Former Memphis cop testifies to beating of prisoner by arresting officer

This is an all too common story regarding the on going treatment of transsexual and transgender people, many people of color and almost all poor that too often gets ignored by the educated and privileged TS/TG people who do have an ounce of power and a voice.

From the Memphis Tennessee Commercial Appeal

Former Memphis cop testifies to beating of prisoner by arresting officer

By Lawrence Buser

Friday, April 9, 2010

A former Memphis police officer told a federal jury Thursday that a fellow officer’s videotaped altercation with a transgender prisoner last year was not a fight but “a beatdown” by the officer.

Testifying for the prosecution, James Swain said he watched officer Bridges “Sutton” McRae use his metal handcuffs like brass knuckles to punch the prisoner several times in the head in the sally port of the jail.

McRae, who was fired, is charged with civil rights violations. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Swain said the incident began when the prisoner, Dwayne Johnson, refused to be fingerprinted unless McRae called him by his feminine name, Duanna.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/apr/09/ex-cop-testifies-of-beating-to-prisoner-by/

“The Only Way to Survive is By Taking Care of One Another” — Legendary Activist, Philosopher Grace Lee Boggs

From Alternet:

http://www.alternet.org/vision/146290/%22the_only_way_to_survive_is_by_taking_care_of_one_another%22_–_legendary_activist%2C_philosopher_grace_lee_boggs

By Amy Goodman and Grace Lee Boggs, Democracy Now!
Posted on April 3, 2010, Printed on April 3, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/146290/

Amy Goodman: The legendary Detroit activist and community organizer Grace Lee Boggs has been involved with the civil rights, Black Power, labor, environmental justice, and feminist movements over the past seven decades. She was born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1915. In 1992, she co-founded the Detroit Summer youth program to rebuild and renew her city. Her 95th birthday is June 27th, the day after the close of the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. [The following is a short clip of Boggs talking].

Grace Lee Boggs: We’ve got to redefine democracy, that we have been stuck in concepts of representative democracy, that we believe that it’s getting other people to do things for us that we progress. And I think that we’ve reached the point now where we’re stuck with a whole lot of concepts, so that when Michael Moore speaks about the number of people who make all this money and other people who don’t, it sounds as if we’re struggling for equality with them. Who wants to be equal to these guys? I think we have to be thinking much more profoundly.

Actually, if you go back to what Marx said in The Communist Manifesto over a hundred years ago, when in talking about the constant revolutions in technology, he ended that paragraph by saying, “All that is sacred is profaned, all that is solid melts into air, and men and women are forced to face with sober senses our conditions of life and our relations with our kind.” We’re at that sort of turning point in human history.

And I think that, talking about recovery, talking about democracy, we too easily get sucked into old notions of what we want. So we’re expecting protest. I’m not expecting so many protests. I don’t mind protests, and I encourage them at times. But what happened in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, when people gathered to say another world is necessary, another world is possible, and another world is happening, I think that that’s what’s happening.

In Detroit, in particular, people are beginning to say the only way to survive is by taking care of one another, by recreating our relationships to one another, that we have created a society, over the last period, in particular, where each of us is pursuing self-interest. We have devolved as human beings.

Learn more at the Boggs Center site.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!.

© 2010 Democracy Now! All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/146290/
Posted in Activism, Discrimination, Economic Issues, Social Justice, Socialism, Unequal Treatment. Comments Off on “The Only Way to Survive is By Taking Care of One Another” — Legendary Activist, Philosopher Grace Lee Boggs

Fighting for a hate-free union

By Christine Darosa

From Socialist Workerhttp://socialistworker.org/2010/03/30/fighting-for-a-hate-free-union

Christine Darosa reports on the fight of a transgender union activist in Service Employees International Union Local 1021 to remove a union supervisor from his position because of his reported prejudice.

March 30, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO–On the heels of the reform slate “Change 1021” victory in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021’s first elections [2] comes another victory: a supervisor in the union’s San Francisco office has been fired for what activists say is his prejudice.

