Barack Obama 2013 Inauguration Speech

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Trans people and the current feminist movement

From The New Statesman:

Don’t be fooled: feminism is about exploring gender, not policing it.

By Petra Davis
Published 18 January 2013

An international movement is building that links trans liberation with feminist organising. Based around activism and campaigning on grassroots issues and connected through social media, it draws on a rich history of queer and feminist theory while avoiding the binary, male-female thinking which has made some parts of the feminist movement hostile to trans people. For those more interested in the commonalities between feminist and trans campaigning, a host of Tumblrs such as the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project and Facebook groups such as Feminists Against Transphobia and Feminist: Discuss are creating both transgender space that is explicitly feminist, and feminist space that is explicitly trans inclusive.

The need for such spaces is far from academic, and social media has given rise to street-level organising. As austerity systematically targets marginalised people and decimates the resources aimed at reducing gender inequality, transgender and feminist movements are finding common ground in campaigning around domestic violence, street harassment and reproductive rights, all issues that directly affect women and trans people. For Caitlin Hayward-Tapp, one organiser of the Brighton Feminist Collective, a focus on transgender was always important.

“One of the things that we were very clear on was that we wanted it to be a trans inclusive feminist space. We’ve worked quite closely with Brighton Pro-Choice; trans men also get pregnant and need abortions too. We organised the Brighton Reclaim the Night; trans inclusivity was a driving force behind organising that march. Street violence is a huge issue for trans people and women in general,” she argues. The group takes its methodology from the second-wave feminist model of consciousness-raising and grassroots campaigning.  “We meet every week; half of our meeting is an activist session where we decide what kinds of campaigns we want to get involved in, and the other half is a discussion. People bring their own knowledge to the group and offer to lead discussions on race, or on rape culture, and we’ll spend an hour thrashing out ideas as a group. We’re not a women-only space, but if we were, we would be for self-defined women; the idea that trans women aren’t women is hugely difficult for me. It’s not feminist to say you have to have a certain kind of biology to get involved in our activism.”

Ariel Silvera, feminist trans activist and writer, was born and raised in Argentina but has spent the last 10 years campaigning in Dublin’s feminist scene. She addressed Dublin’s enormous 2012 Rally For Choice, discussing the reproductive rights of trans men, to a rapturous reception. “I have had to do a lot of educating [as a trans woman in feminist circles] but there hasn’t been resistance. I’ve had a long involvement with the Irish pro choice movement, it’s kind of where my feminist roots lie,” she says.

Though Silvera says there’s not yet an explicitly trans-focused feminism in Ireland, she feels that the priorities of Irish feminism leave little room for policing trans people out of feminist campaigning. “In England in the eighties when [feminists] were having wars over kink and porn, Irish women were trying to smuggle condoms from Northern Ireland, trying not to get sent to Magdalene laundries, and trying to escape husbands they could not divorce. In Ireland divorce was illegal until 1995 and homosexuality was illegal until 1994. Who has time to be transphobic?” She laughs. “[In Dublin currently] there are more trans people who are feminists, outspokenly and publicly so, and there are more feminists who are willing to engage in trans issues.”

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Prejudice: trans people shouldn’t have been subjected to such abuse

From The Observer UK:

Julie Burchill’s ill-informed rant added to the victimised community’s woes

The Observer, Saturday 19 January 2013

EB White once said: “Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.” On the basis of last week’s article (“Cut it out, you transsexuals”, Comment), Julie Burchill has taken this to be an axiom rather than a witticism.

Unfortunately, transphobia in the media has real-world consequences. Statistics on transphobic crime are currently still difficult to obtain as few large-scale studies have been undertaken, but what evidence there is strongly indicates that trans people are at much higher risk of casual violence and verbal abuse than the general population. Then, of course, there is everyday prejudice and marginalisation, highlighted for instance by the twitter hashtag #transdocfail, which records the medical community’s failure to carry out its duties to its trans patients.

If even a newspaper such as the Observer, which prides itself on its left-leaning principles and support for social justice issues, can publish transparently transphobic invective and call it journalism, then it is a worrying indictment of systemic prejudice in Britain today.

