In the United States the New York Times and other major newspapers have something they call standards of usage. The better and more sensitive major newspapers seem to have adopted standards put forth by GLAAD regarding usage when referring to LGBT people.
GLAAD’s standards have some serious short comings in not recognizing the preference some of us have for transsexual over transgender. Nonetheless I would rather be referred to as transgender than by anyone of the myriad of bigoted slurs commonly found in both tabloids here and the press in the UK.
“She-male, Sex-swap and He-She” seem to be standard fare in a number of publications one finds in the UK. Here we mostly find those sorts of smears in rags puked out by the Murdoch Empire.
For those not following this blog on a regular basis, Lucy Meadows, a teacher in the UK recently committed suicide after a vicious bullying by the British tabloid press.
The British tabloid press has been invading the privacy of transsexual people, particularly transsexual women since the 1950s.
What they call news becomes vicious mockery and abuse via their use of language.
Starting about twenty years ago, transsexual and transgender people started organizing, separately we had been weak and mute. Collectively we found others who were as injured by this climate of abuse as we were. Together, we discovered the power of a collective voice raised in protest.
I admit to having been skeptical of this organized voice. I came out in ancient times, an era where we suffered the hurt of those slurs, the abuse by police and society alike. We drank and drugged to deal with the pain of crushed dreams, the pain of humiliation.
I’ve come to see speaking out as better.
There is power in demanding dignity along with basic human rights.
It isn’t censorship to demand the use of respectful terminology and non-bigoted reporting.
But that isn’t how the bigoted bullies see it.
Why is it so hard to see the bigotry when the targets are transsexual or transgender people?
Would there be anyone who would question the firing of someone who used their press platform to call black people “niggers” or Jewish people “kikes”?
What if black or Jewish people constantly had their legitimacy questioned by members of the press?
Would anyone question their right to demand the firing of the bigots and an apology from the offending newspaper?
I have noticed three cases over the last week of privileged white nontrans men sticking up for the bigots who bully and abuse transsexual and transgender people.
These people claim bigotry and the access to a powerful platform as a right. Further any transsexual and transgender people calling them vicious bullies, bigots or thugs are infringing upon their freedom.
This is a seriously flawed concept of freedom.
If you have the freedom to bully, abuse or debase me then I must also have the right to retaliate and do the same to you.
This is to say if you abuse your platform and use it to abase and degrade transsexual and transgender people it goes without saying that we have the right to organize campaigns to have you sacked, organize campaigns against your publications if they refuse to sack you.
Would Dougie be defending Julie Burchill’s right to call black people “niggers” or Jewish people “kikes”?
It is exactly the same. Those who try to claim it isn’t the same are automatically saying that transsexual and transgender people are some sort of subhumans.
That is unacceptable. Remember freedom is a two way street not a license to peddle bigotry without consequences.
We are human beings and we have the right to force you to answer for your bigotry, bullying and abuse. Just as members of other minorities have the right to stand up for their humanity and dignity so too do we.
Further it appears as though TS/TG people in the UK have met with some success in organizing their campaign against bigotry.
A parliamentary debate is being planned in order to learn lessons from the treatment of transgender teacher Lucy Meadows, who died last week.
Her MP Graham Jones, Labour backbencher, is seeking to debate in parliament about the circumstances leading to Meadows’ death.
After a local newspaper ‘outed’ her last December, the Daily Mail also reported on her transition and columnist Richard Littlejohn wrote an opinion piece stating she was ‘in the wrong job’.
Speaking to Politics.co.uk, Jones said the article was a ‘dark moment for the transgender community and the Lucy Meadows case is a deplorable tragedy.’
‘It also raises the issue about the way the transgender community are treated and I think that they’ve had an unfair press,’ he said.
‘I think that a debate around the issues of transgender and other minorities will perhaps highlight the oppressive nature of some of the journalistic articles that have appeared over time targeting transgender people.’
Jones is demanding a regulatory system must be used to control newspapers, despite the recent political consensus it would curtail the freedom of the press.
‘My view on this is I’m much less concerned about freedom of the press and far more concerned about the freedom of the British public, the reader,’ he added.
