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.