Dr Rachel Moss

Corpus Christi College, Oxford

The hostility towards trans people that Ms Burchill exhibited in her article was discrimination, no different from any other form of discriminatory conduct. It is unacceptable and rightly so. Ms Burchill peppered her article with insults, threats and misinformation. She resorted to name-calling and provocation and, in doing so, completely undermined any value to her piece.

As someone who works as a solicitor in the field of discrimination law, I am all too regularly struck by how damaging discriminatory comments can be, both to the individuals on the receiving end and to the basic principle that a tolerant society is a better one for all.

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Trans people, pronouns and language

From The New Statesman:

When it comes to pronouns or gendered descriptors, it’s better to allow people autonomy over their identities rather than impose your own preconceptions.

By Juliet Jacques
16 January 2013

In 1910, German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld published The Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress ­– the first investigation into the practice of wearing clothes designated for the “opposite” sex, and those who wanted to be the “opposite” sex or find space between “male” and “female”. With no recognised word to describe any of these positions or practices, Hirschfeld popularised “transvestite” from the Latin trans- (meaning “across”) and vestitus (“dressed”), variations on which had been used across Europe since the sixteenth century. (Zagria’s Gender Variance Who’s Who provides a potted history here.)

The sexological categorisation of gender-variant practices, and the new possibilities opened by scientific advances and changing attitudes throughout the twentieth century, posed a significant challenge to European languages, which had not previously been seriously demanded to accommodate areas between the two established sexes or genders. The definition of transvestite has been narrowed following the emergence of transsexual and genderqueer people, commonly referring to people who cross-dress for sexual pleasure without wishing for sex or gender reassignment, but a linguistic problem around gender variance that persists is that of pronouns – with just “he/him” and “she/her” in common English usage, little possibility traditionally existed for those between the gender binary, with third parties often unsure of how to address even those who have moved from male to female, or vice versa.

There exists a decades-long lag between trans activism and mainstream media discussion of trans people and politics, with the latter still struggling to catch up with the former. Before the internet, it was hard to find trans people talking about their lives in their voices – a search through the Guardian archives, for example, reveals that “transsexual” was first used in the Observer on 28 April 1974, in an article headlined “Trans-Sexuals” by medical correspondent Christine Doyle. It was not until the 1990s that any openly transsexual person was given any platform in the Guardian or the Observer, and not until the late 2000s that they were allowed more than one-off columns.

Kept out of the mainstream media, gender-variant people, many of whom could not “out” in their daily lives, communicated directly in spaces that allowed them to retain anonymity – fanzines and online forums. Sandy Stone’s brilliant essay The Empire Strikes Back: A Post-Transsexual Manifesto was written in 1987 in response to radical feminist Janice Raymond’s searing attacks on Gender Identity Clinics and transsexual people in The Transsexual Empire (1979) and circulated on early online communities, before being published in 1991. This called for transsexual people to move beyond “passing” and be open about their gender histories, but the wave of transgender activists and academics that coalesced in the early 1990s, such as Transgender Warriors author Leslie Feinberg, felt it was worth exploring a new linguistic framework to better describe their experiences, starting with pronouns such as “ze” and “hir” to create space between “he” and “she”, “him” and “her”, and generate a lexicon that was not imposed by the medical community.

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Evangelicals confuse ‘freedom’ with free rein to insult others

Moore and Burchill share the same sort of bully mind set as Evangelicals who piss and moan about how pushing back against their bullying is infringing upon their freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech means those people you bully have the right to punch back.

From LGBTQ Nation:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

For fifty years, Bob Jones University, in Greenville, S.C., prohibited interracial dating and Bob Jones Jr. once claimed that Catholicism was a “satanic counterfeit” of fundamentalist Christianity.

Despite the ugly rhetoric and vile policies, Republican candidates regularly flocked to the school and groveled for its endorsement. The GOP luminaries who appeared at the university include Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle, and Bob Dole.

This ignoble political ritual ended in 2000 after presidential candidate George W. Bush was excoriated for appearing at the school.