If you’ve not yet heard, discourse surrounding trans equality has been reduced to arguing about whether or not men should have access to the women’s restroom. Trans equality measures have been dubbed “bathroom bills” by radical right propaganda mills and the media has, of course, picked up their meme. Here are some quotes:
* “Critics denounce Bill C-279 as “The Bathroom Bill,” claiming it will allow “sexual predators” to commit “violent and sexual attacks” in public washrooms.” – Toronto Star
* “A resolution offered by Penta referred to the law officially titled An Act Relative to Gender Identity, which was passed by the state Legislature in 2011 and took effect last July, as the “Massachusetts Stealth Bathroom Bill.””– Boston Globe
The RadRight has enjoyed a long and successful history of standing in the way of equality through deploying what I call the Bathroom Meme. Whether it was standing in the way of desegregation, the Equal Rights Amendment or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the RadRight always deploys this particular meme.
1977 Post Mortem on ERA
The above story is worth a read. It’s a glimpse into the very playbook the RadRight is currently using against trans equality. (NOTE: When this article uses the term “integrate,” it is talking about allowing men access to the women’s restrooms under the cover of an equality law.)
Here’s just a few quotes:
“Listening to the opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment, you would think it was designed to… integrate public toilets, legalize rape, outlaw heterosexual marriage… Law professor Paul Freund objected in 1973 to being ‘quoted erroneously and out of context by certain opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment’ and commented flatly, ‘I have not staled, and I do not believe, that the Amendment would require the sharing of restroom and prison cells by both sexes.’ Yet in 1975 a huge anti-ERA advertisement in Baton Rouge papers credited him with the allegation that the ERA would integrate bathrooms. “ – Ruston Daily Leader, Thursday, June 16, 1977
This 40 year old newspaper article succinctly exposes the reason the RadRight injects the Bathroom Meme into public discourse:
“The hubbub over the implementation of the Amendment is designed to elicit a knee-jerk reaction…”
Remember this because I’ll revisit the notion of a “knee-jerk reaction” a bit later. Contrast the RadRight’s 40 year old rhetorical MO to the way they frame trans equality today:
Even if you weren’t around back in the 1970s, the RadRight’s arguments should sound familiar to you because they used it against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:
“Most concerns we heard about showers and bathrooms were based on stereotype— that gay men and lesbians will behave as predators in these situations, or that permitting homosexual and heterosexual people of the same sex to shower together is tantamount to allowing men and women to shower together.” – Pentagon’s report on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, page 13
It’s worth noting that the Pentagon’s report goes on to pick apart the various arguments from tradition (page 94) that so frequently accompanies the Bathroom Meme. Consider the way this fallacy accompanied the Bathroom Meme when the RadRight rolled it out against racial equality half a century ago:
“Angry white CIO steelworkers today sought a national union order ending racial segregation on union property… CIO officials several days ago issued instructions to all local unions to do away with separate toilet, fountain and locker room facilities for whites and negroes. Some… told him they would not stand for “Southern traditions being torn down.” – The Tuscaloosa News – May 26, 1950
While we’re talking about the Restroom Meme and racial inequality, nowadays the RadRight is quick to assert that gender equality and civil rights are completely different issues. However, the historical reality is that the Bathroom Meme was deployed in support of both race and gender inequality:
3/25/1973, The Anniston Star: Men in the women’s restrooms
“If they can integrate restrooms on the basis of race, why not on the basis of sex?”
What are the forces of anti-equality hoping to communicate with their propaganda? Are they claiming that because a rapist puts on a snappy wig they might get away with it due to equality laws? Are they suggesting that equality protections somehow condones abhorrent behaviors like rape? Well, yes… that’s the basic argument anti-equality forces are making.
They hope that the revulsion you naturally feel about sexual violence will shut down your critical thinking abilities. Their rhetoric is specifically designed to elicit a knee-jerk reaction in you. They hope that instead of thinking of rapists as being the threat, you’ll instead see trans people (or gay people) as being the threat. Because, if they can get you to do that, the process of vilification and dehumanization will begin and trans people as a whole will naturally seem like a group who should be treated with suspicion. If they can get you to do this mental gymnastic, there will never be any need for them to produce objective evidence which explains exactly how equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance. No, with the anti-equality blinders on, the risk trans people pose will seem self-evident just as being gay was a risk that seemed self-evident at one time.
When dealing with those who are appealing to the Bathroom Meme, I respond by simply asking, “In what way does gender equality nullify laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance?” They never seem to have a reasoned response. While they’ll rhetorically tap dance all over the place, the one thing they’re never able to do is explain precisely how gender equality nullifies laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance. When pressed, they’ll even resort to lying:
“Since Montgomery County passed a similar bill, there have been 4 rapes by men, dressing as women lying in wait for their victims in ladies rooms.”
