Why I won’t be sending you a father’s day card

From New Statesman UK:  http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/why-i-wont-be-sending-you-fathers-day-card

When I tell people I no longer speak to you, they assume it’s because of my difficult and lengthy transition from male to female. That frames me as the problem. I don’t speak to you because I don’t share your values and I don’t like the way you treat people.

Oh Father.

Every dad, whether he admits it or not, looks for recognition on Father’s Day, but there will be no card or packaged gift from me to you this morning. Today I get to insult you simply by doing nothing. Petty, perhaps, but the only protest I can make against your impact on my life. This snub, of course, arises from social expectation – the sort you tried to force on me as a child, though I suspect the irony is lost on you. I know it’s self-defeating to carry ill feelings. I know hate hurts the person feeling it just as much, if not more, than those it is directed towards. I believe in forgiveness, too, when people seek it. So yes, I like to think I have a big heart these days but I do still allow myself this one slight glimmer of spite.

I was bullied as a child, violently, mercilessly, and constantly. I’m a woman today but back then I was seen as a sissy boy – a fact knocked, kicked and thumped into me at every opportunity when I was too weak to fight back. “You’re gay”, the kids at school would shout, the very worst of insults back then. When shouting wasn’t an option they’d write cruel things about me on bits of paper and pass them around the classroom. And when I got home I could expect a clip ’round the earhole for “talking like a poof”. I wasn’t the only victim of your verbal and physical violence.

Sometimes when I tell people I no longer speak to you they assume it’s because of my difficult and lengthy transition from male to female. That frames me as the problem. I don’t speak to you because I don’t share your values and I don’t like the way you treat people. I needed you to love me as a child. People assume you don’t accept me but the truth is I don’t accept you. I didn’t write this letter to hurt you though. I didn’t write this letter for you at all, actually, and I have no idea how you will feel about it or even if you will see it. The damage children suffer can be so toxic to their adult lives. This letter is for anyone whose father wasn’t some romantic stereotype who pottered around the garden while mother prepared Sunday lunch.

I daresay, like my mum, you’d have adjusted to my new identity given time. She wasn’t there for me, either, when I first transitioned. I know what it’s like to spend Christmas alone because my family found my presence more awkward than rejecting me. I also know what it’s like to feel bullied, again, as an adult, in the streets, for daring to walk down them. The taunts have become ‘fucking tranny’ and the cruel ‘jokes’ about people like me are now written in newspapers, and circulated nationally. Thankfully I reached some kind of normality. Perhaps you were right about normality, perhaps it is the most important thing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/why-i-wont-be-sending-you-fathers-day-card

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Trans woman flees Scottish town which branded her a ‘witch’

From Gay Star News UK:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-woman-flees-scottish-town-which-branded-her-witch130613

Stephanie Smyth, a transgender woman, was forced to flee her Johnstone home, in Scotland after being subjected to transphobic hate

By Dan Littauer
13 June 2013

A 32-year-old trans woman has fled her small town in Scotland, as she can no longer endure abuse from locals who called her a ‘witch’.

Stephanie Smyth, who worked as an administrator in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland said she received constant verbal abuse making her life in Johnstone ‘hell’.

The abuse started when she begun to embrace her true identity in her 20s, growing her hair and wearing women’s clothes.

Smyth underwent a gender-reassignment treatment last year.

She was hurled abuse in the town’s streets, local shops and supermarkets with people calling her a ‘witch’ and taunting her repeatedly with transphobic hate.

Smyth told The Gazette today (13 June): ‘It was mainly the worst when it came to going into shops in Renfrewshire.

‘I found that a lot of the people who worked in security would be standing around laughing and staff workers would also follow me around, jumping to conclusions.

‘Walking down the street I’d get a lot of abuse sometimes. They’d shout at me a lot, called me gay and even accuse me of witchcraft.

‘There were so many times I almost contacted the police because it had got so bad but ended up scared of the repercussions.’

The abuse got so bad that she felt terrified to leave her Johnstone home fearing transphobic hate.

‘Because places like Johnstone are so small, everyone knows you so you can’t hide away.

‘The only choice I had was to move away from Renfrewshire and start a new life.

Continue reading at:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-woman-flees-scottish-town-which-branded-her-witch130613

See also:

Pink News UK: Scottish trans woman ‘forced’ to leave town after she was branded a ‘witch’

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A ‘Process’ For ENDA? Big Headlines From Democrats — But Is It For Real?

