Maker’s: Women who Make America

I actively started transition on a New Year’s Eve, as 1968 turned into 1969.

In 1968 the Women’s Liberation Movement held a big protest in Atlantic City outside the Miss America Pageant.  In spite of what the mainstream media said bras were not burned.  By 1968 many women would have had to buy a bra in order to burn it, but that is beside the point.

The more important thing is that like the anti-war in Vietnam movement and later the gay/lesbian liberation movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement was immediately malreported on and mischaracterized by the mainstream media.

(While the right wingers have continually repeated the big lie regarding mainstream media having a liberal bias, generally speaking it tends to have a strongly conservative bias.)

I started supporting women’s liberation before I started hormones and considered myself a feminist by the time I went 24/7 in mid-June of 1969.

The linking of trans-oppression to the sexist oppression of women seemed far more obvious to me than any connection to the Gay Liberation Movement.

Unlike Nicole Murray Ramirez, whose piece I ran just before this post, I never considered myself a gay man.

Stonewall wasn’t a big deal for me.  I didn’t got to Stonewall Pride events until 1974, after I had come out as lesbian (even though bisexual would have been more accurate).  I started going to Pride events because I had started seeing myself as part of the Lesbian Feminist Movement.

Last night I watched Makers: Women who Make America on the local PBS station.

As soon as the show started Tina started saying, “You have books by her, and her, and her, and her. Oh you took photos of her.”

While much of the activity shown took place in New York the Women’s Liberation Movement was every where.

I remember how close we came to passing the Equal Rights Amendment before the right wing mainstream media stated pushing the crap of Phyllis Schlafly, the harridan of the ultra right.

If you missed the screening on PBS last night it is available to view with streaming video at:

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Tranny? Queer? What’s in a name?

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been around as long as I have.  She was around when I first started going to Christopher Street West Pride Day in LA in 1974. I have photos of her from those days.

She was involved in the Imperial Courts which give her as much of a legitimate claim to being a pioneer of the building of the trans-gay community connection as anyone.

But she’s a queen and these days drag queens are more or less rejected by the transgender community, which sometimes seems to have a homophobic streak.

That said, I think ‘trannie” has become like the “n-word”, disrespectful in spite of its common usage by trans-folks.

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:

by Nicole Murray Ramirez
Thursday, February 21st, 2013

In her column last week in San Diego LGBT Weekly (issue 113, Feb. 14) Ms. Autumn Sandeen went off on RuPaul and others for using the word “tranny.” Ms. Sandeen even actually attacked RuPaul as “trans-negative” and that the word “tranny” was offensive. To whom, Ms. Sandeen?

The facts are that our GLBT community uses a lot of names and words to identify us and not all of us like or use the words and some do.

Let me give you a history lesson, Ms. Sandeen.

In the 1950s we were “homosexuals.” Around the 1960s we became “gay.” As gay men and women then in the 1970s we became “gay and lesbian.” Now, not everyone liked these names and labels while some did.

Many females like being called “gay women” and fought the name lesbian. To this very day Susan Jester (founder AIDS Walk, San Diego) does not like to be called a lesbian, but describes herself as a “gay woman.”

I remember serving on the national executive boards of the Marches on Washington and the debates and votes if we should add bi-sexual and transgender.

Now about transgender. It is a relatively new word for our community. I was a pre-operative transsexual during the late 1960s and 70s. The word transgender was not around.

All of a sudden a group of people organized and came up with the word “transgender” and a “transgender umbrella” that included everyone from drag queens to transsexuals.

The facts are that not everyone is even comfortable with this “trans-umbrella” and almost 100 percent of “drag queens” consider themselves “gay men.”

A lot of transsexuals consider themselves either women or men and hate to be called transgender, as they want to pass and consider themselves “heterosexual” after their complete operations, while others remain in the gay community and want to have the “trans” label added.

I have fought for “transsexuals” and yes, transgender people for decades as I’ve walked in their shoes and I am proud of the progress and visibility the trans community has accomplished in such a short time.

But you, Ms. Sandeen, don’t and can’t speak on behalf of the entire trans community and nor can I. And I do know this, that many of us use the word “tranny” with love and good meaning and have done so since the 1960s and 70s. Long before you began your activism.