“Since this law has been in effect, we have had no reported rapes committed in restrooms by men dressed as women.”
They are even willing to exploit the very real trauma of rape and twist it to their own sick purpose in the hope that they will dupe you into doing the same:
What kind of mind gladly takes up the bloody mantle of this type of intellectual hucksterism? The poor woman in this RadRight call-to-action was raped by a cisgender man and not a transwoman. The mere fact that I — a transwoman who’s dealt with being raped by a cisman — had to point this out was repugnant.
The idea the various anti-equality forces seek to set loose within your mind is always the same: separatist bigotry. The forces of anti-equality are all too happy to pick up the very same rhetorical tools that everyone from those who would seek to bar Muslims from holding office to the likes of Dr. Ruth Jacobs would use in their anti-equality efforts and it’s as perverse as it is sickening. Whether it’s a racist separatist, a homophobic separatist or a transphobic separatist, they all trade in the same rhetorical mind games. They all seek to vilify an entire group to specifically encourage you to view that group with intuitive suspicion. Separatists (whatever their flavor) have the blood of very real suffering on their hands.
Bigots will tell you all about how some white people don’t like being in the same space as black people, that some Christians don’t like being in the same space as Muslims or how some ciswomen don’t like being in the same space as transwomen. They’ll tell you that their discomfort is really, really important. In fact, they’ll look you in the eye and tell you that their discomfort is more important than your access to the 14th amendment. But that’s not how things as supposed to work here in America, is it?
Yes, a heterosexual soldier might feel uncomfortable in the same locker room as a homosexual soldier, but that’s tough shit. The soldier who views homosexuals as a whole with a wary eye has the problem, not the homosexual soldier. If a gay person behaves inappropriately after lifting DADT, then the law will deal with their bad behavior instead of reinstating DADT… no matter how much various anti-queer hate groups tie themselves into knots.
Yes, a white racist might feel uncomfortable in the locker room with a person of color, but that’s tough shit… right? We don’t segregate people by race because some white people have bigoted ideas which cause them to feel uncomfortable. No, the white bigot has the issue and they need to just fucking deal with it. If a black person behaves inappropriately after the victories of the civil rights movement, then the law will deal with their behavior instead of repealing the civil rights act… no matter how much the Klan ties themselves into knots.
If a ciswoman feels uncomfortable knowing that a transwoman might use the same restroom, then likewise, it’s tough shit. A ciswoman’s right to believe the Bathroom Meme does not trump the rights of transwomen as a whole. No, the nation shouldn’t set up a system of cis/trans segregation because some ciswomen choose to hold bigoted views which make them feel uncomfortable. If a transperson behaves inappropriately, then the law will deal with their bad behavior instead of repealing all gender equality laws… no matter how much the RadRight might tie themselves into knots.
The disgusting, fatuous and contemptible ideology embedded in the Bathroom Meme is a bigot’s favorite tool. Before you can hate, you must first learn how to vilify and dehumanize your target, so segregation can seem reasonable. The Bathroom Meme is a poison chalice wrapped in tradition and obtuse hubris; it’s an invitation to have you become the co-architect of a system which the American Psychiatric Association describes thusly:
“Discrimination and lack of equal civil rights is damaging to the mental health of transgender and gender variant individuals. For example, gender-based discrimination and victimization were found to be independently associated with attempted suicide in a population of transgender individuals, 32% of whom had histories of trying to kill themselves, and in the largest survey to date of gender variant and transgender people 41% reported attempting suicide.”
Now, let’s step away from the memes and examine the reality for trans folk who are trying to navigate the bias the RadRight is all too happy to both create and inflame:
“I have spent so many hours avoiding public multi-stall bathrooms that I have damaged my bladder and put pressure on my kidneys. The problem was a daily one. I’d think about where I was going what bathrooms I’d have access to, how much I drank during the day, whether I’d be with people who could help stand guard…” – Response to a 2002 survey conducted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission which found that nearly 50% of transgender respondents reported harassment or assault in a public bathroom.
