Tranny, Revisited by Auntie Kate

From Kate Bornstein:

May 25, 2014

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Tim Hardin

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About the ‘transgender umbrella’

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:

by Nicole Murray Ramirez

When I nominated six-year-old Ryland Whittington and his wonderful parents for this year’s Harvey Milk Inspirational Award, I knew the 1,000+ people attending the Sixth Annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast would react in the same way as I did when first meeting the Whittington family … I cried, getting emotional over this beautiful story of unconditional love these two parents share and have for their now transgender boy. Although I was not at the breakfast last Thursday, reports quickly spread that there was not a single dry eye in the hotels’ enormous ballroom.

When I was growing up in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, I lived as a pre-operative transsexual, first in Hollywood, then making the move to San Diego. Thank goodness I realized in time that I was not truly transgendered, but just a gay man who liked to do drag – a lot!

I was ridden with Catholic guilt as a teen and believed God would only love and accept me if I was a woman, not a homosexual. I even came close to having a full sex change operation before finally realizing that I was not actually a transsexual. At that pivotal moment in my life, I stopped living as a woman 24/7.

Transgender leaders of decades past unveiled what they called a ‘transgender umbrella’. Under it, they placed transsexuals, transvestites and even drag queens. The reality is that drag queens are gay men, while transvestites are straight. In my opinion, the inclusion of those communities should not be categorized under this so called transgender umbrella. We do not belong there.

The issues facing the transgender community are too important, serious and life changing. True transgender individuals need to be the primary focus. Drag queens and transvestites wind up confusing the masses. This does not help when it comes to acceptance and educating others about the transgender community and their specific issues.

I will always remain a strong advocate for the transgender community because of my own life experience. Six-year-old Ryland, and other youth like him, do not need to have drag queens and transvestites included in the same category, they only wind up clouding and confusing the struggling journey they are on. This is my humble opinion, one that comes from decades of being involved in this most serious issue.

“Yet another wake-up call”: Carbon pollution in Northern Hemisphere reaches record high

From Salon:

A new low (as in, high) for atmospheric CO2

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Carbon dioxide levels in the Northern Hemisphere reached a new milestone this April, the World Meteorological Organization announced Monday, with monthly atmospheric concentrations topping 400 parts per million for the first time in what’s believed to be millions of years.

The news itself will surprise few — without the significant mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, we all understand this to be the path we’re heading down — but symbolically, it packs a punch. “This should serve as yet another wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat trapping gases,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. “Time is running out.”

The WMO reiterated that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and in the ocean for even longer. From 2002 to 2012, the agency said, it was responsible for a full 85 percent of the increase in “radiative forcing” — the warming effect on the climate.

CO2 levels tend to spike in April, before spring vegetation arrives to absorb some of it. Monitoring stations in the Arctic have been recording monthly averages this high since 2012, but as recently as April of last year, CO2 levels exceed 400 ppm on only several days; this year marked the first time that the monthly average for the Northern Hemisphere, where the majority of man-made emissions occur, was firmly set above that threshold. And things look like they’ll continue to head in that direction: The global annual average, the WMO warned, will likely surpass 400 ppm by 2015 or 2016.

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Justin Vivian Bond: A Missive to My Community:

From Fight Mag:

I’m writing this because I want to be very clear on where I come down on the recent controversies around the language issues with regards to our trans-narratives. I’ve been an advocate for finding new, inclusive, thoughtful and evolved language for those of us in the trans and gender non-conforming communities for some time now. Therefore I feel personally compelled to weigh in on these latest dramas that are really annoying the shit out of me.

In my opinion there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with Heklina changing the name of Trannyshack in an effort to “rebrand” her legendarily inclusive, irreverent celebration of Queer fabulousness. But keep in mind that the reason she has “evolved” is because she’s been forced to due to harassment from a group of people who have decided that instead of learning from our queer history of re-appropriating, owning, and disempowering words that ACCURATELY DESCRIBE WHO AND WHAT WE ARE -instead of taking those words that are sometimes used to hurt us by those who WILL HATE US NO MATTER WHAT and making them a part of what makes us wonderful, a small group of vocal “queers” has decided it’s better pursue a shame-based agenda. Therefore, it seems, Heklina has decided it’s easier to “rebrand” her party to avoid any more grief. That’s her decision and I applaud her for doing what she feels she needs to do. It still makes me sad.

I also think there was nothing wrong with the whimsical “Female or Shemale” game played on RuPaul’s Drag Race -especially because the contestants couldn’t even tell the difference. Hello! That’s revolutionary!!! Not to mention the amazing talent displayed later in the episode by the transgender artists on the show which has now been pulled from the air.