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Trans Folks Who Are Unemployed, Homeless, or in Massive Debt

From The Advocate:

Paying for medical care isn’t the only concern facing transgender Americans.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
February 24 2013

CNNMoney, a digital partnership between CNN and Fortune and Money magazines, came up with an impressive series this week in which they spoke to six transgender people who were either unemployed, homeless, living on food stamps, or facing piles of debt. Trans leaders are heralding the stalwart news site for looking at the significant issues that transgender Americans faces in every day life: money, healthcare, and jobs.

Among the key points in Blake Ellis’s opening article:

“It’s hard to pin down a precise jobless rate since there’s so little transgender-specific data available. The most recent comprehensive study of more than 6,000 transgender individuals was released in 2011 by the National Center for Transgender Equality. This report found the transgender jobless rate to be 14% — double the national rate — and as high as 28% for black respondents. And a recent online Prudential survey of 49 transgender individuals had similar findings.”

“Homelessness among this group is estimated to be double the national rate, according to the NCTE study. Respondents were also nearly four times more likely to have annual household incomes of less than $10,000, and 16% said they resorted to sex work or drug dealing for income — a percentage that nearly doubled for the unemployed and skyrocketed to 53% for black respondents.

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Why ‘LGB’ and ‘T’ Belong Together

From Huffington Post:


As an analyst, historical data is often important because it helps answer the question, “How did we get here?” However, this eventually becomes less important than determining “where are we going, and how do we get there?” This is exactly the mindset of most LGBT millennials when it comes to civil rights and advocacy.

Unfortunately, some transgender leaders keep trying to revive old grievances, like 18-year-old articles from The New York Times. However, people like Jim Fouratt haven’t been relevant in decades. Janice Raymond and her ilk are a poorly regarded footnote in the annals of second-wave lesbian feminism. Things cited as proof that LGB leadership has it in for the transgender community may or may not have actually been said. Barney Frank has retired. So has Joe Solmonese. The historical reasons typically cited for the division between the LGB and T have become just that: history.

While many pundits have piled onto the Republicans for failing to recognize the effects of a generational shift in attitudes, leadership in the LGB and T communities also need to recognize the same. Millennials will soon, if not already, constitute the majority of the people represented by LGBT organizations. To the younger folks these divisions look like a Monty Python sketch about the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea “bickering and arguing about who killed who.”

I certainly do not speak for everyone, but from the perspective of millennials who are educated, diverse, and looking for the “BLUF” (Bottom Line Up Front), LGB and T have more experiences, goals and obstacles in common than not.

  1. We all violate gender norms. LGB people break one of the most fundamental stereotypes and expectations of gender, namely women should fall in love with men, and vice versa. Transgender people violate other gender stereotypes, sometimes including who we are supposed to fall in love with and marry. At some point in their lives, many transgender people will either be seen as LGB by others, or see themselves as LGB.

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Widow asks supreme court to strike Doma on grounds of discrimination

From The Guardian UK:

Lawyers for Edith Windsor file brief ahead of March 7 hearing that urges justices to find anti-gay legislation unconstitutional

in New York, Tuesday 26 February 2013

Edith Windsor, the New York widow at the centre of a US supreme court legal challenge to the act that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage, put her case on Tuesday in a brief arguing that the law contributes to the “pervasive history of discrimination” experienced by gay people in the US.

Windsor, 83, and her long-term partner, Thea Spyer, married in Canada in 2007, after Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. When Spyer died two years later she left everything to Windsor, her partner of 44 years, but because the marriage was not recognised under federal law, Windsor was required to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes. She requested a refund from the government but her request was rejected because of the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma).

In her brief to the court, Windsor’s legal team argues that laws like Doma that classify people based on their sexual orientation should be subjected to “heightened scrutiny”, a standard which calls on the court to presume that anti-gay legislation is unconstitutional and asks the government to provide a strong explanation for the law in question.

Windsor’s lawyers wrote: “As this court has already recognized, laws burdening lesbians and gay men that were ‘once thought necessary and proper’ may in fact ‘serve only to oppress’.”

The brief notes that “gay men and lesbians have experienced a pervasive history of discrimination” and that “as a result lesbians and gay men have confronted discrimination at the hands of both government and private actors”.

On Friday, the Obama administration also filed a brief in the case with a similar argument that laws targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation should face additional scrutiny by courts reviewing them. In it, solicitor general Donald Verrilli argued the law is unconstitutional because it violates “the fundamental guarantee of equal protection”.