From The New Civil Rights Movement:  http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/a-process-for-enda-big-headlines-from-democrats-but-is-it-for-real/politics/2013/06/10/68472

by David Badash
June 10, 2013

Nothing ever really happens all of a sudden, but it seems like there is a groundswell of support for getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — and/or an executive order from the President — done. From the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to conversations with the White House and even last week’s controversial interruption of First Lady Michelle Obama at a fundraising event, ENDA is making headlines.

Andrew Tobias, the DNC’s Treasurer, has announced there is a “process” underway that would lead to President Barack Obama signing an executive order amounting to an ENDA for all federal employees and contractors. That conceivably could cover about 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. And Senator Harry Reid, who last month said he would like to hold a vote on ENDA after the July 4 holiday recess. Additionally, minutes ago, Reid sent a tweet confirming his intentions to vote on ENDA “soon.”

Continue reading at:  http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/a-process-for-enda-big-headlines-from-democrats-but-is-it-for-real/politics/2013/06/10/68472

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The Dance

From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-lagerstrom/the-dance_b_3421172.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


The wedding invitation came addressed to our entire family, a detail that made me cringe. A daughter of dear friends was getting married and the honor of our presence was requested, or so the invitation proclaimed. Deep down I knew the sentiment was sincere — that they truly did want our family of four to be their guests — but that meant subjecting us to a host of potentially awkward situations. Situations I just didn’t want to face.

The year was 2010. Sam was 13 and had transitioned a few months earlier, but many people in our lives had yet to come face-to-face with him living as a young man. They knew because we told them or the grapevine had, but experience taught us that knowledge does not eliminate the uncomfortable feelings that accompany those first post transition meetings. It’s that proverbial elephant-in-the-room type of occasion, but without a handler holding a whip to keep the situation from escalating into a stampede of embarrassing looks, comments and actions.

The majority of guests would be people we did not know, but I assumed the few we did would not know what to do or say. Exaggerating their delight in seeing us, being overly apologetic about using the wrong pronoun, and head-to-toe glances at Sam when they thought we weren’t looking were all exchanges I thought we would have to contend with, not to mention the uneasy stares that would ensue when he used the men’s restroom. All acts of human nature not malice, but never the less stressful for all involved.

I flirted with the idea of having our children stay home, rationalizing it would be easy to explain their absence given the crazy nature of teenager’s schedules at the end of the school year. But that would have been a white lie that I could not live with, not only because we would have been betraying our friends but also because of what that would have meant to Sam. An old soul, he would have known before that excuse left my mouth that I was trying to avoid a potentially hurtful event. Avoidance was not how he lived his life and because of that I knew it was not how I could live mine.

So we went to that wedding and my husband and I were just as proud as any other parents to be accompanied by our children. Mingling with guests at the reception we accepted compliments from strangers about our well-mannered son and daughter. Joining our friends, not one batted an eye or let on in any way that they were affected by Sam’s transition. And just as I began to breathe a sigh of relief, Sam made a simple request that challenged my internal fortitude more than I could have ever imagined.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-lagerstrom/the-dance_b_3421172.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Size zero campaigners take body image debate to the heart of fashion

From the Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/01/size-zero-campaigners-london-college-fashion

Women’s group is to stage provocative debate on the beauty industry at the London College of Fashion

The Observer, Saturday 1 June 2013

The size zero debate has raged for years, drawing in models, fashion designers and magazine editors, politicians and doctors – and it shows no sign of abating. In the last few weeks, River Island has been criticised for using an ultra-slim woman in its latest campaign, and the former editor of Australian Vogue has revealed that models are eating tissues to stay thin.

Now a controversial event at the London College of Fashion will propose a “revolution in how we think about body size”.

On Tuesday, nine speakers will aim to bridge the gap between aspiration and reality in Be Real Talks: Why Size Doesn’t Matter – “a cross between a theatre experience and a comedy club with a workshop element”. Speakers will include psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who has spoken out against the airbrushing of photos and has advised the government on its negative impact, and Natasha Devon of Body Gossip, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness about body image.

Devon says: “When you look at social media, there is a huge chorus of people who are fed up of the advertising and beauty industries. They want a revolution. The tide is turning.”

In the last seven years she has lectured to more than 20,000 14-to-18-year-olds about body confidence: 30% boys and 70% girls. “Their idea of what is anatomically perfect is very narrow,” she says. “It’s basically Barbie and Ken. It’s a huge job to get them to see that there is no such thing as perfect.”