“We live under the constant threat of horrifying violence. We have to worry about what bathroom to use when our bladders are aching. We are forced to consider whether we’ll be dragged out of a bathroom and arrested or face a fist fight while our bladders are still aching. It’s an everyday reality for us. Human beings must use toilets… If I go into the women’s bathroom, am I prepared for the shouting and shaming? Will someone call security or the cops? If I use the men’s room, am I willing to fight my way out? Am I really ready for the violence that could ensue?” – Leslie Feinberg, Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, p 68 – 69
“Police officers often harass or abuse transgender and gender nonconforming people regardless of which sex-segregated bathroom they use. This harassment intensifies when coupled with the stereotyping of trans people as sexual predators. As such, the use of the ‘wrong’ bathroom . . . often results in arrests for crimes such as public lewdness, public obscenity, or public indecency. Refusing to comply with or simply questioning a police officer’s direction as to which bathroom the individual must use can often lead to charges such as resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.” – Pooja Gehi, Struggles from the Margins: Anti-Immigrant Legislation and the Impact on Low-Income Transgender People of Color, 30 WOMEN’S RTS. L. REP. 315, 326 (2009)
And it doesn’t stop with bathrooms. This level of stigma and violence is something trans folk must consider when buying clothes, too. Here’s what State Rep. Richard Floyd (R) said he’d do to a trans person if they dared to buy clothes like anyone else might:
“I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.”
To be graphically explicit about the reality trans folk face, consider this incident from Boston:
And isn’t it just awesome how transwomen are arrested for emptying their bladder? Consider this incident from Houston:
When we talk about the things Rosanne Barr said, we need to clearly address the underlying bigotry. We need to be clear when the RadRight deploys the Bathroom Meme and we need to fearlessly identify the bigot’s game when it’s being played. There is a real difference between a transwomen going into a private area to change, pee, etc. and some abuser of any flavor (cis or trans) walking into a room to parade their genitalia around. If a cisgender woman goes into the locker room and exposes herself to everyone, then there are laws to deal with her behavior. Claiming that those laws somehow magically evaporate if the person is trans instead of cis is a bigoted lie and those who propagate that lie should be called out at every turn.
About the author: Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of the transgender community. She started the first trans homeless shelter and co-founded the first federally funded trans-only homeless program, pioneered affordable health care for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. Cristan chairs the City of Houston HIV Prevention Planning Group, serves on the Board of Directors for the Bee Busy Wellness Center, is the jurisdictional representative to the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS), serves on the national steering body for UCHAPS and is the Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation of America.
The Health and Human Services Department said early Friday that it would accept public comments on whether to reexamine its decision not to cover sex changes.
But a spokesperson said Friday evening that the proposal has been withdrawn. HHS pulled information from its website Friday after various news media outlets reported on the issue.
The controversial decision to consider using taxpayer money to cover sex changes was sure to attract criticism from Congress.
An HHS spokesman said HHS’ Departmental Appeals Board is weighing a challenge to the department’s ruling that sex-change procedures are experimental and should not be covered by Medicare and Medicaid. While that challenge works its way through the system, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has withdrawn its proposal to reconsider the coverage policy on its own.
“An administrative challenge to our 1981 Medicare national coverage determination concerning sex reassignment surgery was just filed,” a spokesperson said Friday. “This administrative challenge is being considered and working its way through the proper administrative channels. In light of the challenge, we are no longer re-opening the national coverage determination for reconsideration.”
Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach ruled on Friday that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriages prevents Thomas Beatie’s nine-year marriage from being recognised as valid.
Judge Gerlach said he had no jurisdiction to approve a divorce because there was insufficient evidence that Mr Beatie was a man when he married Nancy Beatie in Hawaii.
The couple’s divorce plans stalled last summer when Judge Gerlach said he was unable to find legal authority defining a man as someone who can give birth.
Judge Gerlach said: “The decision here is not based on the conclusion that this case involves a same-sex marriage merely because one of the parties is a transsexual male, but instead, the decision is compelled by the fact that the parties failed to prove that (Thomas Beatie) was a transsexual male when they were issued their marriage license”.
Some seriously bigoted students at Towson University have formed a ‘White Student Union’ to save the campus from the threat of…black people. Led by a flaming racist who complained “Why can’t we just have segregation?” at CPAC, the White Student Union is being especially dillgent to protect (with force) pure white female bodies from the not-so-looming threat of Black rape. It’s like they watched the Birth of the Nation and thought it was a PBS documentary.
