historical statement that he was in favor of same-sex marriage. I had expected his statement to ruffle feathers from those who found such partnerships difficult to reconcile with their religious beliefs, but I arrived back to find that the resulting outcry was completely counter-intuitive.
I had expected that some people might condemn him for a flawed morality. Instead, I found that the offensive was based on the argument that his defense of same-sex marriage represented an attack on religious liberty.
Maybe it is just because when visiting other developed countries it is sometimes easy to forget how it is possible that religious discussion can permeate politics as deeply as it does in the U.S., but nevertheless it seemed unfathomable to me that the president’s statement that we should grant some additional rights to some individuals represented an attack on the liberty of others.
After all his statement was about the right to marry, which is a secular legal issue. Even if the state were to recognize same-sex marriages, churches, mosques or synagogues or other places of worship would not be required to hold wedding ceremonies within them or sanction such marriages because the no legal standing is attributed to such ceremonies or sanctions. Where is the attack on liberty?
Soon after that it turned out that many Catholic organizations raised an outcry when Katherine Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary and a practicing Catholic, was invited to speak at the Georgetown University graduation ceremony. Many senior officials, including the Cardinal of Washington wanted the invitation revoked simply because Sebelius fought to get insurance coverage for women using contraceptives.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2012
By The President Of The United States Of America
From generation to generation, ordinary Americans have led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law ‑‑ not just for some, but for all. Ours is a heritage forged by those who organized, agitated, and advocated for change; who wielded love stronger than hate and hope more powerful than insult or injury; who fought to build for themselves and their families a Nation where no one is a second-class citizen, no one is denied basic rights, and all of us are free to live and love as we see fit.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has written a proud chapter in this fundamentally American story. From brave men and women who came out and spoke out, to union and faith leaders who rallied for equality, to activists and advocates who challenged unjust laws and marched on Washington, LGBT Americans and allies have achieved what once seemed inconceivable. This month, we reflect on their enduring legacy, celebrate the movement that has made progress possible, and recommit to securing the fullest blessings of freedom for all Americans.
Since I took office, my Administration has worked to broaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities. We have fought to secure justice for all under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and we have taken action to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We expanded hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, and under the Affordable Care Act, we ensured that insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Because we understand that LGBT rights are human rights, we continue to engage with the international community in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world. Because we repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love. And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples.
More remains to be done to ensure every single American is treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Moving forward, my Administration will continue its work to advance the rights of LGBT Americans. This month, as we reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go, let us recall that the progress we have made is built on the words and deeds of ordinary Americans. Let us pay tribute to those who came before us, and those who continue their work today; and let us rededicate ourselves to a task that is unending ‑‑ the pursuit of a Nation where all are equal, and all have the full and unfettered opportunity to pursue happiness and live openly and freely.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2012 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
From The New York Times: http://movies.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/movies/pink-ribbons-inc-a-documentary-about-breast-cancer.html
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
Published: May 31, 2012
In “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” the director Léa Pool takes aim at the breast cancer movement and the corporations that benefit from its ubiquitous rosy symbol of awareness and action. Yet for all the stellar intentions; revelatory evidence; and thoughtful, wall-to-wall interviewees, this frustratingly overstuffed documentary indulges more in spraying buckshot than stalking a target.
This is a pity, because the film highlights legitimate concerns that others, notably the medical sociologist Gayle Sulik, have been digging into for years, including the questionable commingling of marketing and philanthropy and the prioritization of pharmaceutical solutions over prevention. Casting a pink veil of positivity over a dark and dreadful disease, we are told, encourages the myth of progress and distracts from treatment options that remain limited to what Dr. Susan Love calls “slash, burn and poison” and mortality rates that have barely altered in six decades.
Depressing statistics, however, don’t sell products. Arguing forcefully that corporate sponsorship of this so-called pink culture is more likely to fatten bottom lines — or rehabilitate a damaged image — than result in a cure, Ms. Pool wonders who is being served by a fuchsia Niagara Falls or a blushing bucket of KFC. But though poking indignantly at the close ties between nonprofit giants like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and, for example, large chemical companies whose goals are unlikely to include investing in explorations of suspected links between cancer and pollution, the film fails to offer substantive financial analyses. Where, exactly, do all these millions in charitable donations go? There may well be too many players to track, but Komen’s detailed financial statements, freely available on its Web site, might be a good place to begin.