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Rape: The Universal Crime

From Reader Supported News:

By Ruth Rosen,
24 February 13

The feminist writer Susan Griffin called rape “The All American Crime” in Ramparts Magazine in 1971. She was the first feminist to explain that men rape children, elderly and disabled women, not just girls dressed in mini-skirts. In other words, she challenged the belief that that rape was a sexual act, fueled by men’s irrepressible sexual drive. Instead, she argued that rape was an assault against a woman, fueled by the desire to control and harm her, not a sexual act at all.

While I became a professor of history at the University of California a few years later, an elderly woman was raped by a man who stalked the campus looking for prey. He finally found a woman in her 90s and raped her in Davis’s Central Park. (I can’t find the newspaper story, but I remember the terror he caused among the town’s women.) In 2012, a 43-year-old man raped a 73-year-old woman in New York City’s Central Park and even boasted about how many elderly women he had raped. So, no, rape is not a sexual act.

Griffin was right. Even more, we now know that rape is the universal crime. Men don’t need seductive young bodies scantily dressed to incite them to use their overwhelming power over a vulnerable woman. Even though rape has been declared illegal in war as a means of demoralizing an enemy, the Balkan wars revealed the creation of “rape camps” on all sides.

And has anything changed? Well yes, there was a huge outpouring of protest against the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in India in December 2012. But after that atrocity, countless rapes followed in Timbuktu, Mali, just weeks later. In every ethnic strife, opponents rape women as part of the spoils of their victory. It’s in the newspaper every day with sickening regularity.

Closer to home, I recently received a message from the Berkeley police, notifying me that the number of rapes in Berkeley, California, has doubled during the last year. The twenty rapes that occurred in 2011 jumped to 39 in 2012. Many of these crimes took place near campus, where I live, and some, as you would expect, involved alcohol and drugs, according to the local news station, KGO. Very likely, some of these involved date rape, a term not used until the women’s movement coined it.

Then I read a story in the New York Times that women are now among the loudest voices against gun control. They are crowding the shooting ranges, learning how to shoot and protect themselves. Why? Because of fear of rape, fear of gender violence of all kinds, and probably fear of criminals as well as immigrants in the border states.

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University Didn’t Call Cops About Sexual Assault For Fear Of Exposing Alleged Rapist’s Grades

From Think Progress:

By Annie-Rose Strasser
on Feb 26, 2013

Officials at Oklahoma State University did not go to the police with several reports of rape or sexual assault on campus in 2011, falesly believing that they were following procedures protecting the information of the purported assailants.

According to a report by an OSU Board of Regents task force, university representatives “misinterpreted the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act.” The university believed that purported rapists’ educational records might have been involved in the case, and so, to protect those records, decided sexual assault fell under the purview of the school, not law enforcement:

Friday’s report cites a provision in FERPA that allows institutions to contact campus police to ask them to investigate possible crimes on campus. The report notes that members of the news media brought the provision to university officials’ attention.

According to the report, OSU officials rejected that argument, saying a different provision in FERPA wouldn’t have allowed them to turn over educational records, including those generated in student conduct hearings.

But that provision wouldn’t have applied in this case, according to the report. When officials learned of the incidents, no student conduct hearings were pending, meaning no such records had been created.

OSU could have notified the police immediately after it became aware that the sexual assaults had been committed,” the report states.

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Jim Crow isn’t dead, he just got lawyers

From The Guardian UK:

The US supreme court’s upcoming decision on the Voting Rights Act could let discriminatory laws make a comeback, Friday 22 February 2013

When a black man won the White House in 2008, many in the commentariat declared the United States a “post-racial” society, no longer hamstrung by old hatreds, freed at last from the embarrassments of segregation – finally and triumphantly color blind.

Conservatives have been telling themselves some version of this pretty lie ever since Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox. On 27 February, we’ll hear it again when the supreme court takes up a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The case, Shelby County v Holder, centers on Section 5 of the VRA, which requires that nine states with histories of discrimination (Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Alaska and Arizona), and parts of seven more states must seek permission from the justice department to change election laws. The Alabama county argues that Section 5 is an unconstitutional infringement on “state sovereignty”, and a relic from the bygone days of poll taxes and literacy tests.

