This Is Why Trans People Rarely Speak Up When We’re Misgendered

From Huffington Post:


I’m sitting here writing with tears running down my face. In the last 72 hours I’ve received more death threats, rape threats, abuse and hatred than I can count. I’m transgender, and on Sunday, Sept. 29, I found my name spreading across the gaming community for identifying the man who’d misgendered me.

I’d spent four days in London covering a huge gaming convention called Eurogamer. On the show’s final day I decided that, as I’d finished all my work, I’d go have a look around for something to do for fun. I eventually settled on spending some time at the Xbox stage.

Having walked past the stage repeatedly over the weekend, I knew the format. Every hour they were giving away a game console on stage. Each time, they brought six people up on stage: five men and one token woman to prevent sexism accusations. When they asked for volunteers, I was the first picked by the presenter to come up on stage. Jackpot.

He pulled four men up on stage with me and then started insisting that they needed a woman up on stage too. Were there any women in the audience who wanted to take part? My heart sank instantly. Despite my presentation, he was insisting to the audience that nobody on stage was female. I felt sick.

During the time I was on stage, he referred to me more than once as male. Once he realized his mistake, he switched to “er, that person” rather than use female pronouns like he did for the other woman on stage. Everyone else was either “gentleman” or “young woman.” I’m just something that he was afraid to try to address.

I walked away pretty upset. I spoke to the staff manning the stage to tell them I was unhappy and asked to talk to the presenter. My requests were refused. I requested the presenter’s name so that I could make a formal complaint. They refused. At this point I was fairly upset and angry. I made a complaint anyway, but I also took to Twitter to voice my anger over the fact that this man had upset me, yet I was not able to tell him directly and get closure. I decided to head home — a trip of a few hours by train — and thought nothing more of it.

Those few hours changed everything. A friend of mine contacted me with the Twitter handle of the presenter, whose name turned out to be Fraser Millward. I was angry and upset, so, perhaps stupidly, I mentioned him on Twitter by his handle. Then a huge number of people started to retweet me, more people than I can wrap my head around. The story ended up on Reddit and 4Chan. Suddenly I was in the spotlight. I was getting tweets sent my way more quickly than I could read them, and everything happened at once. This all happened while I was on the train home.

Some tweets were supportive. Some were accusations that I’d made the whole thing up. Most of them were vile messages about how I am a man and a disgusting freak who would be better off dead. The number of death threats and dehumanizing comments I received was unbelievable. Being misgendered at Eurogamer was nothing compared with my punishment for speaking up about it. This is why trans people rarely speak up when these things happen. People tracked down my phone number. Hate flooded my work inbox. I had people threatening to track me down in person and attack me. People found my old identity and began to try to publicize it. I faced the darkest aspects of the Internet just for existing and speaking up.

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Why Female Gamers Don’t Like Calling the Industry Out on Its Sexism

From The Atlantic:

Over the weekend, a transgender journalist was allegedly called “it”, “thing” and “this one” during a stand-up comedy presentation for Microsoft’s XBox One. And it gets worse: after reports of this pretty terrible experience surfaced, that journalist wanted the story pulled because gamers wouldn’t stop harassing her. Laura Kate Dale tweeted about the incident over the weekend:

Hope someone from Microsoft sees this. Your presenter made completely dehumanised me in front of an audience. Ruined my Eurogamer.

Shows me for trying to take part and have fun like everyone else.

This isn’t the first time people in the video game industry have been jerks to a woman, but what came next was disheartening. Kotaku, a prominent gaming news site, published a story of the incident that included a link to Dale’s Twitter feed. That prompted an ugly barrage of attacks on her version of events, and Dale had actually contacted the site to get the story removed because of all the people who began attacking her and her version of events.

“Lying tranny f—-ts gonna lie and bitch and moan. Get over it you lied you got caught the internet doesn’t like liars,” someone tweeted at Dale. “If I dress like a clown and push my shitty victim complex on anyone who calls me out on it, can I get 1,000 followers too?” another added. And one more: “You are aware that popping hormone pills and wearing girl clothes doesn’t make you a girl right?”

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Publicly Supported Family Planning Services Are Essential

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Heard the one about the Saudi cleric who said driving damages ovaries?

From The Guardian:

The wild claim made by Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan is so absurd, all we can do is make a joke of it and hope it goes away, Monday 30 September 2013

If you want to stop a child doing something, sometimes you have to lie to them. Don’t want them to stand on the seats on a train? Eventually you will tell them that the train guard will throw them off if they don’t stop. It was an evil genius parent who first told their child that the music playing from the ice-cream van means they are out of ice-cream. Now it seems that Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan has tried to apply this logic to the women of Saudi Arabia.

