Sunday 17 June 2012
She was born George Jamieson in the Liverpool docks, but later modelled for Vogue and seduced Omar Sharif. Now, in the latest chapter of an extraordinary life, April Ashley, the first Briton to have a sex change, has been awarded the MBE for services to transgender equality.
The recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours has thrilled the 77-year-old. “It’s unbelievable and wonderful and especially fantastic to receive it in the year of Her Majesty’s Jubilee,” she said yesterday, at home in Fulham, south-west London. She declined to speak until she had finished watching the Trooping of the Colour.
Duncan Fallowell, her biographer, said: “It makes me proud to be British. Proud of an establishment that can make such an award, perhaps a rather eccentric award.”
The story of Ashley’s journey from the docks of Liverpool to international high society is worthy of a novel. Born George Jamieson in April 1935 (hence the name he would later take), his father, Frederick, was a cook in the Navy and his mother, Ada, worked in a bomb factory. Childhood wasn’t easy: his mother often hit him with a belt for wetting the bed, and his father drank heavily – and also called men “darling”, unheard of in 1940s Liverpool.
George knew from the age of three that he himself had something different about him, and, in an attempt to quell this difference, he joined the Merchant Navy, aged 15; it was a failure and, by 18, he had attempted suicide and had had electro-convulsive therapy.
George fled to Paris in 1955 and reinvented himself as Toni, becoming a hostess at Cabaret Le Carrousel. Among those he hung out with were Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and Nina Simone. And then, in May 1960, having saved £3,000, George presented himself at a clinic in Casablanca and was the ninth person to undergo Dr Georges Burou’s pioneering surgery. George’s unwanted penis was removed, and he was given the ability to have an internal orgasm. The operation lasted seven hours.
Returning to London, April found her striking looks quickly attracted attention: she was photographed by David Bailey and hung out with Peter O’Toole, who would hit anyone who caused trouble. She then landed a part in The Road to Hong Kong, a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film. But her secret was revealed when a friend sold the story to The People for £5. “The greatest harm that did to me was that I have never been able to get work in Britain again,” she says. “I’ve been forced to live abroad to get work.”
From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/14/national-center-for-trans_n_1599641.html
This month we’ve shared a Voice to Voice conversation between author Whitney Joiner and the ACLU’s Chris Hampton and one between Jason Cianciotto and Sean Cahill, authors of the new book “LGBT Youth in America’s Schools,” as part of our anti-bullying program currently running on The Huffington Post.
Today we bring you a conversation between Harper Jean Tobin, the National Center for Transgender Equality‘s Policy Counsel, and Evan Morris, a high school student in Montgomery County, Maryland.
As Policy Counsel, Harper Jean coordinates all aspects of advocacy on federal administrative policies and regulations for NCTE. When she is not engaging with federal agencies and the current administration, she works to provide information for the public about laws and policies that affect transgender people. Harper Jean’s writing on transgender equality and other issues has been published in the Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal, Notre Dame’s Journal of Legislation, the Yale Law Journal Pocket Part, the Columbia Journal of Gender & the Law, the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, and others. She received degrees in law and social work from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and is an alumna of Oberlin College.
Evan is a member of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League’s (SMYAL) Youth Advocacy Program, which supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, DC metropolitan region.
Harper Jean and Evan’s conversation coincides with the release of NCTE’s “Know Your Rights At School” guide a brand new resource that outlines the rights trans and gender nonconforming students have in schools and how to file formal complaints. NCTE notes that it does not provide legal services, but instead encourages anyone who cannot resolve issues through the complaint processes discussed in the guide to seek legal counsel.
Here Harper Jean and Evan discuss their personal experiences with being trans in school, bullying, intrusive questions and more.
Harper Jean Tobin: I want to start out by saying how psyched I was to connect with you through SMYAL and how impressed I am by the work you’re doing to raise awareness of the need to support trans youth and all LGBT youth. I know that when I was in high school I was involved in activism around a lot of different issues of racial and economic justice and youth rights, but not specifically around the issues that I faced as someone who, I guess at the time you would have said was gender nonconforming.
Evan Morris: Thank you! I’m honored to be speaking with you. The work of the National Center for Transgender Equality is incredibly important, for me specifically the Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students, which I used a lot in speaking to my school about my needs.
Continue reading at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/14/national-center-for-trans_n_1599641.html
Learning from Brazil, our author shows we can grow stronger, more creative, and help people trapped in unhealthy relationships free themselves from those who have power over them.
By Stephen Lerner
June 11, 2012
I was raised in a country where tradition, custom, and economics often define who is on top, who is in charge and who is powerless. My world was turned upside down in a recent trip to Brazil. Maybe it was the all-night plane flight, and the late nights driven by that powerful Brazilian drink Cachaca. Maybe it was the heat and the passionate people from CONTRAF and the Sindicato dos Bancários de São Paulo (more on who they are later) who taught me so much.