Andre Spearman, one of the staff supervisors in the Union’s San Francisco office, had reportedly created a hostile work environment through a heavy-handed, top-down approach to working with both staff and rank-and-file membership, combined with blatant disrespect of the membership and staff.

Gabriel Haaland, Local 1021’s political coordinator for San Francisco, and a target of what he calls Spearman’s harassment, described Spearman as having “a very anti-membership-participation perspective” in a progressive local where the membership has historically been very engaged. In fact, Haaland feels that Spearman’s presence and conduct were part of a systematic effort to tamp down rank-and-file activity and involvement in advance of the election.

Over time, Haaland says that an obvious pattern of dismissiveness and derision emerged, though it was difficult to challenge due to Spearman’s abusive management style. As workers in the office began to share their experiences, it became clear that Haaland in particular seemed to receive an extra share of abuse due to his identity as a transgender man.

For example, when Haaland was not in the room, Spearman would refer to Gabriel as “he” in a sneering, belittling way–treatment Spearman also reserved for a transgender woman in the rank and file who crossed his path.

In November, Haaland filed a grievance on behalf of the unionized staff with SEIU management. When the grievance was ignored, he filed a complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION is still all-too-common for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. A 2006 San Francisco study by the Transgender Law Center (TLC) and Bay Guardian newspaper found that 57 percent of transgender people surveyed had experienced employment discrimination in some form, despite the city having had transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws since 1994. Further, only 12 percent of those surveyed had filed a formal complaint.

Haaland, a longtime local progressive figure, has been involved in drafting protections and raising visibility around the harassment of transgender workers, and was part of the group of people who worked to get the TLC/Bay Guardian study underway.

Still, it took Haaland some time to make the decision to file the complaint against Spearman. This was due in part, he explained, to not wanting to give ammunition to union-bashers and his belief that, surely, the union could do better–but also in part to the personal difficulty of taking this step.

If deciding to file a complaint was so challenging for Haaland, it is clear how much harder it would be for people in more precarious situations or those who are isolated in their communities. With the threat of repercussions–such as job loss in a population where unemployment is as high as 75 percent–it is easy to understand why so few people might come forward.

Haaland said that when he found out that the Change 1021 slate had won 26 out of the 28 contested union positions, he knew immediately that the new leadership would be responsive to the issues raised in the grievance. He “knew and respected” the people who won, having worked alongside them in the union for years, he explained.

As Larry Bradshaw, the new third vice president of Local 1021, commented recently:

[M]ost of us that were elected to office on the reform slate knew that there were many internal problems with staff and staff management, but we had no idea that there was this sort of harassment occurring. The first we heard about it was when we read about it in the local press a couple days before we took office, and our new rank-and-file chief elected officer moved within a couple days to remove Mr. Spearman from his position in the union.

Haaland feels that Local 1021 is now returning to the “long tradition of progressive, democratic unionism” that he had signed on to when he took his job with SEIU. He also feels that Change 1021’s win is connected to the actions happening elsewhere at the grassroots–from labor to the LGBT movement to the March 4 Day of Action against the budget cuts in California.

“Things are different now in a number of different contexts. Old ways of doing things are shutting down,” he said. “It excites me…We’re winning a lot–in transformative ways, not in traditional ways.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Material on this Web site is licensed by SocialistWorker.org, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) [3] license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and SocialistWorker.org.

  1. [1] http://socialistworker.org/department/Labor
  2. [2] http://socialistworker.org/2010/03/09/sweeping-victory-for-seiu-reformers
  3. [3] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

Condoms = Arrest?

From Ms Magazine

Police policies often discourage sex workers from carrying protection

By NADIA BERENSTEIN

“First [the police officer] asked me what I was doing with all these condoms. Then he took the bag and threw it in the garbage. Then he arrested me.” —A transgender woman in New York City, from a 2009 Sex Workers Project survey.