The ruling elite have run out of reasons to stop women from driving cars in the kingdom and so have resorted to the “kiddie lie”; driving harms women’s ovaries. He used his best authoritative parental voice, claimed that there was medical evidence of this and then walked away whistling hoping no one would realise how ridiculous it sounded.

Women not being able to drive in Saudi Arabia is ridiculous. They are not officially banned, but they are not able to get a driving licence, and can be prosecuted and imprisoned for driving without a licence or participating in the protests that women have organised there against the ban. But ridiculous behaviours need ridiculous justifications.

The Vatican didn’t want people to use condoms so propagated the myth that HIV can pass through tiny holes in them. Polio vaccinations in Nigeria have been called a western plot to make people infertile. Men were told that they would have to start helping with raising their children when women got the vote. OK, that last one was true.

In general, religious zealots are not the most clued-up on current sexual health advice. People like Sheikh Lohaidan and Todd Akin in the US, who when he was a congressman claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”, seem to take fertility and sex information from idiot 13-year-olds. The ones at school who used to state with considerable authority that you couldn’t get pregnant if you did it standing up, you could get pregnant by French kissing, or you would catch Aids from the toilet seats in the gym.

In Saudi Arabia, women have also been restricted from sport and exercise because they could break their hymen and thus lose their virginity. Defining virginity by a broken hymen rather than, you know, having sex, manages incredibly to separate sex from virginity. Your hymen can break for a hundred different reasons; exercise, riding in a car over cobbles, walking. If these things are to become the definition of sexual intercourse then Pamela Stephenson Connolly’s column is about to become a whole lot more weird.

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Senator Leahy On The NSA: “It’s time for a change.”

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NSA director admits to misleading public on terror plots

From Salon:

The administration has been amping up stats about foiled plots to bolster support for mass surveillance

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

In so many words, NSA director Keith Alexander admitted Wednesday that the Obama administration had issued misleading information about terror plots and their foiling to bolster support for the government’s vast surveillance apparatus.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy pushed Alexander to admit that plot numbers had been fudged in a revealing interchange:

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. The Vermont Democrat then asked the NSA chief to admit that only 13 out of a previously cited 54 cases of foiled plots were genuinely the fruits of the government’s vast dragnet surveillance systems:

“These weren’t all plots, and they weren’t all foiled,” Leahy said, asking Alexander, “Would you agree with that, yes or no?”

“Yes,” replied Alexander.

Proof positive of what many of us have long posited: that under the flimsy guise of a targeted War on Terror, the surveillance state has established itself with little regard for an honest relationship with the American public.

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Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA ‘repeatedly deceived the American people’

From The Guardian UK:

About the Snowden disclosures, the Oregon Democrat told the NSA chief: ‘the truth always manages to come out’, Friday 27 September 2013

The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday held a hearing, ostensibly to investigate various issues raised about the NSA‘s activities. What the hearing primarily achieved instead was to underscore what a farce the notion of Congressional oversight over the NSA is.

In particular, the current chair of the Senate Committee created in the mid-1970s to oversee the intelligence community just so happens to be one of the nation’s most steadfast and blind loyalists of and apologists for the National Security State: Dianne Feinstein. For years she has abused her position to shield and defend the NSA and related agencies rather than provide any meaningful oversight over it, which is a primary reason why it has grown into such an out-of-control and totally unaccountable behemoth.

Underscoring the purpose of yesterday’s hearing (and the purpose of Feinstein’s Committee more broadly): the witnesses the Committee first heard from were all Obama officials – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, Deputy Attorney James Cole – who vehemently defended every aspect of the NSA. At the conclusion of their testimony, Feinstein announced that it was very, very important to hear from the two non-governmental witnesses the Committee had invited: virulent NSA defender Ben Wittes of the Brooking Institution and virulent NSA defender Timothy Edgar, a former Obama national security official. Hearing only from dedicated NSA apologists as witnesses: that’s “oversight” for Dianne Feinstein and her oversight Committee.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner stated the obvious to Gen. Alexander: “a lot of Americans have lost trust in what you’re doing.” But of course they all spent the entire afternoon blaming Snowden and “the media” for this development rather than taking any responsibility themselves. The very idea that meaningful reform of the NSA will come out of this annexed, captured, corrupted Committee is ludicrous on its face.