So. In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY these thoughtless “word police” instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community and the allies who are thoughtful and sensitive enough to the reasons and feelings behind their anger that they are willing to listen and -as usual, blame themselves and make the changes because it’s just EASIER to “evolve” back into silent, bullied shame. What they fail to recognize is that by banishing the use of the word TRANNY they will not be getting rid of the transphobia of those who use it in a negative way. What it does do is steal a joyous and hard-won identity from those of us who are and have been perfectly comfortable, if not delighted to BE TRANNIES, but the fact is WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. In case you didn’t know it WE’RE TOUGH! A reality check, if people think you are a tranny it’s because you are perceived as one. OWN IT! If they think that’s a bad thing then THEY ARE STUPID! If you don’t wish to own that word or any other word used to describe you other than “male” or “female” then I hope you are privileged enough to have been born with an appearance that will allow you to disappear into the passing world or that you or your generous, supportive family are able to afford the procedures which will make it possible for you to pass within the gender binary system you are catering your demands to. If you’re capable of doing that then GO ON AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE PASSING WORLD! Otherwise quit using your big, privileged -yet ignorant- mouths to make the words used to describe who we are a shameful thing. It is not shameful to be a tranny, a she-male, or any other word used to desctibe a gender variant individual. It’s shameful to harass people for being comfortable with who they are and the words they choose to use to describe themselves when you aren’t.

That is my opinion on this ridicuous subject. As you can tell I’m angered by this trifling bullshit. We should be working on unifying our community and getting ourselves basic protections under the law. If everyone who is expending so much time and energy harassing their sisters about this word would harass their elected officials with the same amount of verve and fervor we’d be on the way to a much more trans-inclusive society.

These words were written in love and anger.
Mx Bond

Laverne Cox: “There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience”

From Salon:

The activist and “Orange is the New Black” star tells Time magazine about shifting norms and setting the agenda

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Laverne Cox is on the cover of Time magazine, which is a very huge thing. My mother and aunts read Time magazine. Maybe yours do, too. People waiting to have their teeth checked at the dentist read Time magazine. Time magazine is kind of everywhere. Now all of these new people get to know (if they don’t already) Laverne Cox, a fierce trans woman of color who is working tirelessly (seriously, check out her schedule of public and media appearances) to bring deadly violence against trans people, the inhumanity of our criminal justice system and the legal and cultural shifts we need to put into place to protect the lives and rights of trans and all LGBTQ people into focus. Cox is centering these conversations in an unprecedented way, and it’s absolutely electric.

A few excerpts from the powerful interview:

On understanding and embracing what it means to be trans. 

There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience. And I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia. If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence. … That’s what people need to understand, that it’s okay and that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you need to look at yourself.

On what may be at the root of our culture’s transphobia. 

We live in an uncertain world and we want to believe that what a man is and what a woman is–I know that. And people don’t want to critically interrogate the world around them. Whenever I’m afraid of something or I’m threatened by something, it’s because it brings up some sort of insecurity in me. I think the reality is that most of us are insecure about our gender. They think, ‘Okay, if there’s this trans person over here, then what does that make me?’ We want to just coast along in a belief system that makes us feel secure, because we are a culture, as Brene Brown would say, that is intolerant to vulnerability. And if we are in a position where we have to begin to question this very basic idea of ‘A man has a penis and a woman has a vagina,’ then that’s a lot of vulnerability.

On the shifts that are occurring right now around trans rights and trans justice. 

We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say ‘This is who I am.’ And more trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, ‘Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.’ When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference. Social media has been a huge part of it and the Internet has been a huge part of it, where we’re able to have a voice in a way that we haven’t been able to before. We’re being able to write our stories and we’re being able to talk back to the media … We are the reason. And we are setting the agenda in a different way.

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From The Guardian UK: Laverne Cox heralds ‘transgender tipping point’ on cover of Time

Time Magazine: Laverne Cox Talks to TIME About the Transgender Movement

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Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by family

Sam Harris: The Problem with Islamic Fundamentalism are the Fundamentals of Islam.

From The Guardian UK:

‘Honour killing’ in broad daylight outside Lahore high court involved father and brothers, police say

Associated Press in Lahore, Wednesday 28 May 2014

A pregnant woman was stoned to death by her own family in front of a Pakistani high court on Tuesday for marrying the man she loved.

Nearly 20 members of the woman’s family, including her father and brothers, attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore, the police investigator Rana Mujahid said.

Hundreds of women are murdered every year in Muslim-majority Pakistan in so-called ” honour killings” – carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour – but public stoning is extremely rare.