In 1983, Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status over its dating rules and argued in court, “God intended segregation of the races and that the Scriptures forbid interracial marriage.” However, the media firestorm over the Bush speech forced Bob Jones III to announce on CNN’s Larry King Live that it was reversing its bigoted policy.

Over time, so-called traditional values can come to be seen as valueless traditions. While the transformation of attitudes can take decades, the actual policy change itself can seem abrupt. Bush was simply following in the footsteps of others, but failed to realize America was walking down a different path.

The same can be said about last week’s uproar over the removal of Rev. Louie Giglio from President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, after Think Progress discovered that he had delivered a toxic anti-gay sermon in the mid-90s.

A few notable nuggets from Giglio’s talk:

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See Also The Guardian UK:  It saddens me that supporting freedom makes me an opponent of equality

Suzanne Moore is totally puzzled that a regular radical feminist punching bag turned around and hit back.

Get used to it Transsexual and Transgender people are a minority people and we are tired of being the punch lines for bigoted people who are trying to be funny.

Julie Burchill and the Observer

From The Guardian UK:

The readers’ editor on why the paper was wrong to publish slurs against trans people

The Observer, Friday 18 January 2013

It was “appalling”, “vile”, “hateful”. It was “incredibly offensive”. It was “rude, bigoted and downright insulting”. In the 24 hours following the publication of Julie Burchill‘s Observer piece headlined “Transsexuals should cut it out”, more than 1,000 emails arrived in my inbox and 2,952 comments were posted online, most of them highly critical of the decision to publish what one correspondent called “her bullying nonsense”.

The piece in question was a defence of her friend, the columnist Suzanne Moore, who claims she has been driven off Twitter by a vociferous campaign from transsexual people. Moore had contributed an essay on women’s anger to an anthology of polemical writing. Women were angry, she wrote, at the effect of government policy on the weakest members of society, many of whom happened to be women, and they were angry, among other things, at “not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual”.

This, wrote Burchill, led to Moore being “monstered” by a lobby that Burchill said would rather silence Moore than decry the idea “that every broad should look like an oven-ready porn star”. She said the lobby was now saying it was Moore’s refusal to apologise that “made” them drive her from Twitter, presumably in the name of solidarity. Some of the language was gratuitously offensive; to repeat it here would be to add insult to injury.

The ensuing storm was notable both for its vociferous nature and for its individuality. A controversial issue will often bring a blizzard of identikit protest of apparently confected anger but while clearly this lobby was organised most of the emails and letters we received were personal and heartfelt. And they were not only from trans people. Concerned readers with no connection to the trans lobby felt hurt that a minority that could expect to be protected by a liberal publication was being attacked in an extremely insulting manner.

“Would you have run the article if it had contained similar slurs regarding people of colour or people with disabilities?” was a typical question.

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Transgender rights protest at Guardian and Observer offices over Burchill row

From The Guardian UK:

More than 100 transgender people and supporters stage peaceful vigil over ‘hate speech’ in Observer column

The Guardian, Thursday 17 January 2013

A peaceful protest took place on Thursday afternoon outside the Guardian Media Group offices in London over Julie Burchill‘s column in last Sunday’s Observer.

Organisers of the gathering of more than 100 transgender people and supporters said the column – for which the Observer has apologised and which has been removed from its website – was “transphobic hate speech” and a “deliberate baiting” of a community that is already the subject of widespread social abuse and ridicule.

“The Burchill piece was a deliberate baiting,” said Martha Dunkley, a member of TransLondon. “It was straightforward, transphobic hate speech for which, had she been targeting another group, she would have been arrested. It threw us back into the days when we could be the objects of violence and ridicule with impunity.”

The protest was the culmination of a row sparked by Suzanne Moore, who wrote in an article that women were, among other things, angry about “not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual”.

Moore subsequently became involved in an increasingly heated row on Twitter with members of the transgender community, which concluded in her leaving the social media site. Burchill’s column was in defence of Moore, her close friend.

The protesters said they are seeking a full apology from the Observer and reassurance that they will take steps to ensure that the Guardian Media Group’s publications “will never again be used as a platform for hate speech”.

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