But there are two members of that Committee who actually do take seriously its oversight mandate: Democrats Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. Those two spent years publicly winking and hinting that the NSA under President Obama was engaged in all sorts of radical and abusive domestic surveillance (although – despite the absolute immunity protection they enjoy as Senators under the Constitution – they took no action, and instead waited for Edward Snowden (who had no such immunity) to bravely step up and reveal to the American people specifically what these two Senators kept hinting at).

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Dream Team: Scahill, Greenwald Investigating NSA Role in US ‘Assassination Program’

From Common Dreams:

‘The connections between war and surveillance are clear.’

Jon Queally

Though they refused to offer many details on the project, journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald on Saturday night announced that they are now working together on a joint investigation on how the U.S. National Security Agency has been involved in the wider overseas “assassination program” run by the Obama administration.

As the Associated Press reports from Rio de Janeiro—where Greenwald and Scahill attended the South American premiere of Dirty Wars, a documentary film based on Scahill’s book of the same name—the U.S. journalists “known for their investigations of the United States’ government” have now “teamed up to report” on how the vast surveillance network of the NSA operates in conjunction with clandestine operations run by the U.S. military or CIA.

“The connections between war and surveillance are clear. I don’t want to give too much away but Glenn and I are working on a project right now that has at its center how the National Security Agency plays a significant, central role in the U.S. assassination program,” said Scahill, according to AP, while speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Rio Film Festival.

“There are so many stories that are yet to be published that we hope will produce ‘actionable intelligence,’ or information that ordinary citizens across the world can use to try to fight for change, to try to confront those in power,” Scahill added.

Greenwald, who has been entrusted with a trove of top-secret NSA documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported extensively on their contents, has previously indicated that there is much more to come from the information contained in the files.

Scahill, well-known as an investigative journalist on U.S. foreign policy and the author of two best-selling books focused on the government’s so-called “global war on terror,” has reported extensively on the U.S. drone wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere and also focused on the work of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (or JSOC) the military force at the heart of the many controversial programs in recent years.

In a separate but related development, the other key journalist at the center of the NSA reporting since the revelations began surfacing in May of this year, filmmaker and muckraker Laura Poitras, this weekend teamed up with New York Times veteran reporter James Risen to reveal how the NSA has been utilizing its dragnet surveillance programs to create social profiles of American citizens based on their online and phone behavior.

Poitras  has co-written pieces with Greenwald as well as other Guardian reporters, and also with colleagues in Germany where she is currently based. Greenwald has written pieces in collaboration with journalists in the UK, Brazil, and India based on the documents.

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The Story of Solutions

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When the Levees Break: Disasters Converging on a Finite Planet

From Common Dreams:

by Richard Heinberg

The 19th century novel Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates by American author Mary Mapes Dodge features a brief story-within-the-story that has become better known in popular culture than the book itself. It’s the tale of a Dutch boy (in the novel he’s called simply “The Hero of Haarlem”) who saves his community by jamming his finger into a leaking levee. The boy stays all night, despite the cold, until village adults find him and repair the leak. His courageous action in holding back potential floodwaters has become celebrated in children’s literature and art, to the point where it serves as a convenient metaphor.

Here in early 21st century there are three dams about to break, and in each case a calamity is being postponed—though not, in these cases, by the heroic digits of fictitious Dutch children.

A grasp of the status of these three delayed disasters, and what’s putting them off, can be helpful in navigating waters that now rise slowly, though soon perhaps in torrents.

1. Unconventional fuels and production methods

I’ve written so much on the subject of peak oil, and some of it so recently, that it would be redundant to go into much detail here on that score. Suffice it to say that world conventional crude oil production has been flat-to-declining for eight years now. Declines of the world’s supergiant oilfields will steepen in the years ahead. Petroleum is essential to the world economy and there is no ready and sufficient substitute. The potential consequences of peak oil include prolonged economic crisis and resource wars.

Producers of unconventional liquid fuels—tar sands, tight oil, and deepwater oil—are playing the role of Dutch boy in the energy world, though their motives may not be quite so altruistic. With unconventional sources included in the total, world petroleum production has grown somewhat in recent years, but oil prices are hovering at near-record levels (that’s because unconventionals are expensive to produce). The oil industry has successfully used this meager success as a public relations tool, arguing that it can continue pulling rabbits out of hats for as long as needed and that policy makers therefore need do nothing to prepare society for a peak-oil future. In fact, world oil markets are depending almost entirely on continued increasing production from the US—all of which must come from fracked, horizontally drilled wells that decline rapidly—to keep supplies steady.