They shared something with me that could alter the lives of Americans who aren’t afraid to have their system and world rocked. I witnessed and experienced role reversals, energy and passion that would shock most people in the United States. Through their experiences and vision they convinced me a better world is possible.
I am going to share lessons from Brazil that could change our futures, that, once learned, can bring new meaning to our lives. And techniques that, when practiced over time, can increase our strength, improve our creativity and help hundreds of thousands of people trapped in unhealthy relationships free themselves from those who have power over them. Who knows–maybe one day crazy bank executives will be reined in by bank workers sick and tired of their bosses getting rich crashing the global economy.
To understand the context for these lessons, a little background on Brazil is useful. Until 1986 it was ruled by a military dictatorship. Now, Brazil, with 300 million inhabitants, has just passed the United Kingdom to become the 6th largest economy in the world. It is governed by the Workers Party and its immediate past president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was a former metal worker and union leader. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s current and first woman president, was part of the student movement that opposed the military dictatorship and had been jailed and tortured by the military in her youth.
How is it that Brazil has moved from a military dictatorship to a vibrant democracy where jobs are being created, wages are rising and bold action has been taken to combat poverty? How did Brazil go from a country were demonstrations were suppressed, and protesters arrested, tortured and murdered to a country were a former autoworker could become president? Rita Berlofa, a leader of the Brazilian bank workers union, described the change this way at the recent SEIU convention in Denver:
By David Sirota
Posted on Jun 17, 2012
Major food corporations face a quandary. They are under Wall Street’s constant profit-growth pressure, but they can’t substantially raise product prices because the food market is so cost sensitive. Therefore, to entice us to spend even more on eating, Big Food has lately been trying to extend the biological limits of consumption by challenging one of the most basic structures of American culture: the traditional meal schedule.
For the last few decades, food companies had aimed their marketing at single meals, pushing to inflate portion sizes. That initiative was wildly successful. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported, the average restaurant meal in the United States is now an unfathomable four times larger than it was in 1950. That has translated into “Americans now consum(ing) 2,700 calories a day, about 500 calories more than 40 years ago,” according to the Atlantic Monthly.
One predictable result of this trend is an obesity rate that’s poised to top 40 percent and that already costs the nation hundreds of billions of dollars in additional health care expenditures. The other result is that the super-size campaign has become a victim of its own success. Indeed, food companies are coming to realize that, in terms of per-meal product sales, they are quickly approaching the point where the human body simply cannot—or will not—accommodate any more calories in a single sitting. That has left Big Food fretting about a profit-making path forward—and that’s where the innovators at Yum! Brands come in.
Known for ignoring public health concerns and pioneering weapons-grade junk food, this conglomerate’s subsidiaries have most recently given us the cheeseburger-stuffed pizza (Pizza Hut), the Dorito-shelled taco (Taco Bell), and the “Double Down” (KFC)—a bacon and cheese sandwich that replaces bread with slabs of deep-fried chicken. So it should come as no surprise that with the three meals hitting their caloric max-out point, Yum! Brands has been leading the effort to add a whole new gorging session to America’s daily schedule.
The campaign is called “fourth meal” and was originally launched in a series of Taco Bell spots telling kids that “everyone is a fourth mealer—some just don’t know it yet.” Now, new “fourth meal” ads are once again popping up all over television, insisting that “sometimes the best dinner is after dinner.” The ads are backed by an eponymous website and a “cravinator” smartphone app that helps binge-eaters select their junk food of choice.
By Muriel Kane
Sunday, June 17, 2012
The silent march against stop-and-frisk turned violent and chaotic shortly after 5:00 pm after being confronted by New York police.
It appears that the trouble began as the tail end of the march, which has been estimated as at least 50,000 people, reached the destination point of Fifth Avenue and 78th Street. OccupiedStories tweeted at 5:15, “End of #SilentMarchNYC rowdy and loud. Seems like people are continuing to march down 5th Ave. Intensity level just shot through the roof.”
According to the “Newyorkist” Twitter account, it appears that police then began to move in and the crowd started chanting “No justice, no peace” and then “Whose streets, our streets.”
Police tried to kettle the march with netting and then split the crowd, pushing some down Fifth Avenue and others onto a side street. They then began wielding batons and Newyorkist tweeted, “Crowd control meaures turning super agressive and dangerous. Crowd tremendously agitated.”
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/17-2
Rethinking Schools Editorial
Published on Sunday, June 17, 2012 by Rethinking Schools
As we go marching, marching,
we’re standing proud and tall
The rising of the women means
the rising of us all.
Our lives shall not be sweated
from birth until life closes,
Hearts starve as well as bodies:
bread and roses, bread and roses.
