UK’s only transgender military pilot talks of the support she received from Prince William

From Gay Star News:

The woman, who has served alongside the prince as a search and rescue pilot, has spoken out about her life, career and transition process

By David Hudson

22 December 2014

The RAF’s only openly transgender plane pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ayla Holdom, has given a moving interview to the Mail on Sunday in which she discusses her life – and was full of praise for the way in which her colleagues in Britain’s Royal Air Force accepted her transition.

Holdom, now aged 34, says that she knew she was different from around the age of four, but that the pressure to fit in almost drove her to suicide.

‘From being a teenager I felt a void inside me. It drove me to achieve, to join the military, to fly, to qualify as a search-and-rescue pilot, but it was never, ever enough, because my essential self didn’t correspond to my external image and who could live that kind of lie?

‘I knew I wasn’t a gay man, I couldn’t tick that box. But it is a huge step to ask yourself if you might be transgender because of the stigma attached to it.

‘You know you risk being ostracized, ridiculed, belittled and made to feel somehow less human. You are the punchline in a big joke, or worse, still deemed to have a psychological condition.

‘You are considered a freak and you put your career, your family ties and your friendships on the line. That’s why you deny it, why you deny it even to yourself until the need to do something about it is so overwhelming it makes life impossible – truly impossible.’

Instead of suicide, Holdom instead decided to transition – a move supported by her family, and her wife, Wren, with whom she continues to live at RAF Chivenor in North Devon.

The two now live in a lesbian relationship and plan to try and start a family, as Holdom had some of her sperm frozen from when she was living as a man.

Deciding to undergo transition meant explaining the decision to her RAF colleagues, including Prince William. The two served together on search and rescue when the Prince was a member of the small, tight-knit team of 20 at RAF Valley.

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Merry Christmas

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The day I saw 248 girls suffering genital mutilation

From The Guardian UK:

In 2006, while in Indonesia and six months pregnant, Abigail Haworth became one of the few journalists ever to see young girls being ‘circumcised’. Until now she has been unable to tell this shocking story

It’s 9.30am on a Sunday, and the mood inside the school building in Bandung, Indonesia, is festive. Mothers in headscarves and bright lipstick chat and eat coconut cakes. Javanese music thumps from an assembly hall. There are 400 people crammed into the primary school’s ground floor. It’s hot, noisy and chaotic, and almost everyone is smiling.

Twelve-year-old Suminah is not. She looks like she wants to punch somebody. Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted. She sits on a plastic chair, swatting away her mother’s efforts to placate her with a party cup of milk and a biscuit. Suminah is in severe pain. An hour earlier, her genitals were mutilated with scissors as she lay on a school desk.

During the morning, 248 Indonesian girls undergo the same ordeal. Suminah is the oldest, the youngest is just five months. It is April 2006 and the occasion is a mass ceremony to perform sunat perempuan or “female circumcision” that has been held annually since 1958 by the Bandung-based Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic foundation that runs a mosque and several schools. The foundation holds the event in the lunar month of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and pays parents 80,000 rupiah (£6) and a bag of food for each daughter they bring to be cut.

It is well established that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not required in Muslim law. It is an ancient cultural practice that existed before Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is also agreed across large swathes of the world that it is barbaric. At the mass ceremony, I ask the foundation’s social welfare secretary, Lukman Hakim, why they do it. His answer not only predates the dawn of religion, it predates human evolution: “It is necessary to control women’s sexual urges,” says Hakim, a stern, bespectacled man in a fez. “They must be chaste to preserve their beauty.”

I have not written about the 2006 mass ceremony until now. I went there with an Indonesian activist organisation that worked within communities to eradicate FGM. Their job was difficult and highly sensitive. Afterwards, in fraught exchanges with the organisation’s staff, it emerged that it was impossible for me to write a journalistic account of the event for the western media without compromising their efforts. It would destroy the trust they had forged with local leaders, the activists argued, and jeopardise their access to the people they needed to reach. I shelved my article; to sabotage the people working on the ground to stop the abuse would defeat the purpose of whatever I wrote. Such is the tricky partnership of journalism and activism at times.

Yet far from scaling down, the problem of FGM in Indonesia has escalated sharply. The mass ceremonies in Bandung have grown bigger and more popular every year. This year, the gathering took place in February. Hundreds of girls were cut. The Assalaam foundation’s website described it as “a celebration”. Anti-FGM campaigners have proved ineffective against a rising tide of conservatism. Today, the issue is more that I can’t not write about that day.