Even the US Energy Information Administration recognizes that the US tight oil boom will be history by the end of the current decade—though the official forecast shows production levels gently drifting thereafter when in all likelihood they will plummet, given the spectacular per-well decline rates of the Bakken and Eagle Ford formations. Is there another Dutch boy waiting, finger ready? Tight oil deposits in other countries will take longer to develop and will present more technical challenges. Other unconventionals, like extra-heavy oil in Venezuela and kerogen deposits in the American West, will be even slower and more expensive to produce—if they’re ever tapped to any significant extent (Shell just abandoned its kerogen research operations without any prospect of eventual profitability)

Bottom line: the recent, ongoing “new normal” of high but stable oil prices may last another few years; after that, oil supplies will become much more problematic, and prices are anybody’s guess. The dam is weakening. Have your hip boots and waders ready.

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Greenpeace activists charged with piracy by Russian authorities

From The Guardian UK:

Fourteen of 30 activists charged so far with ‘piracy as part of an organised group’ following Arctic Sunrise drilling protest

in Moscow
The Guardian, Wednesday 2 October 2013

Greenpeace activists who were seized while protesting against Arctic oil drilling face up to 15 years in a Russian jail after being formally charged with piracy.

The 14 charged include four British nationals. Kieron Bryan, a freelance videographer, and the activists Alexandra Harris, Philip Ball and Anthony Perrett were all accused of “piracy as part of an organised group”. The offence carries a prison sentence of between 10 and 15 years.

Altogether there are 30 activists from 18 different countries being held in jails in the Russian port of Murmansk. They were travelling aboard the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship that last month mounted a protest against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. The drilling platform, in the Pechora Sea, is operated by the Russian energy group Gazprom. As two activists tried to scale it, Russian border guards descended on to the boat from helicopters and escorted it back to Murmansk with those on board kept under armed guard.

Last week, all 30 were remanded in custody by a Murmansk court for a period of up to two months while investigators look into the charges. Prosecutors issued piracy charges for the activists one at a time throughout Wednesday , and Greenpeace expects the 16 remaining activists to be charged on Thursday .

The executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, said the decision by the Russian authorities to charge the activists represented “the most serious threat to Greenpeace’s peaceful environmental activism” since the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. French secret service agents planted bombs on the ship to sink it in 1985, before a protest against nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean. The captain of the Arctic Sunrise, US citizen Peter Willcox, was also the captain of the Rainbow Warrior at the time. He is being held in Murmansk but has yet to be charged.

“A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience,” said Naidoo. “Any claim that these activists are pirates is as absurd as it is abominable.”

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Anna Lappé Is Ready to Bust the Food Industry’s Biggest Myths

From Mother Jones:

By Wed Oct. 2, 2013

In her work as a critic of the food and agriculture industries, Anna Lappé is carrying on a family business. Her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, brought out the seminal Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, and its central argument, that hunger comes from an unjust allocation of resources, not a lack of food, remains relevant today. Her father, the late toxicologist Marc Lappé, was an early, persistent critic of the agrichemical industry and what its products do to the people they touch—including penning the prescient book about the threat of antibiotic resistance, Germs That Won’t Die, in 1982. Anna has emerged as a leading voice in her own right. Her 2010 book, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It, was a trailblazing work that teased out the connections between our food production system and climate change.

Her latest project, Food MythBusters, is a series of videos designed to counter the vast resources marshaled by the food and agrichemical industries in food policy debates. I recently caught up with Anna on the phone from her home in Oakland, California.

Mother Jones: What inspired you to start this project?

Anna Lappé: Those of us who think about what we eat, how it’s grown, those of us who care about the environmental impact of food—we’ve been educated over the past decade or so by fabulous books, like Fast Food Nation and documentaries like Food Inc. But despite these and other great projects that shine a critical light on the topic, every year the food industry spends literally tens of millions of dollars to shape the public conversation about our food system.

So I wanted to get together some of my favorite food and farm organizations and figure out a way to create new media, a new online resource center, and organize grassroots events that would help people rethink the frame that we’re hearing from the food industry and help people pose the question: What’s the real story about our food? How do we make sense and tease out the truth from the misinformation the food industry is putting out there?

MJ: In addition to overt marketing and lobbying, I’ve noted a real push by the industry to infiltrate social media.