Sienna Baskin, staff attorney at the Sex Workers Project in New York City, says there’s a question she’s always asked at the “Know Your Rights” workshops she leads for prostitutes and other sex workers: “How many condoms are we legally allowed to carry?”

There is no law in any state in the U.S. restricting condom possession, but if you’re a sex worker, you might have reason to believe there is a legal limit. Law enforcement officers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area routinely confiscate condoms from suspected suspected sex workers, sometimes filing them as evidence of prostitution. Almost everyone interviewed for a recent Sex Workers Project survey, Baskin says, “mentioned a certain number of condoms over which they
felt more concerned about increased harassment.” Cyndee Clay, executive director of D.C.-based Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, says, “It’s a common enough practice that everyone knows about it.”

Keeping a few condoms tucked in your handbag probably won’t land you behind bars—unless police profile you as a possible sex worker. Are you in an area known for street prostitution? Are you a transgender woman? Are you a woman of color? Do you have a prior record? If you answer yes to any of these questions, the number of condoms you’re carrying could suddenly become grounds for suspicion, even if you are not engaging in illegal activity.

Continue reading at: http://msmagazine.com/winter2010/condomsarrest.asp

There have also been cases of AIDS Prevention Workers doing outreach work passing out condoms to sex workers in the streets being harassed and arrested by cops who think it is their duty to enforce some sort of faith based morality and that AIDS is divine retribution on sex workers, especially if those sex workers are trans or gay.

Utah Governor Signs Controversial Law Charging Women and Girls With Murder for Miscarriages

From Alternet:

http://www.alternet.org/story/145956/utah_governor_signs_controversial_law_charging_women_and_girls_with_murder_for_miscarriages#wp-comments

By Rose Aguilar, AlterNet
Posted on March 9, 2010, Printed on March 10, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/145956/

On Monday afternoon, a controversial Utah bill that charges pregnant women and girls with murder for having miscarriages caused by “intentional or knowing” acts, was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert.

Contrary to media reports last week, the “Criminal Homicide and Abortion Amendments” or HB12, which previously also applied to miscarriages caused by “reckless” acts, was never “withdrawn” by its sponsor, Republican Representative Carl Wimmer (who is crafting similar “model legislation” for other states). After the governor expressed concern over “possible unintended consequences,” of the legislation as written, Rep. Wimmer swiftly introduced a new version, titled “Criminal Homicide and Abortion Revisions” (HB462), which omitted the word “reckless.” Gov. Herbert signed the new bill and vetoed the old one.

Continue reading at:

http://www.alternet.org/story/145956/utah_governor_signs_controversial_law_charging_women_and_girls_with_murder_for_miscarriages#wp-comments

What is Christo-fascism?

Sharon, a friend of mine as well as one of the editors over at TS-SI suggested that perhaps I should define “Christo-fascism” as people react rather harshly to my using that phrase.

I am an atheist.  That means I think the very idea of their being an invisible patriarch in the sky or for that matter an invisible matriarch in the sky is pretty absurd.  I don’t take the cop out of declaring myself spiritual rather than religious because I find all the New Age stuff equally absurd.

Christo-fascists behave in a manner that makes them virtually if not literally identical to Islamo-fascists.  Both demand that the state impose harsh religion based laws that impinge upon the human rights of minority groups within their cultures as well as misogynistically denying women both equality and the right to control their own bodies.

One element of Christo-fascism is the giving of primacy to the fetus over the mother in matters of health and well being, denying abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman carrying the fetus. Thus reducing the value of women’s lives to their bearing of children and justifies all sorts of discrimination based upon the expectation of that being their primary role in life.

At the store where I work I see women and girls clad in the Christian version of the burqa, similar cult like costumes including anachronistic skirts down to the ankles and identical hair styles trailing their home schooled or religious schooled quiver full behind them.