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Women sold as sex slaves in Islamic State markets, says UN official

From Jerusalem Post:

By Michelle Malka Grossman

The situation for Syrian women has worsened since July at the hands of Islamic State, said Valerie Amos, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

She described how women and female children as young as 12 are enslaved and sexually abused. “Women captured as slaves by [Islamic State] have been sold in markets in Raqqa. Some are sold to individual men. Others are kept by [Islamic State] in rest houses and face multiple rapes by fighters returning from the battlefield,” Amos reported during a UN Security Council session on Monday.

“Kurdish refugees from Kobani reported the capture of young girls by [Islamic State] for sexual purposes, girls as young as 12.”

Amos said there has also been a rise in the incidence of forced marriage. “This is in part due to a depletion of family resources and more recently because parents are terrified of their daughters being forced to marry [Islamic State] fighters in areas under their control.”

She called these and other horrible acts war crimes. “[Islamic State] has carried out mass victimization of civilians including murder, enslavement, rape, forcible displacement and torture, and has violated its obligation toward civilians.”

Amos spoke harshly about the lack of progress since the Security Council passed Resolution 2139 in February, which laid out a number of basic human rights demands that the Syrian government and opposition fighters must follow.

Amos criticized the international community for becoming numb in the face of almost 200,000 deaths in Syria, with millions more injured and displaced. She said that Syrian refugees now account for a fifth of the world’s number of displaced people.

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How To Wrap A Cat For Christmas

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How Not to be an Ally: KateGate’s Growing Horrors: From the B-52s’ Kate Pierson’s Unapologetic Alignment With Anti-Trans Activism to Her Transparently Empty Call for Dialogue

I’ve had numerous personal anthems and songs that got me through tough patches in life. Not one of them has been specifically trans themed.

But that’s neither here nor there, maybe more reflective of when I came out than anything or just my perspective on trans being something I was treated for rather than an identity.

But Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” failed to move me.  I haven’t bothered with checking You Tube for Kate Pierson’s “Mister Sister”.  The very title tells me it is probably offensive.

I’m tired of well meaning non-trans-folks blundering around with their studies and patronizing support.  Dealing with the well meaning, all knowing supporters is often more demeaning than dealing with hateful bigots.  With the bigots I just snarl and hit back, with the well meaning patronizing idiots I have to put up with hurt feelings followed with accusations of non-appreciation.

From Huffington Post:


Dear Kate,

It’s been over a week since the release of your new single, “Mister Sister,” and the publication of my open letter to you regarding the disappointment and pain that it caused me, a longtime fan, and many in the trans community. What initially began as a few sparks flying about your single has officially turned into a conflagration.

In your response to the criticism, you claimed that dialogue is important. Yet over the past several days, many comments posted to your Facebook page that have been critical of the message in your song (and nonthreatening, despite claims to the contrary) have been quickly and summarily removed. Moreover, how can I or anyone else who shares my concerns find meaning in dialogue when you didn’t respond specifically to any of the issues I raised, such as the inclusion of a documented transmisogynist in your video? What does dialogue actually mean to you, and how do we achieve it? Because we’re clearly not there now.

You responded, “By ‘trans’ I meant to be more universal and not presume to ‘represent’ any particular group. Huffington Post added the ‘(gender)’ to my quote….” The problem here is that I never once called your new single a “transgender anthem.” Starting with the headline, I clearly called it your “trans anthem,” just like you did, and as I did throughout my letter. In fact, I only used the word “transgender” once, and that was in reference to viciously transmisogynistic commentary by Alyson Palmer, one of your video’s two problematic guests.

Then you briefly talked about the “power of transformation,” “the joy of self acceptance,” “transcend[ing] gender boundaries,” and “promot[ing] greater understanding.” Finally, you closed by reminding me of your dedication to the fight for LGBTQ rights, and you acknowledged “how important dialogue such as this can be.” Dialogue, you say, is “just as important today than ever before.”

Since my open letter was published many other wonderful, important, and thoughtful responses to your single by members of the trans community have been published. They range from the personal and heartbreaking to the calmly diplomatic to the plainly frustrated to researched journalism to a succinctly in-your-face reality check to the brilliantly sincere, silly, and satirical. This while you tweet and cheer about a brutally cutting and wordy post by a “gendercrit” blogger who calls those of us who have issues with the single “anti-feminist trans activist league of SJ hashtag hobgoblins.” I’m a passionate intersectional feminist, by the way, as opposed to a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF). I’m anti-bigot and profoundly pro-feminist, despite the ongoing attempt by some to reclaim an exclusionary, marginalizing, tightly wound twisting of what “feminism” means. In snarky academic prose, this writer makes the poisonous case that trangender people are nothing more than a political movement. She even names Cathy Brennan, one of the most infamous anti-gender activists in circulation, as someone she aspires to call a friend. For goodness’ sake, Kate, this is dialogue to you? What planet are you on? Planet Claire?

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For Low-Wage Americans, The Holiday Season Is A Time To Work

From Huffington Post:

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