Mujahid said the woman’s father has been arrested for murder and that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in the “heinous crime”.

Another police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal against her family’s wishes after being engaged to him for years.

Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, her lawyer Mustafa Kharal said. He confirmed that she was three months pregnant.

Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, who view marriage for love as a transgression.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in “honour killings” in 2013.

But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday’s killing.

“I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed in front of a court,” said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.

He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.

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Pregnant Woman Faces Death For Leaving Islam

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“The Normal Heart” vs. Transgender Revisionist History

Last night I watched HBO’s film “The Normal Heart”.

I was in the Bay Area when the AIDS crisis erupted.

I had a girlfriend who lived upstairs from one of the first gay men in San Francisco to die from this horrible disease.

I watched as a handful of cases turned into thousands. Handsome, talented, funny, wonderful young men wasting away.

I saw a man collapse and die on Castro Street near 18th, his friends were frantically calling emergency and grew angry when an ambulance was very slow in coming.

EMTs wore what were similar to HazMat suits in those days, cops wore rubber gloves and face masks for even simple interactions with gay men.

Watch the 1990s film “And the Band Played On.”

I had slept with a transgender sister just prior to the outbreak of AIDS, remember it wasn’t even called AIDS for the first couple of years.

I had a strange acquaintance with a huge honking cold sore tell me she didn’t want to hug me or kiss me because I had a history of loving very freely.  I was fine with that because people with open oozing sores scared me.

Kim, a sister I had been friends with was an IV drug user had AIDS and died in the late 1980s.

I found myself taking on the role of of scold, lecturing sisters on safer sex and the necessity of using condoms every time they had sex, whether for money or pleasure.

But so many “trannies” (the word we used up until about three years ago) choose to live kamikaze lives of engaging in high risk dangerous acts like street sex work, IV drug abuse, sharing needles, silicone pumping, that my pleading with them to use condoms was ineffectual.

Even though they too were getting AIDS and dying of it so many insisted they weren’t “faggots” and didn’t want anything to do with those “faggots.”

I never really felt I was part of the trans-community so I wallowed in my own grief and spent my time with lesbians who picked up the slack.

In “The Normal Heart” there is scene taken from the early days when the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center was being founded. A lesbian volunteers, prompting one of the founders of GMHC to proclaim, “Thank god for the lesbians.”

After a decade of squabbling between gay men and lesbians, arguments over gay male priorities and lesbian feminist priorities, the gay men who had led the Gay Liberation Movement, that grew out of Stonewall, were dying and that was creating an organizational vacuum.

When you watch films about the 1970s gay and lesbian movement you never see transsexual or transgender folks.

There is a reason for that.

We weren’t part of the Gay and Lesbian Movement back then. Transsexuals weren’t really part of what became the Transgender Movement.  The Transgender Movement grew out of Tri-Ess, IFGE, Tapestry, The Casa Susanna.

In the 1980s the queens and transsexual sex workers in San Francisco, the people getting HIV and dying from AIDS frequented the Tenderloin and a place called the Black Rose, the married folks who would later come out as transgender held monthly meetings in a restaurant near the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge and far from the drag queens and “trannies” who lived the kamikaze lives.

There was a bookstore on Market in the Castro.  I think it later became the SF branch of Different Light.  It was run by a wonderful gay man, a man who was dying of AIDS.  He turned me on to Tapestry Magazine.  This was about 1984 or so.  I started reading it and was able to watch the development of the “Transgender Movement”.

I don’t believe I ever saw mention of the word AIDS in Tapestry Magazine prior to the early 1990s.  It was as though the writers were operating under the influence of heterosexual privilege and were continuing their disassociation from those nasty drag queens.

Which was okay.  I know privilege when I smell it and I know heterosexism when I smell that too and the early Transgender Movement reeked of both.

I was there in the period immediately after Stonewall, during the time when queens and transsexuals were a separate entity from the gay and lesbian movements.  Our bars might have been raided the same as gay or lesbian bars but our bars were just that, our bars.  I was an outlier, the hippie woman who happened to be transsexual.  The one who went to the conferences in the early days and tried but failed at making a case for unity between TS/TG folks and the L/G community.  But it wasn’t due to complete rejection by the gay community but rather to having too many sisters think that partnering with LG people would make them queer.

You see they wanted to be seen as heterosexuals, just as the heterosexual transvestites did.

After SRS I went my own way.  Some my gay male friends were far more sophisticated and educated in the arts than I ever dreamed of being.  They suggested art shows I should see, books I should read, they helped me to gain confidence and learn about art. Some were fabulous furry freak brother bears, who smoked dope with me and went to Dead concerts.