While this can be dismissed as simple cultist behavior, rabid right wing Christianity is impacting our ability to learn actual science in public schools due to their demands that creation mythology be given equal weight to birth of the universe physics and evolution.  Christo-fascism is present in the attempts to rewrite history and present a revisionist version with the founding fathers as Christians when many were Deists at most and were quite likely agnostic free thinkers or even atheist the way Ethan Allen and Thomas Paine were.

Fascism is characterized as a totalitarian form of government with a close partnership between the state and corporations.  Religious fascism be it Christo-fascism or Islamo-fascism can be characterized by the destruction of any wall of separation between church and state.  Religious law is seen to define civil law.

In the past the anti-sodomy laws were an example of such interaction between church and state as are censorship laws.

The anti-abortion, anti-sex education and anti contraception movements led by the rabid right wing Christianist factions are some examples of Christo-fascism.

Christo-fascists are leading the fight against marriage equality.  They are the ones who libel marriage equality with lies, fiction and hyperbole.

They use and abuse their tax exempt status to campaign and raise money to pass laws that deny LGBT/T folks their Constitutionally guaranteed rights.  Their representatives in congress further their goal of the establishment of a theocratic state governed by Biblical Law rather than the Constitution as set forth by our founding fathers.

LGBT/T folks are used as scapegoats utilizing the same playbook and much the same rhetoric found in anti-Semitism and racism with the additional language of perversion and pathology.

The alliance with the rabid right wing politics espoused by the Republican Party is as overt as it is repellent.  Since the years of FDR the conservative movement has aligned itself with policies that closely resemble those of the Axis Powers of WW II.  Open racism, homophobia and misogyny are used as tools to stir near lynch mob violence as a campaign tool.

One sees it in the rhetoric directed towards President Obama by Tea Baggers and Birthers alike. It is as though the Catholics, the Fundamentalists, the John Birchers and KKK have formed a party based on hate.

The Christo-fascists are the storm troopers.

When they oppose same sex marriage they are acting in a manner that is un-American in that they are denying their fellow citizens equal rights as guaranteed in the 14th amendment to the Constitution.  Their lies are of the same nature as the lies propagated in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Now many think I am over reacting.  Yet every day I hear or read a fresh hate spiel.

One of the big stories this year has been regarding “The Family”, a secretive Christo-fascist cabal of ultra right wing Republicans documented by Jeff Sharlet in his book, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”.

Members of this cabal have been caught supporting the proposed law in Uganda that would make homosexuality a capital offense.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, there are American Christian ministers calling for the same thing.  I am not speaking of the self anointed Fred Phelps and his Klan of inbred neo-Nazis for Jesus.  No, I am speaking of ministers with huge McMega Churches like the ones found in the suburbs of metroplexes across America.

They call for Biblical law and death for homosexuals.  Although that call is remarkably silent when it comes to calling for a death penalty for pedophile priests/ministers.

These calls for Biblical Law are also rather selectively chosen from books like Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  They tend to ignore other equally emphatic prohibitions found in verses surrounding the few minor references one finds to homosexuality.

Fighting the homosexual agenda has become a major fund raiser for these churches in the same manner as fighting women’s access to safe and legal abortion has been. I believe we ignore at our own peril the precedent that has been set by the words of support and lack of condemnation regarding the misogynistic pro-life movement people who have actually gone out and murdered Doctors who provide legal and safe abortions.

Any Christian organization with “Family” in its name is probably a proponent of Manson Family Values and not any sort of valuing of the rights of people. The only people whose rights and families they value are those they consider the chosen, the elect, the saved.

“Born again” bears a startling resemblance to the old battle cry, “The south will rise again!”  While the text features misogyny, homophobia and trans phobia writ large and filled with blood libels the subtext contains the racism and hatred of the poor that so characterize right wing totalitarian ideology.