The song “Bread and Roses” and the 1912 strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the phrase originated, remind us how important women’s struggles have been in U.S. history, and that the liberation of women is central to progress toward social justice.
There hasn’t been much talk about women’s liberation lately. Women have the vote; more than half the students at universities are women; rape is classified as a crime; there are women doctors, lawyers, soccer players, and secretaries of state. A lot of young professionals—and a lot of our students—would say that the whole idea of women’s liberation is passé, a non-issue.
Then, this spring’s political campaigns revealed a deep and ugly wound: misogyny that ranged from Rush Limbaugh’s crass attack on Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke to the repeal of Wisconsin’s pay equity law, from the Republican attacks on Title X (which subsidizes cervical and breast cancer screening, testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control for 5 million low-income women) to Virginia’s mandated vaginal ultrasounds for women who want abortions.
What has been exposed is that the notion that we are “post-sexist” is a lie. There is a disturbing similarity to how the election of an African American president has masked the worsening realities for large numbers of African Americans—in the words of prison rights activist and scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “One African American in the White House and a million in prison.” Professional opportunities for a narrow stratum of women have masked the worsening realities of life for millions of women caught up in the welfare system, the prison system, low-paying service jobs, domestic violence, and the ideological misogyny of growing fundamentalist religious and political perspectives.
The vilification of K-12 teachers is part and parcel of this misogyny. Last year, when teachers led the occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol, many pointed out the obvious: Attacks on teachers—and other public sector workers like nurses and social workers—are overwhelmingly attacks on women. When “reformers” from former D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie portray teachers as incompetent, incapable of leadership, and selfish, they don’t need to specify women teachers for that to be the image in people’s minds—76 percent of U.S. teachers are women; at the elementary school level, it’s nearly 90 percent. As education blogger Sabrina Stevens Shupe wrote recently, “The predominantly female teaching profession [is] among the latest [targets] in a long tradition of projecting community/social anxieties onto ‘bad’ women—from ‘witches’ to bad mothers to feminists and beyond.”
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/17-2
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/dowd-moral-dystopia.html
By Maureen Dowd
Published: June 16, 2012
EVERYONE is good, until we’re tested.
We hope we would be Sir Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons,” who dismisses his daughter’s pleas to compromise his ideals and save his life, saying: “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.”
But with formerly hallowed institutions and icons sinking into a moral dystopia all around us, has our sense of right and wrong grown more malleable? What if we’re not Thomas More but Mike McQueary?
Eight tortured young men offered searing testimony in Bellefonte, Pa., about being abused as children by Jerry Sandusky in the showers at Penn State, in the basement of his home and at hotels.
But the most haunting image in the case is that of a little boy who was never found, who was never even sought by Penn State officials.
In February 2001, McQueary was home one night watching the movie “Rudy,” about a runty football player who achieves his dream of playing at Notre Dame by the sheer force of his gutsy character. McQueary, a graduate assistant coach and former Penn State quarterback, was so inspired that he got up and went over to the locker room to get some tapes of prospective recruits.
There he ran smack into his own character test. The strapping 6-foot-4 redhead told the court he saw his revered boss and former coach reflected in the mirror: Sandusky, Joe Paterno’s right hand, was grinding against a little boy in the shower in an “extremely sexual” position, their wet bodies making “skin-on-skin slapping sounds.” He met their eyes, Sandusky’s blank, the boy’s startled.
“I’ve never been involved in anything remotely close to this,” the 37-year-old McQueary said. “You’re not sure what the heck to do, frankly.”
Continue reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/dowd-moral-dystopia.html
By Jonathan Terbush
Sunday, June 17, 2012
A group of Christian missionaries hijacked an Arab-American festival in Dearborn, Michigan on Saturday, bearing signs criticizing Islam and carrying a pig’s head mounted on a pole.
According to the Detroit Free Press, several Christian missionaries protested the Arab International Festival, shouting at attendees and holding signs which read, “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and ”Muhammad is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.” One missionary also carried a pig’s head on a staff—an antagonistic gesture because Muslims do not eat pork.
One of the missionary groups, called the Bible Believers, has notoriously picketed Arab events in the past. The group’s website—which contains lengthy diatribes against Santa Claus and Christian Rock music, among other things—has a section conveniently titled, “What So Wrong With Islam?” Among the reasons cited are a belief that Muhammad was a sinner, and that the Quran requires violence.
Saturday June 16, 2012
In the 1850s and 60s, there were slaveholders who justified their ways by appealing to their religious beliefs. In the 1950s and 60s, there were segregationists who screamed “religious liberty” when their practices were questioned. Indeed, as late as 1983, Bob Jones University went to the US Supreme Court to defend their discriminatory practices that violated federal law. At stake, properly speaking, was not their right to hold their beliefs or practice discrimination, but rather their tax-exempt status. That is, they were receiving a benefit from society while acting against the laws of that same society.