The hot mustachioed man, who taught me how to mark up my photos to get the prints I wanted from a photo lab died of AIDS.  He was thirty something when he died.

Last week the war over the word “trannie” that is being waged by wannabee leaders of the Transgender Movement deteriorated  to the point where one of those leaders hurled the slur, “Faggot.”

If you are Larry Kramer, you get to use that word as the title of an important book you wrote. If you are a “trannie” trying to convince people to not use the word “trannie” then you don’t.

But then “trannies” love to police language while also coming up with creative slurs for non-trans folks.  One of those is the use of “fish” for assigned female at birth women, another is cis-gender for non TS/TG people.

I think the adage about glass houses applies here.

Then this morning I read a complaint about The Normal Heart” getting all the attention and how all the horrible sufferings of the transgender community were ignored.

That one sounds pretty damned narcissistic to me.  Maybe, just maybe the world doesn’t revolve around transgender people and their issues.  Maybe it is time to wipe your own ass and learn to stand on your own two feet.

I realize that for most people living in and as a part of the “transgender community” is a temporary matter, or perhaps it should be.  Transition, get SRS and then move on and grow.

Get over being special and learn to accept your own basic normality.

Acting up and hurling the F-Bomb isn’t acting like an adult.  It is acting like a spoiled child who wants to be the center of attention.



“Bloodiest thing the world has seen”: David Cay Johnston on inequality’s looming disaster

From Salon:

Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston tells Salon how America’s economic story could end — and it isn’t pretty

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Long before anyone knew the name Thomas Piketty, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston was plumbing the hidden depths of the American tax code, revealing the myriad ways it privileges the interests of corporations and the wealthy ahead of those of the 99 percent. Indeed, while it may sometimes feel as if economic inequality is the new trend, Johnston’s career reminds us that the great gulf that separates the rich from the rest in the contemporary United States didn’t happen overnight, but over a course of decades.

Despite coming out during the same year as “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and “The Divide,” Johnston’s newest release, “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality,” is a different kind of inequality book. Rather than a sweeping overview of centuries of economic history, or an on-the-ground examination of how our justice system ignores the powerful while brutalizing the rest, Johnston’s book is a collection of essays, speeches and excerpts — a kind of inequality reader. Featuring insights from philosophers, economists, journalists, researchers and even politicians, “Divided” reminds us how inequality is one of those rare problems that truly matters to all of us, no matter what our interests or chosen field.

Earlier this week, Salon reached Johnston via telephone to discuss “Divided,” whether American democracy can survive such great economic disparities, and how returning to a more equal society is literally a matter of life and death. Our conversation follows, and has been slightly edited for clarity and length. In addition, Johnston followed up with further thoughts via email.

What inspired you to create this book?

I had done a trilogy on hidden aspects of the American economy, “Perfectly Legal,” which was about how the rich benefit from taxes, “Free Lunch,” about all the subsidies people didn’t know about that go to rich people and corporations, and “The Fine Print,” which was about restraint of trade and monopolies. And in speaking for the last 10 years around the country, one of the things I learned is that people didn’t understand that this isn’t just a function of numbers and whatnot; they didn’t understand there’s a whole structure that affects families, health, healthcare — which are different things — incarceration, opportunity, exposure to environmental hazards, wage theft and so, there was really a need here to give people a broad understanding of, well, “How did this come about, this incredible inequality that we didn’t have in this country until recent years?”

[After the interview, Johnston emailed to add: “My trilogy on the American economy explained many of the little-known, and often deceptive, laws, regulations and official practices. But inequality involves much more than what I had written about in the trilogy. I wanted to provide people with a broad understanding of the issues, ranging from limited opportunity and obstacles to achieving a modicum of prosperity, to the remarkably cruel and thoughtless policies of the Reagan era.”]

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Op-ed: Remembering Pioneering Trans Writer, Activist, Matt Kailey

Note to Journalists covering transsexual/transgender stories.  People who came out in the 1950s and 1960 maybe even stretching it into the 1970s might legitimately be described as pioneers.  Someone who came out in the 1990s isn’t a pioneer.  Time to find a different laudatory terms for them.

Having read Matt’s writing adjectives and phrases like down to earth come to mind along with earnest.

From The Advocate:

Colorado-based transgender journalist Matt Kailey passed away over the weekend, but his influence is remembered by those he worked with.

BY Jacob Anderson-Minshall
May 21 2014

Trans author and activist Matt Kailey passed away this past weekend.