The frequent robberies, sexual assaults, and acts of vandalism at Towson University are not often reported in the local media. For those who are not Towson students it seems hard to fathom that every single day black predators prey upon the majority white Towson University student body. White Southern men have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people.
The virtue of white Christian womanhood is under attack at Towson University by degenerate criminals seeking to rob our women of their God given innocence. Through armed thuggery the money of law abiding Towson students that is earned by the sweat of their brow is stolen and their lives threatened for simply walking down the street.
White Student Union member Scott Terry thinks Black people belong under threat of the white man’s gun, which he shoots at ranges with his fellow White Student Union racists. At CPAC, where the group first made headlines, Terrry mocked Frederick Douglass for ‘forgiving’ his former slave owner, asking “For what? For feeding him and housing him?”
His unapologetic displays of hate include his admission that he’d ” be fine” if black people were subservient to whites, because he believes white people are “systematically disenfranchised” by the law. He said, “The white, blue-collar vote is being completely ignored by Republicans.” We all know how much the GOP loves people of color.
The White House warned North Korea on Friday that the rapidly escalating military confrontation would lead to further isolation, as the Pentagon declared that the US was fully capable of defending itself and its allies against a missile attack.
After North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific – a response to the US flying two nuclear-capable B2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula this week – the White House blamed Pyongyang for the increased tensions.
“The bellicose rhetoric emanating from North Korea only deepens that nation’s isolation. The United States remains committed to safeguarding our allies in the region and our interests that are located there,” deputy press spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters travelling with Barack Obama on Air Force One to Miami.
Asked if the joint US-South Korean military exercises and the use of the stealth bombers had fuelled the escalation, Earnest replied: “It’s clear that the escalation is taking place from the North Koreans based on their rhetoric and on their actions.”
The Pentagon said on Friday that the US would not be intimidated, and was ready to defend both its bases and its allies in the region. Lt Col Catherine Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokesperson, said the US would not be intimidated. “The United States is fully capable of defending itself and our allies against a North Korean attack. We are firmly committed to the defence of South Korea and Japan,” she said.
Secretary of state John Kerry will visit the region in a week or so for meetings with Japan, China and South Korea, the State Department said.
The Obama administration is to review the safety of 20 flame retardants used in a host of common household items, from baby products and children’s pyjamas to sofa cushions.
The review, to be carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, follows growing concern about the widespread use of such chemicals, after studies linking flame retardants to cancer, lower IQ, developmental problems, and decreased fertility.
“Americans are often exposed to flame retardant chemicals in their daily lives,” the EPA said in its announcement of the risk assessment. “EPA is committed to more fully understanding the potential risks of flame retardant chemicals, taking action if warranted, and identifying safer substitutes when possible.”
Eleven states are considering laws to ban toxic flame retardants, in response to hundreds of studies over the last four decades pointing to the health and environmental dangers.
The chemicals migrate out of household products, and are inhaled as dust, or ingested by young children who put things in their mouths.
They also linger in the environment turning up in the tissue of baby seals and other marine animals.
Campaigners said the announcement by the EPA was an important first step controlling chemicals that have become extraordinarily widespread, despite the dangers.
The Centres for Disease Control recently detected flame retardants in the blood or urine of virtually every person tested for the substances. A study published last month found elevated cancer risks among firefighters exposed to high levels of flame retardants during house fires.
“It’s wonderful progress, but it’s not over,” said Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, who led the study on the California firefighters.
Last night the Arizona House Appropriations Committee passed a new version of the notorious “Bathroom Bill.” SB1045 makes it against state law for local governments to pass laws or regulations which ensure access to public access to “privacy areas” based on “gender identity or expression.” It nullifies existing laws that do, and states that business owners can’t be held accountable if they deny access to an individual if the individual’s gender expression doesn’t meet the business owner’s approval.
Almost as appalling was the designation of this bill as an emergency measure. The last time I checked, Governor Brewer never had to call out the National Guard to put down mobs of rampaging transsexuals in bathrooms.
Adding to the ludicrous nature of the bill is the fact that it creates a very soft definition of who can be discriminated against:
(a) An individual’s self identification as male, female or something in between and includes an individual’s appearance, mannerisms or other characteristics only insofar as they relate to gender with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.