Granted, citizens in the old Confederacy are no longer forced to say how many bubbles are in a bar of soap before they can cast a ballot. But the last national election provides plenty of examples of voter suppression. Florida (five counties of which are included in Section 5) enacted a largely inaccurate purge of its electoral rolls. The people whose right to vote was challenged were predominantly (the state says coincidentally) minorities.

The state’s Republican leadership cut back the number of polling places and reduced early voting, including the Sunday before election day, when African American churches would traditionally organize trips to the polls. Many, like Desaline Victor, the 102-year-old President Obama featured in his state of the union address, had to wait in line for hours. More than 200,000 others were unable to vote.

Texas and South Carolina (entirely covered by Section 5) tried to institute absurdly restrictive voter ID laws in 2012, but the Department of Justice, citing the Voting Rights Act, shot them down. “Federal courts sided with DOJ, finding that the new rules would disproportionately affect black and Latino citizens.

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7 Ways Sequestration Will Sock the Middle Class

From In These Times:

Once again, the GOP strips funds from the neediest to pad their own wallets.

BY Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President
February 26, 2013

Last week, President Obama described the sequestration situation in simple, stark terms: Keep it in place and punch the middle class in the gut. Or, he suggested, soften the blow substantially by ending special tax breaks for the rich.

Here’s what he said:

Republicans in Congress face a simple choice. Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and healthcare and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations?

President Obama is recommending reducing the pain of sequestration by raising revenue. This could be accomplished by eliminating cushy deals that the rich and corporations have bought for themselves over the years with lobbyist dough.

Specifically, it breaks down like this:

  1. Do Republicans want to evict 70,000 low income children from Head Start to ensure that the nation’s largest corporation, GE, which is massively profitable, continues to pay no taxes and instead demands rebates from the American people?
  2. Do Republicans want to furlough 750,000 civilians employed by the Army to ensure that one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, can continue paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, a situation that Buffett has described as unconscionable?
  3. Do Republicans want to slash $550 million from the FBI, hindering response to cyber and terrorist attacks after the equivalent of 7,000 workers are furloughed each day just to ensure that corporations can continue to get tax breaks when they offshore jobs?
  4. Do Republicans want to end treatment for 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and severely emotionally disturbed children just to ensure that the 1 percent continue to receive tax breaks for their corporate jetsyachts and golf carts?

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The People’s Will Be Damned

From Common Dreams:

What exactly Is “politically acceptable?”

Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by Common Dreams

So here we are again, approaching another self-inflicted economic cliff.  This time it’s the sequester – a truly stupid idea that will result in a mindless meat cleaver approach to cutting the budget in order to solve a problem that’s disappearing, using the same tactics that caused the problem in the first place. Oh, and quite possibly it will plunge us back into a recession.

What is Washington doing?  Trying to fix blame, of course.

The truth is, both Parties agreed to this uniquely idiotic idea.  Yes, it ultimately comes from the Republican’s decision to play brinksmanship with the budget and the debt ceiling, but Democrats in general and Obama in particular let them make debt and deficits into the all-purpose bogeyman it has become.  By failing to confront the myth, they empowered it.

But the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner.  They’ve been clamoring for austerity for 30 years as part of their “drown the beast” strategy, and now they are faced with a popular backlash against austerity.  Their response has been to blame Obama.  Mitch McConnell keeps saying the President hasn’t offered a politically viable alternative to the sequester.  Boehner says much the same.  Even the less rabid David Brooks has repeated this line.  In fact, it’s become one of those cascading talking points that the rightwing chants in unison, over and over again.

The key here is the qualifiers they use: “politically viable,” “politically acceptable,” or something comparable. They must, because Obama has put forth a plan. More about that later.

So what, exactly, is “politically viable?”

One would think it is defined by the will of the people.  And as we just had an election in which the people soundly rejected the Republican platform of drastically cutting social programs benefiting low- and middle-income Americans so that they could preserve – or in the case of Romney and Ryan increase – tax cuts for the rich, the will of the people is quite transparent.  The recent election, exit polls and polling in general all tell us the people want to increase taxes on the rich, preserve the social safety net, and invest in job creation.

Which sounds something like Obama’s plan, with the exception that the compromiser-in-chief is offering up cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

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Lakoff: Why Extreme Conservatives Like the Sequester

From Alternet:

The far right sees maximal elimination of the public sphere as the right direction for America.