AL: Part of what the food industry does with public relations, just like the chemical industry or the oil industry, is to try to erase their fingerprints from their messaging. So when consumers hear about a recent effort like the “food dialogues” put on by a group called the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, do they know necessarily that these “dialogues” are being funded by companies like Monsanto, a large chemical company and the controller of most of the patents on genetically modified seeds? No, they don’t. Do they know that DuPont and Syngenta and John Deere and other agribusiness companies are funders of the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance? They don’t. Do they know that there isn’t a single organic farmer organization that’s a part of that Alliance?

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Almost Too Horrible to Contemplate: Global Warming Could Destroy the Lives of 750 Million People in the Short Future

From Alternet:

It means wars. It means famines. It means raging forest fires and the death of grasslands.

By Thom Hartmann
September 26, 2013

Three quarters of a billion people is a lot of people.

And that’s how many people, within the next 22 years, will almost certainly run low on water – a necessity of life – in just the regions whose rivers are supplied with water from the glaciers in the Himalayas.

To put that in perspective, 750 million people is more than twice the current population of United States. It’s about the population of all of Europe. In the year 1900 there were only 500 million people on the entire planet. Seven hundred fifty million people is a lot of people.

The IPCC – the international body of scientists analyzing global climate change – is releasing its new report in stages over the next week and this early piece was reported on by the Financial Times on Monday. Under the headline “Climate Change Chief Sounds Alert on Himalayan Glaciers,” the opening sentence of the article by Pilita Clark summarizes a very tightly:

“The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting so fast they will affect the water supplies of a population twice that of the US within 22 years, the head of the world’s leading authority on climate change has warned.”

And that’s just the Himalayas and the rivers flow out of their glaciers toward South Asian regions including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and China. There are similar glaciers along the mountain ranges of western South America that supply water to other hundreds of millions of people – they are all at risk, too. We’re even seen it here in the United States, with last year’s drought in the West. Glaciers are changing in Europe, and the regions of Tanzania supplied by the famous “Snows Of Kilimanjaro,” are drying up in ways that are creating serious drought problems for the people in those parts of Africa.

Contrary to what the front groups funded by the fossil fuel industry would have you believe, climate change doesn’t just mean the winters are milder. Or the plants have more carbon dioxide.

It means that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, will starve, and will die. It means wars. It means famines. It means raging forest fires and the death of grasslands. It means the acidification of our oceans and the destruction of our ocean ecosystems. It means that we stand on the edge of tipping points that hurtle humanity toward extinction.

Yes, extinction.

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Keep Farmland for Farmers

From The New York Times:

Published: September 30, 2013

CLERMONT, N.Y. — WHEN we went looking in upstate New York for a home for our farm, we feared competition from deep-pocketed developers, a new subdivision or a big-box store. These turned out to be the least of our problems.

Though the farms best suited for our vegetables were protected from development by conservation easements, we discovered that we couldn’t compete, because conserved farmland is open to all buyers — millionaires included.

Easements are intended to protect farmland, water, animal habitat, historic sites and scenic views, and so they are successful in keeping farms from becoming malls and subdivisions. But they don’t stop Wall Street bankers from turning them into private getaways, with price tags to match.

Few bankers farm; long days with little pay lack appeal. A new report by the National Young Farmers Coalition, a group we helped start, reveals that one-quarter of the land trusts that oversee these conservation easements have seen protected land go out of production. Why? A nonfarmer had bought it.

Still, tax incentives in New York encourage nonfarmers to rent their land to farmers, so you would think suitable land would be easy to find.

Most landlords, however, offer only short-term leases. They want peace and quiet; they don’t want vegetable or livestock operations that bring traffic, workers, noise and fences. But long-term land tenure is essential for vegetable and livestock growers, who need years to build soil fertility, improve pasture and add infrastructure. Only farms that grow low-value animal feed crops like hay, corn or beans are attracted to one-year leases.

Once well-off city residents who are looking for second homes buy the land, farmer ownership is over. After they’ve added an air-conditioned home, a heated pool and an asphalt drive, the value increases so much that no working farmer can afford it. The farm, and its capacity to feed a community, is lost.

Thankfully, there is a solution. The Vermont Land Trust and the State of Massachusetts are keeping farmland in the hands of farmers through stricter conservation easements that limit who can own it, which keeps farms affordable and deters farm sales to nonfarmers.

To qualify, the Vermont Land Trust requires that a farmer derive at least half of his or her income from farming, or have a business plan that demonstrates an ability to run a viable farm business. The trust has the option to step in and buy the land at its agricultural value and find a suitable farmer if the seller can’t (or won’t) find a qualified buyer.

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