His sister shared these details: “I wanted to let you know that Matt Kailey, my brother, has passed away. He died of heart failure in his sleep Saturday night/early Sunday morning. His untimely and unexpected passing has been a shock. With the help of family and friends, I am currently working on processing this tragedy and making arrangements. I will post more information at a later time. Thank you for being Matt’s friends.”

Matt Kailey and I never met in person. And yet it’s hard to overstate the impact of Matt on my life. Without him, I simply wouldn’t be the man I am today.

Matt’s 2005 memoir, Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience, was one of the books I reviewed for Bitch magazine, which led me to uncover my own transgender identity. More than that, his experience as a 42-year-old straight woman turned gay trans man provided something of a roadmap for transition and proved that a late-in-life transition was absolutely possible. He gave me the courage to make my own transition at 38.

In the years since then I have often recalled moments from his book that paralleled my later experiences or continued to be my inspiration — like the image of Matt standing naked in front of a mirror and saying to himself, “This is a middle-aged trans man’s body.” I am still amazed by his ability to accept himself as he was, to embrace his trans body and boldly live as a gay man without undergoing bottom surgery.

Matt didn’t just blaze trails as a gay trans man demonstrating how the T fit with the LGB. He wasn’t just a role model for those of us who transitioned late in life. He was also one of the first visible trans journalists, who wrote for one of the oldest LGBT publications in the West, Colorado’s Out Front. His 2007 promotion to managing editor made Matt the highest-ranking trans journalist at a queer publication, a distinction he continues to hold.

After transitioning, I followed Matt’s lead and became a trans journalist myself. I ended up interviewing Matt a number of times including for my nationally syndicated TransNation column and for Gender Blender, the radio show I hosted in Portland, Ore. Over the years, our professional collaborations eventually grew into an online friendship. We wouldn’t connect 24/7, but Matt would always be quick to respond whenever I reached out to him.

Although he was dedicated to his work at Out Front, Matt was never one to rest on his laurels. Instead, he also became an award-winning activist and educator. He represented the trans male community in numerous news articles, television spots and five documentary films. He founded the award-winning blog Tranifesto. He spoke at dozens of conferences and colleges and developed his own training program for employers who needed guidance embracing trans people into the workplace.

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It’s Time We Exposed the Media’s Lies About Transgender Kids

From Vice:

By Paris Lees

What a horrible pile of shit the Mail on Sunday ran on its cover last weekend: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds: Clinics accused of ‘playing God’ with treatment that stops puberty”. You know what that means, don’t you? That the NHS is definitely NOT giving nine-year-olds any “sex change drugs” and won’t be any time soon.

The Telegraph, a paper that revels in being openly hostile towards trans people, is now repeating the misleading headline. And what’s with the “playing God” bullshit? As one parent of a trans child pointed out by email: “The Mail wouldn’t be questioning the treatment of diabetic children or children with congenital hypothyroidism on the NHS, so what makes it OK to print this shite about children receiving another kind of endocrine treatment?”

I don’t quite understand everything she’s talking about, but you can’t argue with an angry mother.

Papers pull stupid shit like this all the time; six of them recently admitted they got it wrong by making irrelevant references to a woman’s transgender status in a story about her nearly dying in a stag attack. A stag attack. A stag whose antler pierced her throat, broke her spine and narrowly missed her spinal cord and a couple of major arteries.

As far as we know, the stag didn’t attack her because she was transgender. Nevertheless, six national newspapers decided to print various details about Kate’s history, including her former name and the obligatory “sex swap” headlines. Admittedly the Mail wasn’t, in this instance, the worst offender, and quickly corrected its mistake. And they do run sympathetic – or, at least, neutral – articles sometimes. The point remains, though: the British media, as a whole, can be really, really shit when it comes to covering stories about transgender people.

This article is going to contain a lot of “shits”, because I give one. But does the media? I may be completely wrong, but the people arguing against so-called “sex change drugs” on behalf of vulnerable under-16s don’t, as far as I’m aware, go out of their way to combat gender-based bullying in schools. If you’re not doing anything to stop transgender kids from being beaten up – AKA, the most important issue here – then how the fuck are you planning to get away with starting a moralising headline campaign about the choices they’re allowed to make?

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No trigger warnings in my class: Why you won’t find them on my syllabi

From Salon:

Learning is about rethinking our views. Censoring my students’ education before they obtain it will do the opposite

Every semester on the first day of my classes, I explain to students that at some point during the semester, the material that we cover will fundamentally challenge their thinking in some area that they hold dear, particularly their beliefs about race, gender and sexuality. I also explain to them that these challenges are less about making them change their minds, although I do hope that they will discard some particularly retrograde and unhelpful beliefs, and more about making them refine their opinions, while becoming clear and informed about what they think. If a student has not been challenged to fundamentally rethink the beliefs they hold dear, they have not been to college.