This means that the bill makes it perfectly legal to tell non-transgender women and men they can’t use the bathroom if they do not meet some arbitrary standard for femininity or masculinity. Butch lesbian? Take a hike. Have polycystic ovarian syndrome or acromegaly? No loo for you. Teen boy who wears his hair long? Go use the women’s and hope your friends don’t ever find out you were forced to. Wearing sweat pants and a hoodie instead of a house dress? Beat it before I call the cops.
It isn’t hard to see how this bill has potential for extreme abuse.
Of course, most sane people would ask how this could be constitutional. They would be right. It probably isn’t.
Just as Phoenix recently passed a measure protecting transgender people recently, in the early 1990’s the cities of Aspen and Boulder enacted ordinances that banned discrimination (including public accommodations) on the basis of sexual orientation. Voters in the state of Colorado passed Amendment 2 to the state constitution in response. Amendment 2 repealed these ordinances to the extent they prohibit discrimination on the basis of “homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships.” It also prohibited all legislative, executive or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect the LGB people.
Citing concerns about violence against transgender Latina women and others, a nonprofit in San Francisco’s Mission district is planning a rally for tonight (Thursday, March 28).
People with El/La ParaTranslatinas are organizing the rally because “the girls” want to “create visibility that violence is still an issue in our community,” Isa Noyola, El/La’s program supervisor, said.
The event is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the 16th Street BART station plaza (at Mission). The location is near the offices of the agency, which is primarily an HIV prevention organization. El/La’s staff have said assaults and other incidents against transgender women in the neighborhood, as well as other parts of the city, are common. The agency, located at 2940 16th Street, is seeking new office space, due at least in part to safety concerns.
“It’s so much and it’s so constant that it’s part of what they have to deal with as part of being a transgender Latina mujer,” Noyola, who identifies as gender fluid, said, using the Spanish word for woman. “… Violence and harassment and transphobia are just part of the daily routine.”
Details of recent specific incidents are difficult to find, and most city officials say no cases have been reported to them in the last few months. People who work with the women have said victims are often reluctant to report incidents for many reasons – they think police won’t do anything or will even harass them, many of the women are undocumented, and there can be language barriers.
Susan Parra, El/La’s outreach coordinator, said through an interpreter that she was attacked at about 12:30 a.m. February 26, outside the City Club bar, located at 2950 16th Street, across from El/La’s offices.
For social conservatives, it was a watershed moment. Faced with declining public support, they had long sought for science to confirm that same-sex households are not a suitable family arrangement. With his New Family Structures Study (NFSS), released last year, UT associate professor of sociology Mark Regnerus seemed to make the case with a clarion blast. According to his research, children raised in same-sex homes fared worse than those raised by opposite-sex parents – showing a higher propensity for drug and tobacco use, alcohol abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With scholarship backing the right’s message, it was not difficult to get the media to listen.
But LGBT advocacy groups were listening, too. After the reporting of the NFSS results, several were quick to highlight problems in the research – arguing that the study was not adequately peer-reviewed, and, importantly, that it had much less to say about “same-sex” relationships than about unstable marriages; as Amy Davidson summarized in a blog post for The New Yorker: “If this study shows anything, it’s not the effect of gay parenting, but of non- or absentee parenting.”
Other critics pointed out that the research was funded by the socially conservative Bradley Foundation, as well as the Witherspoon Institute. Although a subsequent University of Texas review found no inappropriate influence, recently released documents (in response to open-records requests by the American Independent News Network) reflect that Witherspoon’s relationship with the study was cozier than Regnerus had let on.
In the initial NFSS report, Regnerus insisted that Witherspoon “played no role at all in the design or conduct of the study, the analysis, the interpretation of the data, or in the preparation of [the] manuscript.” He subsequently upped the rhetorical ante, claiming, “I have always acted without strings from either organization [Bradley or Witherspoon]. Any allegations that the funders might have improperly influenced me are simply false.” However, the emails released by UT detail a close working relationship between Regnerus and Brad Wilcox, Witherspoon’s director of the Program on Marriage, Family, and Democracy.
In a September 2010 correspondence with Regnerus, Wilcox relays budgetary decisions on behalf of Witherspoon, approving several items related to the study, including possible scholarly collaborators and the length of study proposal. In a July 2011 email, Regnerus speaks of a joint decision to pay an unidentified person $15,000 to “co-analyze and co-author the report.”