Pam’s House Blend often gives me all the illustrations I need to make my point regarding Christo-fascism.  Here are a couple of examples I recently gleaned from her blog:

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/15382/know-your-smear-campaign-how-the-catholic-hierarachy-lies-claims-gays-attack-religious-freedom

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/15380/catholic-charities-of-washington-cuts-off-its-nose-to-spite-its-face

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/15374/gary-randall-opposing-death-sentence-for-gays-is-perverted-tolerance

I could go on and go to other references. But here are some names to watch for, people who are clearly Christo-fascists and are very powerful:

Pope Benedict, William Donohue, Tony Perkins, Donald Wildmon, James Dobson.  The list could go on and on, filling this blog for days.

I could back my claims with You Tube videos of their calls for atrocities.

You can live in denial just as people in the 1930s did when Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t Happen Here” or one can be forewarned and forearmed.  I exercise my rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and legally own a firearm for self defense.  Perhaps others who can legally do so should also consider that as an act of prudence.

Survey: Trans people face much higher rate of job discrimination

From The Dallas Voice

http://www.dallasvoice.com/artman/publish/article_12468.php

By Renee Baker | Contributing Writer renee@renee-baker.com
Feb 11, 2010 – 2:39:54 PM

Problems even worse for trans people of color, study shows

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have jointly released preliminary results from the largest transgender survey ever completed, showing what most people have assumed as true — that trans people face discrimination in employment at a much higher rate that other minority groups.

The survey of 6,450 transgender people across the United States was taken with the impetus to empirically determine and document the marginalization of transgender lives.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE, stated the survey was constructed “from the point of view of discrimination and its prevalence.” She said that previous surveys were much smaller in size or merely anecdotal in nature.

Keisling, who has an academic background in statistical research, said the survey provided “great, great data” that is already showing is applicability to advocacy work. She said that by teaming with Sue Rankin, an associate professor at Penn State, researchers gained the necessary academic research tools to produce a thoroughly analyzed and “legitimate research study.”

The joint effort was launched in September 2008, and sample data from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands was collected through February of 2009. The full data set is still being processed; however, NCTE and NGLTF released preliminary results at the Creating Change Conference in Dallas last week.

Comparisons of the data set to the general population were made using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor.

One of the key findings of the survey was that transgender people face unemployment at double the rate of the general population as a whole. During the survey period and prior to current recession unemployment levels, 13 percent of trans respondents were unemployed, compared to 6.5 percent in the general population.

The unemployment rate was even more acute for black (26 percent), Latino (18 percent) and multiracial (17 percent) trans people.

Almost half (47 percent) of the survey respondents reported adverse job action because of their transgender status: Either they did not get a job, were denied a promotion or were fired.

Very striking was that 26 percent of transgender respondents lost their jobs due to their gender identity/expression. That number was higher for black respondents (32 percent) and for multiracial respondents (37 percent).

But most striking, according to Keisling, was that 97 percent of respondents reported experiencing mistreatment, harassment or discrimination on the job, including invasion of privacy, verbal abuse and physical or sexual assault.

High rates of poverty were also reported among transgender respondents. Fifteen percent lived on $10,000 or less per year — double the rate in the general population, which is 7 percent.

Another key finding was the rate of housing instability due to gender identity. Nineteen percent of respondents reported that they currently are homeless or have been in the past. One in four respondents had to move back in with family or with friends.

In regard to health insurance, the survey found that “transgender and gender non-conforming people do not have adequate health coverage or access to competent providers.” The respondents had the same rate of coverage as the general population, but only 40 percent had employer-based insurance coverage, compared to 62 percent in the general population.

The survey concludes that “employment protections are paramount,” and that current conditions are causing “significant barriers to employment [that] lead to devastating economic insecurity.”

Both NCTE and the Task Force urge that “Employment should be based on one’s skills and ability to perform a job. No one deserves to be unemployed or fired because of their gender identity or expression.”

No date has been given for the official survey release. For more information on the preliminary survey, go online to TransEquality.org.

Renee Baker is a transgender diversity consultant and can be found online at GenderPower.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.