Therefore the growing national conversation, buttressed by demands from students, that college professors place trigger warnings on their syllabi to alert students to uncomfortable and traumatic material gives me great concern. While I care about my own academic freedom and the ways that trigger warnings impede my ability to teach course materials in the ways I deem most appropriate, I care far more about educating students who can entertain a range of competing views, wade through those beliefs, and come out on the other side with clarity and the capacity to articulate their position.

Yet, those of us in the academy are now encountering the generation of students educated under the high-stakes testing model of both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. They are a generation of students who are uncomfortable with being made uncomfortable. They are a generation of students who want the right answers, and the assured A, rather than the challenge of thinking and writing their way through material that is more complex than the multiple choice answer requires. To me, such an orientation to the world – the desire for endless comfort – is an untenable educational proposition. Encountering material that you have never encountered before, being challenged and learning strategies for both understanding and engaging the material is what it means to get an education.

But in this era of the corporate university, the belief in educating students to be something other than laborers in the capitalist machine is increasingly obsolete. In many respects I understand this position: In a time when good public education is increasingly difficult to access at reasonable prices, creating strategies for making university education economically feasible guides policymaking at many universities. The reality is that parents want their children to be able to get out of school and get jobs that will offer them an economic livelihood. In that kind of environment it becomes harder to justify a robust humanities education focused on thinking about questions of power, the nature of human relationships, literature, history and politics.

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“Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life”: The author behind “mansplaining” on the origin of her famous term

From Salon:

Salon spoke to Rebecca Solnit about her new book, gender-based violence, and why “rape culture” is a useful phrase

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rebecca Solnit is a decorated author and activist, but she may be best-known for the word she added to our lexicon: “mansplaining.” Mansplaining was born from a 2008 blog post in which Solnit wrote: “Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about.” Since then, “mansplaining” has taken the culturesphere by storm, getting named one of the New York Times’ “words of the year” and inspiring countless think pieces. Solnit has been writing elegant, sharp essays and books for more than two decades — her latest book, also called “Men Explain Things to Me,” released today, is a collection of seven essays about this particular facet of the modern gender wars. On the whole her work spans a broad spectrum of subjects ranging from literature, art, philosophy, anti-militarism and the environment. It is feminist, frequently funny, unflinchingly honest and often scathing in its conclusions. In 2010, the Utne Reader named Solnit, who is the recipient of several literary awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lannan literary fellowship, one of 25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World.

Tell me about writing that first essay from which the name of the book is taken, “Men Explain Things to Me.” As you mention in the book, it is a piece that continues, years after publication, to be shared and discussed.

I’d been joking about writing it for years. Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life. The infamous incident I described — in which a man talked over me to explain a Very Important Book he thought I should read that it turns out I wrote — happened five years earlier in 2003.

The term “mansplaining” has resonated with so many women.  It shifted the cultural universe ever so slightly (in a good way). Did you expect this response?  

You know, I had a wonderful conversation about a month ago with a young Ph.D. candidate at U.C. Berkeley. I’ve been a little bit squeamish about the word “mansplaining,” because it can seem to imply that men are inherently flawed, rather than that some guys are a little over-privileged, arrogant and clueless. This young academic said to me, “No, you don’t understand! You need to recognize that until we had the word ‘mainsplained,’ so many women had this awful experience and we didn’t even have a language for it. Until we can name something, we can’t share the experience, we can’t describe it, we can’t respond to it. I think that word has been extraordinarily valuable in helping women and men describe something that goes on all the time.” She really changed my opinion. It’s really useful. I’ve always been interested in how much our problems come from not having the language, not having the framework to think and talk about and address the phenomenon around us.

Your work has always focused on sexualized and gender-based violence. The second essay in your book, “The Longest War,” is based on one you wrote in the wake of the Delhi and Steubenville rapes. What are your thoughts on mainstream media narratives regarding rape and domestic violence? Do you think we are at an inflection point globally in public discourse surrounding these subjects?

Yes, I really do. Remember when Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered, more than 20 years ago? That started a conversation about domestic violence and how often it becomes lethal and how horrific and oppressive and terrifying and discriminatory it is. Then O.J. Simpson lawyered up, in the way that incredibly rich men that do awful things to women do, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or the recent case of the billionaire Gurbaksh Chahal, who recently got off on probation after allegedly hitting his girlfriend 117 times on camera. There are just so many times when other kinds of hate crimes get the attention they deserve, and I never feel that we shouldn’t pay attention to other kinds of hate crimes, but I’ve just waited and waited and waited for violence against women to be treated as a hate crime.