US supreme court observers groaned when the well-regarded and Peabody Award-winning SCOTUSblog.com put the chances of the supreme court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma) at 80%. As far as predictability goes, supreme court decisions are somewhere between next week’s weather and Tilda Swinton’s career choices. Maybe, SCOTUSblog was itself playing at a little performance art, a commentary on the search for specificity and certainty in a series of cases that deal primarily with the ineffable realm of human emotions. Love, to be sure, but also the fear and unease, if not outright bigotry, that love flies in the face of.
It’s a sign of progress, perhaps, that that defenders of Proposition 8 and Doma would just as soon pretend that emotions have nothing to do with their arguments. In some darker age, they might have been able to build a case that the “love” was, in fact, the thing that distinguished a heterosexual relationship from a homosexual one. That darker age was, of course, last year, when Protect Marriage Maine campaigned against that state’s referendum to allow same-sex marriage with a statement that included the assertion:
“The basis of homosexuality centers around anonymous sexual encounters … it is largely predatory.”
Protect Marriage Maine scrubbed its site of that statement fairly quickly. In general, defenders of “traditional marriage” have learned to couch their arguments with increasing circumspection when it comes to outright judgments of morality. This has led, ironically, to a crude emphasis on the corporal: the central, almost only, basis for defending Proposition 8 lay in heterosexual couples being baby-makers – or, in the words of lawyer for the defense Charles Cooper:
“The state’s interest and society’s interest in what we have framed as responsible procreation is – is vital, but at bottom, with respect to those interests, our submission is that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are simply not similarly situated.”
Let it be known for evermore that it was the defenders of traditional values that forced the highest court in the land to ponder just how it is that “with respect to procreation” – “at bottom”, no less – same-sex and opposite-sex couples are “not similarly situated”. Do I need to draw you a map?
It didn’t take long for the empty truth about the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act to be exposed Wednesday, and there was little equality opponents could do. At the Supreme Court hearing, Elena Kagan, the newest justice, read from the House Report from Congress when it passed the law in 1996, which summarized DOMA’s entire legal underpinning: “Congress decided to reflect and honor a collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.” According to people in the room, there were gasps and laughter at the so-called “gotcha moment.”
It was a duh moment, but a necessary one. Yes, DOMA’s about discrimination. That disapproval of gay people, not tradition or government uniformity, is at the root of the act is blatantly obvious both to anyone who observed it at the time and to everyone who has changed their Facebook profile photo this week. But it needed to be set out on a national stage, a few feet away from rainbow-festooned children asking what the big deal was. This week, both sides put forward their best cases and it quickly became clear the opposition to equality is based not on law or reason, but bigotry.
Throughout the hearing, the justices focused on issues of standing and administrative law and federalism, apparently looking for a way out. But whether the Court punts or not, it’s already given the country an opportunity to see just how empty and discriminatory the case against marriage equality is, at a moment where opponents have to give it their best shot. Put aside all the diversionary tactics, the crazy theories about marriage being reserved for shotgun weddings for straights, the baseless claim that this is about the children. Even if it’s not in the briefs, their argument boils down to this: Gay people are gross, let’s put off anything suggesting otherwise for as long as we can.
Paul Clement, who was appointed by the House to defend the law President Obama won’t, responded to Kagan, “Sure, the House Report says some things that we are not — we’ve never invoked in trying to defend the statute.” In other words, Clement and the House saw no purchase in trying to defend the, well, original intent of the law.
Marriage equality opponents claimed that with DOMA, the federal government was just trying to set a uniform standard while the states did their thing, and that this was about the democratic process. But as Solicitor General Donald Verrilli pointed out, “There are no genuine administrative benefits to DOMA. If anything, Section 3 of DOMA makes federal administration more difficult,” because of a patchwork of state laws. He added, “And the fundamental reality of it is, and I think the House report makes this glaringly clear, is that DOMA was not enacted for any purpose of uniformity, administration, caution, pausing, any of that.”
When Max was just a few months old, I sat cross-legged on the floor with him in a circle of other mothers. The facilitator for our “Mommy and Me” playgroup would throw a question out to the group, and we would each volley back an answer.
“What quality do you want to instill in your child? What personality characteristic would you most like for your son to be known for?” she asked.
One by one, the mothers answered. “Athletic”, “Good sense of humor”, “Brave”, “Smart”, “Strong”.
The answers blended together until it was my turn to speak. I looked down at the tiny human wiggling around on the blanket in front of me, his perfectly round nose, his full lips that mirrored mine. I stroked the top of his very bald head, and said with confidence: “kind”.