Let the record show that Bob Jones University lost their case, 8-1.
Said the majority opinion (emphasis added):
Charitable exemptions are justified on the basis that the exempt entity confers a public benefit — a benefit which the society or the community may not itself choose or be able to provide, or which supplements and advances the work of public institutions already supported by tax revenues. History buttresses logic to make clear that, to warrant exemption under § 501(c)(3), an institution must fall within a category specified in that section and must demonstrably serve and be in harmony with the public interest. The institution’s purpose must not be so at odds with the common community conscience as to undermine any public benefit that might otherwise be conferred.
. . .
This Court has long held the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to be an absolute prohibition against governmental regulation of religious beliefs, Wisconsin v. Yoder,406 U. S. 205, 406 U. S. 219 (1972); Sherbert v. Verner,374 U. S. 398, 374 U. S. 402 (1963); Cantwell v. Connecticut,310 U. S. 296, 310 U. S. 303 (1940). As interpreted by this Court, moreover, the Free Exercise Clause provides substantial protection for lawful conduct grounded in religious belief, see Wisconsin v. Yoder, supra, at 406 U. S. 220; Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana Employment Security Div.,450 U. S. 707 (1981); Sherbert v. Verner, supra, at 374 U. S. 402-403. However, “[n]ot all burdens on religion are unconstitutional. . . . The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest.”
Continue reading at: http://firedoglake.com/2012/06/16/bigotry-again-masquerading-as-religious-liberty/
By Matt Dineen and Jason Del Gandio
Thursday, 14 June 2012
The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured the collective imagination and inspired a groundswell of radical activity. This inspiration is so great that even the corporate media was regularly covering Occupy back in the fall. But that media coverage changed once the encampments were dismantled. The media coverage has either subsided or, in more recent times, has falsely branded occupiers as “agitators” and even “terrorists” (see Bill O’Reilly’s Talking Points from May 21 and May 22, for instance). But this is not the approach taken by everyone. On April 17 of this year, the Heritage Foundation organized a public panel discussion entitled “Occupy Wall Street: A Post-Mortem?” Unlike the dismissive and demonizing tactics of Fox News, this influential conservative think tank is seriously grappling with the Occupy phenomenon. Until now, there has been no response to the Heritage Foundation from Occupy or from the left. Philadelphia-based writer Matt Dineen recently interviewed Occupy Philadelphia member and “Rhetoric for Radicals” author Jason Del Gandio. In the following dialogue, the two explore the significance of the Heritage Foundation’s study and what Occupy can learn from it to ensure its own vitality and evolving relevance as the summer approaches.
Matt Dineen: The Heritage Foundation is clearly taking the Occupy movement seriously and not simply dismissing it like much of the right wing has done. In framing the question around the current state of Occupy, they do not argue that this is a post-mortem – but their project is committed to ideologically defeating this unpredictable movement. How can we begin to make sense of the Heritage Foundation’s strategy here? What is it that they are trying to accomplish?
Jason Del Gandio: My guess is that the Heritage Foundation sees Occupy as a legitimate – or at least a potential – threat to American capitalism. The speakers make frequent reference to capitalism, free markets and free enterprise, and often mention traditional buzzwords like individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Heritage Foundation is trying to understand the populist appeal of Occupy, and by doing so, trying to use that appeal to “win back” some of the Occupiers. Or, at the very least, to impede Occupy’s progress and win the hearts and minds of those who are still on the fence. One speaker, Ben Domenech, uses the word “persuadables.” This refers to Occupiers who, he believes, are still sympathetic to capitalism and the American dream – that if you work hard, you can live a happy, comfortable, successful life. Another speaker, Anne Sorock, is a marketing researcher and former corporate brand manager. She explicitly states that she wants to understand the feelings and psychological motivations of the Occupiers. Based on her research, she has created two categories of Occupiers – the professionals and the communitarians. The first, according to Sorock, is composed of long-time, dedicated activists and organizers; they are not persuadable. The second group is less dedicated and experienced, less concerned with political issues, and driven more by existential desires: they seek community, purpose and meaning in life, which Occupy provides. The Heritage Foundation is guessing that these folks are still persuadable. Such psychological profiling grants the Heritage Foundation – and other conservatives – the ability to rebrand capitalism and the American dream. After all, who doesn’t want to believe that the system works with you and not against you, and that hard work pays off? These are extremely powerful myths that help maintain the status quo. But things like economic inequality, escalating poverty, bank bailouts, home foreclosures, Citizens United, a clear lack of political accountability, disappointment in Obama and a general malaise associated to the corporate/consumer lifestyle challenge the American mythology. Occupy then comes onto the scene and acts as a conduit for these and other issues. Occupy is a galvanizing point that cuts through the American myth.