Liberal Democrat women’s minister Jo Swinson is heading an all-party parliamentary group to develop a “national campaign for positive body image”. Devon is petitioning the education secretary, Michael Gove, for more funding for PSHE (personal, social and health education), which has been in the national curriculum since 2000. She says she does most of her work with independent schools because state schools do not have the budget and anything touching on “body confidence” is expected to be covered by school teaching staff.

Hospital admissions in the UK for eating disorders rose by 16% last year, with children and young people accounting for most admissions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/01/size-zero-campaigners-london-college-fashion

See Also:

The Daily Mail UK: ‘We have a moral obligation to ban the airbrush’: Debenhams vows not to retouch model shots… and calls on others to follow suit

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Girls and Long Hair: What Message Are We Sending?

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-morgan-macdougall/girls-and-long-hair_b_3308559.html


I grew up hating my hair. Mousy brown (that’s right, I was not born with this vibrant, ever-changing gray-red hair), super fine, lifeless… I dreamed of having bouncy, shiny hair like those orgasmic beauties in the shampoo commercials. It’s probably why I’ve had no problem trying so many different styles throughout my lifetime — no matter how bad it gets, it can’t be much worse than the hair I was born with.

So, when I was blessed with my daughter, I latched onto her black, thick, shiny Asian hair like she was Rapunzel and I was desperately climbing for my one chance to experience long, flowing, gorgeous locks. Seriously, her hair is perfect.

Then, when she started talking about cutting it short several months back, I would nod and smile and know that it just wasn’t going to happen. A few months ago, she stepped up her game, telling anyone who’d listen how she wanted a Mohawk. As I do when she asks for something that’s absolutely out of the question, I told her she could have one when she was 14.

I was pretty confident in my decision… until the doubt began to creep in. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t she have super-short hair that she could style into a “fauxhawk”? (Sorry, I don’t do Mohawks with my boys, either — it’s not happening.) I realized that I was projecting my own self doubt and insecurities onto my strong sassy daughter. If she wants her hair cut, who am I to stop it from happening? Yes, kids might tease her… you know it happens. But the only thing worse than that is teaching her that she should make choices in life solely based on how other people (not even people she cares about) might perceive them.

Around the same time that I had begun to doubt myself for being so rigid, I read an interview that Jada Pinkett Smith gave to People. While I’m not one to usually jump on what celebrities do or how they parent their children, Jada’s words about her own daughter Willow’s hair really moved, and stuck, with me:

This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination.Willow cuts her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. Even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.

She’s so right. We try to teach our daughters to love their bodies, no matter the size. We want to empower girls to respect themselves and not give their bodies away in exchange for a few minutes of feeling accepted and loved. But how can we teach them to make strong, independent decisions about their own selves when society, peers (and yes, even parents) are sending mixed messages that it’s OK to be yourself, but only if you fit into what others deem beautiful?

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-morgan-macdougall/girls-and-long-hair_b_3308559.html

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‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Senators Warn Far More Data May Not Be Safe

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/13-0

Senator to NSA Chief: “What I worry is how far you believe this authority extends.”

Lauren McCauley

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee took the opportunity Wednesday during a previously scheduled hearing to challenge the director of the National Security Agency about the extent of the agency’s domestic surveillance, during which it was made clear that what has been revealed thus far is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

 Responding specifically to questions regarding whether “e-mail contacts” are being “vacuumed” by the Obama administration’s clandestine interpretation of the Patriot Act’s surveillance powers, NSA Chief Keith Alexander responded, “I don’t want to make a mistake” and reveal too much. He added that disclosing such details may cause “our country to lose some sort of protection.”

Alexander followed up by saying the topic of e-mail and other metadata surveillance is best discussed in a “classified session” which senators are scheduled to attend Thursday.

The two programs in question, which were revealed last week in a series of breaking stories by the Guardian—which had obtained the information by Edward Snowden, an employee of the contracted security firm Booz Allen—are supposedly distinct and are theoretically justified by different laws.

The first, justified under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, collects the phone records of millions of Americans, but reportedly does not examine at their content. The other, known as PRISM, is justified under Section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act and is meant to surveil the online communications of people believed not to be inside the United States.

However, as Alexander explained during yesterday’s hearing, it is difficult, in practice, to separate them. “The reality is, they work together,” Alexander said.

Senators yesterday were specifically concerned about a top secret court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, disclosed last week by the Guardian, which allows the NSA to obtain daily records of all domestic calls made by Verizon customers and could, under certain interpretations, justify a similar collection of email and IP data.

CNET’s Declan McCullagh explains:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/13-0

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