I want my son to grow up to be kind.
The eyes of the other mothers turned toward me. “That’s not always a word that you hear used for boys” one said. “But yes, you’re right … so I guess, me too”. At the end of the day, we wanted our tiny, fragile, helpless baby boys to grow up to be kind. Strong, resilient, athletic, funny … but above all else, kind.
Max is almost 4 years old. He knows nothing about the horrific things that young men did to a young woman on the saddest night that Steubenville, Ohio, has ever seen. He doesn’t know, but I sure do. I know that someone’s daughter was violated in the most violent way possible, by someone’s son. By many sons. The blame for that night falls squarely on the shoulders of the young men who made terrible choices, but it also falls in the laps of their parents.
Sexual assault is about power and control. But it is also about so much more. While it’s true that big scary monster men sometimes jump out of bushes to rape unsuspecting women, most rapists look like the men we see every day. Acquaintance rape (or date rape) accounts for the majority of sexual assaults among young people: in colleges, in high schools, at parties, in the cars and bedrooms that belong to the men who women trust. These men are your fraternity brothers, your athletes, your church-going friends. They are somebody’s son.
n July 15th, 1995, in the quiet Southern California city of Whittier, a 33-year-old black man named Curtis Wilkerson got up from a booth at McDonald’s, walked into a nearby mall and, within the space of two hours, turned himself into the unluckiest man on Earth. “I was supposed to be waiting there while my girlfriend was at the beauty salon,” he says.So he waited. And waited. After a while, he paged her. “She was like, ‘I need another hour,'” he says. “So I was like, ‘Baby, I’m going to the mall.'”Having grown up with no father and a mother hooked on barbiturates, Wilkerson, who says he still boasts a Reggie Miller jumper, began to spend more time on the streets. After his mother died when he was 16, he fell in with a bad crowd, and in 1981 he served as a lookout in a series of robberies. He was quickly caught and sentenced to six years in prison. After he got out, he found work as a forklift operator, and distanced himself from his old life.
But that day in the mall, something came over him. He wandered from store to store, bought a few things, still shaking his head about his girlfriend’s hair appointment. After a while, he drifted into a department store called Mervyn’s. Your typical chain store, full of mannequins and dress racks; they’re out of business today. Suddenly, a pair of socks caught his eye. He grabbed them and slipped them into a shopping bag.
What kind of socks were they, that they were worth taking the risk?
“They were million-dollar socks with gold on ’em,” he says now, laughing almost uncontrollably, as he tells the story 18 years later, from a telephone in a correctional facility in Soledad, California.
Really, they were that special?
“No, they were ordinary white socks,” he says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. “Didn’t even have any stripes.”
Attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were reportedly thrilled by a short sci-fi video depicting a dictatorial near-future government and the underground “Movement on Fire” that springs up to resist it. The video, a thinly veiled advertisement for violent insurrection from the “Tea Party Patriots” group, boasts professional acting and Hollywood production values. But underneath its bright, professional sheen lurk dark overtones of End Times paranoia that will resonate with millions of American fundamentalists. Its apocalyptic imagery is as ancient as Revelations, its glossy look as modern as a Revlon ad, and its near-subliminal barrage of rapid-cut imagery rings with the terror-fueled sermons of 1,000 preachers.
WASHINGTON — The departure of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) has left a vacancy atop the powerful panel that could fall to one of Wall Street’s most outspoken foes, a possibility that has bank lobbyists fretting.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), whose call to break up and cap the size of major banks has spooked Wall Street, is behind three senators who would have dibs on the gavel, but all three are likely to bypass the opportunity. A Brown chairmanship would also be a boost to his ally Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), strengthening her hand on the panel. Brown’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is first in line, but is widely expected to take the Armed Services chairmanship instead. A West Point graduate, Reed has a passion for Pentagon issues, and the plum chairmanship will open in 2015 thanks to the retirement of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
Next in line is Sen. Chuck Schumer. The fate of the chairmanship hinges on the decision of the New York senator, known to some as “Wall Street Chuck.” Seizing the gavel could undermine Schumer’s ability to ultimately ascend to majority leader by alienating the growing progressive wing in the Democratic caucus. Passing the opportunity to Brown, on the other hand, could win him friends for a future bid. “It is possible. All up to Schumer,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said on background, when asked about the possibility of Brown taking over.