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Water depletion in California ‘may be increasing chance of earthquakes’

From The Guardian UK:

Groundwater loss from demand for farming in the Central Valley is putting pressure on San Andreas fault, Nature paper says, Wednesday 14 May 2014

The water use that helped produce California’s agricultural bounty may be increasing the chances of earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, researchers said on Wednesday.

A new study, published in Nature on Wednesday, said groundwater depletion in California’s Central Valley – the heart of its agricultural industry – is putting additional pressures on the fault, and promoting the chances of an earthquake.

The study did not predict how and when that earthquake might occur.

The paper is among the first to attribute a human component to earthquakes along the San Andreas fault. Other researchers have established a connection between small earthquakes in Ohio and underground disposal of waste water from fracking.

The researchers, led by Colin Amos of Western Washington University, used data from GPS networks to analyse the tiny movements in the Central Valley and the surrounding mountains.

Scientists have known for years that the floor of the valley has been dropping as the groundwater is pumped out for irrigation.

An estimated 160 km3 of ground water in the Central Valley has been lost through pumping, irrigation and evaporation over the past 150 years.

The rate of that depletion is accelerating, because of expanding population, increased demands for agriculture and recurring drought – which means that the groundwater can not be readily replaced.

Meanwhile, the mountains surrounding the valley have also been undergoing tiny shifts each summer and autumn, moving upward as the seasonal snowpack melts.

Those competing pressures have brought the San Andreas fault closer to failure, the researchers said.

“The human effect is becoming the dominant effect,” said Paul Lundgren of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The more you deplete that groundwater, the more you keep promoting that fault towards failure.”

He said the human influence was fairly significant – around the order of the knock-on effect from other large earthquakes of relatively close faults. Growing demand for groundwater – because of drought – would put the fault under more pressure.

But it was impossible to say at this point when the next big earthquake might occur.

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‘Brainwashed by propaganda’ – Vivienne Westwood on Climate Revolution, austerity and government

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Look Out, Wall Street, the New Populism is Coming

From Common Dreams:

by Richard Eskow

Even as the Campaign for America’s Future prepares for its May conference on the New Populism, attacks on populism keep coming from all directions. One of the latest salvos to be publicized comes in the form of an anecdote about Bill Clinton. As Tim Geithner told Andrew Ross Sorkin, Clinton sarcastically told the Wall Street-friendly Treasury Secretary how to “pursue a more populist strategy”:

“You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley,” Clinton said, “and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again.”

Clinton was always effective at belittling people with whom he disagrees – even when, as in this case, his own position is morally indefensible. The president and his economic team deregulated Wall Street to disastrous effect, then became very wealthy there after leaving office.

The “them” in Clinton’s quote is us. And the only people who confuse a cry for justice with “blood lust” are those who have become too close to the unjust.

It is precisely this sort of sneering insider indifference to public opinion – not to mention good governance and fair play – which has given rise to today’s populist mood. And make no mistake about it: the public’s mood, despite years of attempts by most Republicans and many Democrats to placate them, is distinctly populist. And much of that populist sentiment is directed toward the financial institutions which have so badly damaged our economy.

The fear triggered in some circles by a figure like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who is the keynote speaker at the New Populism) conference is based, not on concerns about “blood lust,” but on an understanding of the politics involved. Washington insiders can protect Wall Street – and themselves – only so long as nobody represents the majority on the political stage. Once a populist alternative appears, like that represented by Sen. Warren and like-minded politicians, this “bipartisan” tilt toward bankers becomes much harder to maintain.

Why? Because these populist leaders aren’t just proposing the right policies toward Wall Street. They’re also offering very popular policies, policies with much deeper and broader support than those of the Clinton, Bush, or Obama administrations. Polling results compiled in CAF’s website show, for example, that

  • More than half of those polled last month think the problems with banks which led to the 2008 financial crisis haven’t been fixed (to a large extent, they’re right);
  • Two-thirds of those polled believe that Wall Street financial institutions make it harder to find good jobs in the United States than was true in the past (again, there’s a lot of truth to that, given the increasing share of national profits being captured by the nonproductive financial sector);
  • Two-thirds believe there should be more government oversight of financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies;
  • More than nine out of 10 people polled believe it is important to regulate financial services in order to ensure fairness toward customers;
  • 80 percent of those polled supported the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after learning about Wall Street’s role in the economic crisis of 2008;
  • 83 percent believe that new rules should be implemented for Wall Street, and that bankers should be held accountable for the actions which caused the financial crisis.