By George Lakoff
February 26, 2013

Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.

President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary.  The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.

But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people — many of them Republicans — does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn’t work by making it not work, and to protect “special interests” from higher taxes.  All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.

Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business.  They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality.  They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.

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Sequestering common sense

From The Washington Post:

By ,
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The media is going sequester 24-7. Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the across-the-board spending cuts about to hit this Friday is about to have little choice. The brouhaha about the austerity bomb is drowning out any attention to what is actually going on in the economy — which is supposedly the point of the whole debate.

The stark reality is the economy is still in trouble and Americans are still hurting. The economy contracted last quarter, even before Americans got hit with the end of the payroll tax holiday, which will take $1,000 out of the typical family’s annual paycheck. The Congressional Budget Office projects that growth will inch along at about 1.5 percent this year. That translates into continued mass unemployment — with more than 20 million people in need of full-time work — and falling wages. The richest 1 percent captured an unimaginable 121 percent of all income growth in 2009 and 2010, coming out of the Great Recession. They pocketed all of the growth in income, while 99 percent of Americans actually lost ground. That trend is likely to get worse rather than better.

Federal Reserve Governor Janet L. Yellen described the tragic human costs of widespread, long-term unemployment in an important speech this month. Families lose their homes; divorce and depression rise; children are scarred; skills are lost. A young generation is leaving school to sit on the couch.

Yet most of Washington — from the newly reelected Democratic president to the self-described insurgent Tea Party Republicans — is ignoring this reality to focus on cutting deficits.

The Republican Congress seems intent on letting the “sequester” take place — the idiotic across the board cuts that were explicitly designed to be anathema to both parties. Senate Democrats call not for repealing these cuts, but for “paying for” delaying them for a few more months.

Why this fixation? Deficits aren’t careering out of control. In fact, as the Congressional Budget Office reports, in relation to the economy, the deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than at any time since the demobilization after World War II. Calls for cutting Medicare benefits ignore the reality that the slowing rise in Medicare costs has already cut about $500 billion from its projected costs over 10 years compared to estimates made two years ago.

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A Better Plan Than ‘Endless Growth’: Enough Is Enough

From Common Dreams:

by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill
Published on Monday, February 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last month.  The official theme was “Resilient Dynamism,” a catchphrase that makes about as much sense as the futureless economic policies trotted out at the meeting.  At least the attendees had something to ponder at cocktail hour. The mission of the forum, on paper at least, is “improving the state of the world.”  And there is clear room for improvement: trillions of dollars of public debt, billions of people living in poverty, escalating unemployment, and a distinct possibility of runaway climate change.

The popular solution to these problems is sustained economic growth.  In fact, the first item of the Davos meeting’s global agenda was “how to get the global economy back on to a path of stable growth and higher employment”  The thinking is that if we could just get people to produce and consume more stuff, then we could also pay off the debt, create jobs, eradicate poverty, and maybe even have some money left over to clean up the environment.

It’s tempting to believe this economic fairy tale.  But if growth is the cure to all of our ills, why are we in such a bind after sixty years of it?  Even though the U.S. economy has more than tripled in size since 1950, surveys indicate that people have not become any happier.  Inequality has risen sharply in recent years, and jobs are far from secure.  At the same time, increased economic activity has led to greater resource use, dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and declining biodiversity.  There is now strong evidence that economic growth has become uneconomic in the sense that it costs more than it’s worth.

Maybe it’s time to consider a new strategy—an economy of enough.  Suppose that instead of chasing after more stuff, more jobs, more consumption, and more income, we aimed for enough stuff, enough jobs, enough consumption, and enough income.

To build a successful economy of enough, we would first need to eliminate the “growth imperative”—factors that make the economy reliant on growth.  These include reliance on inappropriate measures of progress, creation of debt-based money, and the use of aggregate growth as a tool (albeit a blunt one) for generating jobs.  With key policy changes, it is possible to dismantle the growth imperative and build an economy that works for people and the planet.

Let’s start with measures of progress.  Our main economic indicator, GDP, is a good measure of economic activity—of money changing hands—but a poor measure of social welfare.  It lumps together desirable expenditures (food, entertainment, and investment in education) with expenditures that we’d rather avoid (war, pollution, and family breakdown).  In the language of economics, GDP does not distinguish between costs and benefits, but counts all economic activity as “progress.”

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