Most Americans are equally disturbed by the Wall Street- and billionaire-friendly economy which government policies have forged. Nearly 8 out of 10 Americans polled last month, for example, believe inequality is a problem – and more than half think it’s a major problem. Two-thirds of those polled in March believe it’s important for the government to implement policies that reduce inequality. 71 percent think the government believes it’s more important to help major corporations than to help the poor.

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Intelligent Design is Stupid: Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Slouching Toward… Hell on Earth

From Common Dreams:

by John Atcheson

In 1961 Joan Didion released a collection of essays titled, Slouching Toward Bethlehem. The first essay, “Dreamers of a Golden Dream,” contains the following:

October is the bad month for wind, the month when breathing is difficult, and the hills blaze up spontaneously… Every voice seems a scream. It is the season of suicide, divorce and prickly dread…

She was talking about the Santa Ana’s… searing 100 mile-an-hour winds that shriek down the mountains and scorch everything in their path. Back in 1961, it was common knowledge that Santa Ana’s only came in the Fall – in October.

But the winds arrived the day before yesterday, here in the land of dreamers of the golden dream. In May, which is what used to be our wet season.

People were on edge as the hot gusts blasted through the valleys toward the ocean. They squinted at the hills, vigilant. They sniffed the air for tell-tale signs of smoke.

Homeowners gathered the things they cherished or needed – photos, gifts, important papers – and piled them by the front door, ready.

Firemen checked their equipment, and did double duty, and the entire area held its breath hoping that this time, it would pass. This time, the gods or fates would spare them.

But they didn’t.

On May 13th, a spark fell on the parched land and ignited. No big deal. The entire fire safety apparatus pounced on the isolated fire – helicopters, fire trucks, tanker planes, men and hoses by the hundreds. But they were no match for the hot, dry, winds. Sparks and cinders carried the fire westward in giant leaps, like some Titan stepping over mere mortals. As the day wore on, 20,000 homes were evacuated, and over 1500 acres were burned to a char.

By the evening of May 14th, there were nine fires burning in San Diego, destroying homes, with one headed toward a nuclear power plant.

So, three years into a record-breaking drought, we get Santa Ana’s… in May. And record breaking heat. To say that the weather is unusual is an understatement of epic proportions. It’s freakish. Unfortunately, it’s also going to be the new normal for much of the Southwest, as the recently released Climate Action Report shows.

Conservatives will be tempted to dismiss this as simply a “left-coaster” problem. Marco Rubio is probably sharpening his crayons right now, to say something like this. Unfortunately for Rubio, climate change will hit Florida even harder than the Southwest. With the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheets, it is now virtually assured that most of southeastern Florida will be uninhabitable, and absent aggressive action, Miami will be history within several generations. With this collapse, sea level rise of geologically significant proportions – twenty or more feet – is now pretty much hardwired into the system, the only question is how quickly it will proceed. There’s no off switch.

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Krugman slams GOP delusions about climate change and the economy: “Truly crazy positions are becoming the norm”

From Salon:

“Today … conspiracy theorizing is mainstream within the party, and rapidly becoming mandatory”

Friday, May 16, 2014

In his Friday column for the New York Times, Paul Krugman takes on newly minted climate scientist Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and compares Republican delusions about climate change to the party’s paranoid — and equally dead wrong — fantasies about inflation.

Whereas the right is currently working overtime to ignore the overwhelming body of evidence that supports climate change and its devastating consequences, they are also fighting to scare up evidence to support still-unsubstantiated claims that actions taken to boost our dragging economy during the peak of the financial crisis would result in runaway inflation.

“Why the bad behavior?” Krugman asks. No one likes admitting when they’re wrong, but when it comes to the modern GOP, the problem goes much deeper:

But hard as it is to admit one’s own errors, it’s much harder to admit that your entire political movement got it badly wrong. Inflation phobia has always been closely bound up with right-wing politics; to admit that this phobia was misguided would have meant conceding that one whole side of the political divide was fundamentally off base about how the economy works. So most of the inflationistas have responded to the failure of their prediction by becoming more, not less, extreme in their dogma, which will make it even harder for them ever to admit that they, and the political movement they serve, have been wrong all along.

The same kind of thing is clearly happening on the issue of global warming. There are, obviously, some fundamental factors underlying G.O.P. climate skepticism: The influence of powerful vested interests (including, though by no means limited to, the Koch brothers), plus the party’s hostility to any argument for government intervention. But there is clearly also some kind of cumulative process at work. As the evidence for a changing climate keeps accumulating, the Republican Party’s commitment to denial just gets stronger.

In fact, having a sensible and reality-based position on the economy or climate science seems to be a professional liability for Republicans nowadays:

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