by Zackary Drucker
Nov 29 2018
I’m so proud of you” were the first words Judy Bowen spoke to me, affirming me before we even got to names. We met at the The LGBT Community Center in New York, where we were both being filmed for a documentary. I was captivated by her dynamism and self-effacing beauty as she unravelled stories about life on Christopher Street, the home of the Stonewall Inn, in the 60s, and later in Queens as a (mostly) non-disclosing trans woman. When telling stories, Judy has an exciting tendency to spontaneously change directions mid-stream, and in listening, I felt that I was always being transported somewhere unexpected.
Judy was raised in the South in a religious home, and worked as a reporter for an evangelical newspaper. She was unable to conceal her transgender identity in her youth, and moved to New York after witnessing racist and transphobic violence in Knoxville. In New York, Bowen lived in Greenwich Village before the Stonewall riots, and became an organizer and community activist. In the years following the riots, she started two transgender support organizations in New York City. Today, at 74, she is a active member of The Center in Las Vegas, which supports the needs of LGBTQ people, as well as a champion of the Safety Dorm for transgender individuals at The Salvation Army, which houses and provides professional support for homeless transgender people in Las Vegas.
Ms. Bowen’s story is one of the many remarkable and unique journeys of a 20th century trans pioneer, who survived by always following her instincts and, when necessary, blending seamlessly into cis society. “You should have the right to be who you are and not be ashamed of it,” she landed on in our interview. Indeed, trans people’s lives are shaped by the shame of difference—of existing on the fringes of dominant culture, or outside of it all together. Judy exclaiming her pride in me, and our collective pride as a community, feels like magic conjured in a vacuum, against all odds.
ZACKARY DRUCKER: How did you find your way to a trans identity, into your true self?
UDY BOWEN: I was always me. I can never, never not remember being me mentally. But of course, physically, I was not happy with myself. I grew up in a religious environment in Virginia and Tennessee —church three times a week—and you know what? I think it was because of my beliefs in a greater spirit that I’m here today. My whole progression is basically a tribute to my faith, and believing in myself. Of course I had to be very careful, because those were not good times, it still isn’t good times. I had a lot of horrific things happen to me because I’m me, but I somehow overcame it.
What were some of those obstacles for you?
Well, in high school, I had to go to boy’s phys-ed, and I hated it. So eventually, because I had asthma, I was able to get a doctor’s permit to get out of it. And what’s really, really wonderful is a lot of my high school and college friends are now friends with me on Facebook! It’s kind of nice, they come to Vegas and they visit me sometimes. And they’re proud of the fact that I did progress, and are kind of shocked that I’m so active. I’ll be 75 in September.
Some of my friends in high school went on to be college professors and famous musicians. But my whole being was geared towards community service. Of course, you know, there was Stonewall—a whole era of nightclubs—and my focus then was making lots of money.
When I was like 22 years old, I started buying real estate. Most all the clubs I worked in were mafia [owned], and I had to be very careful, but one of my dear friends, who was an attorney, he finally told me one day, “You’ve got to get out of here. The FBI’s closing in. You’re going to be called to FBI headquarters because you’ve been around these people for a long time.” So he suggested that I go into some other kind of business, so I found a restaurant and catering business, which I purchased for very little money.
Is this the return of the Thought Police?
By Phyllis Chesler
December 12, 2018
In 1984, George Orwell wrote: “The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought. When people ‘disappear’ no one is allowed to mention it, no one is mourned, no one person is important, only the Party and Big Brother are important.”
Today, Orwell’s Thought Police are, rather ominously, everywhere. There is a definite intellectual chill in the air. Reason and civility are all but gone in the public square. In its place, we have insults, shaming, censorship and self-censorship that is meant to “pass” for thought. Hotly internalized propaganda rules the day online. We have met Big Brother, and he is us.
In my view, people seem to develop some kind of psychoanalytic transference to their Listserv groups. In a way, the connection is an umbilical one. The darker side of this connection isn’t hard to find. Internet Listserv groups bully and purge dissident members—this has happened to me and to many others. Sometimes, a small group of people (teenage “mean girls” and their mothers, academics, journalists,) attack the same person over and over again, day after day, for months, even for years. Meanwhile, hundreds of onlookers remain silent. No one stops the attacks or calls for a more civilized fight.
Unlike in-person mobs, attackers on social media attack and instantly disappear. Often, people attack one by one, one after the other, in sequence, even when there are hundreds of them. As a result, individuals in cyberspace may continue to see themselves as individuals rather than as members of a lynch mob or as contributing to an atmosphere in which people are systematically demoralized or silenced.
This New Intolerance and the New Censorship that online mobs zealously enforce is narrowly focused, in ways that are hard to miss when you are a member of a targeted group. In my experience, being the object of mob opprobrium has everything to do with where one “stands” on ethnic bigotry towards the Jewish people, on Israel/Palestine, and on Islam. Meanwhile, Sunni-Shia fratricide, African genocides, worldwide sexual slavery, war-zone atrocities, the persecution of dissidents and infidels in the Islamic world go largely unremarked upon. This is by design. The only events that matter are those that might feed pathological obsessions with the Jews.
Once you’ve taken the “wrong” stand on Israel or Islam, your reputation precedes you. No matter what other subjects you may be talking or writing about, (gardening, cooking, grandchildren, feminism, the Crimean War), these positions will forever haunt you and block your path. This too is by design; it is a deliberate strategy to inhibit argument and free thought by directing the mob to attack those who dare to step out of line. This is why so few people take such stands. They can clearly see what happens to those who do.
Last week, I was being interviewed by a genuine, not a faux, feminist, who praised my work but then said: “Yes, but now I must ask you to explain your position on Israel.” Israel had nothing to do with our conversation, but it was now an important subject of the interview. What I was expected to “explain” was my failure to conform to a party-line norm. Until I did so, nothing I said on any other topic could legitimately be heard or praised.
About a month ago, the editor of a left-wing magazine said that the only reviewers he could find for my new book, A Politically Incorrect Feminist, insisted on using my memoir of feminism in New York City in the 1960s and ’70s as an opportunity to challenge my position on Israel/Palestine.
“But I don’t write about it in this book,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter. I cannot get anyone to review you without taking this into account.”
December 5, 2018
In August, a researcher at Brown University published flawed research about so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” a concept that suggests that young people may be coming out as trans due to “social and peer contagion” and that has not been recognized by any mainstream medical organization. Among other flaws, the study was widely criticized for surveying only parents found on anti-trans parent communities rather than transgender people themselves, and Brown and the academic journal that published the study have since pledged to re-evaluate the work. Right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups responded by calling the reassessment “academic censorship” and saying Brown and the journal had caved to “transgender activism.”
A Brown University researcher published a study on so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” that suggested teenagers were identifying as trans due to “social and peer contagion.” In August, Brown University researcher Dr. Lisa Littman published a study on so-called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) in the online journal PLOS ONE. The study suggested that transgender youth are experiencing a new type of “rapid” gender dysphoria due to social influences, asserting that both multiple peers in pre-existing friend groups coming out as transgender and “increased exposure to social media/internet preceding a child’s announcement of a transgender identity” raise “the possibility of social and peer contagion.” From PLOS ONE (citations removed):
The description of cluster outbreaks of gender dysphoria occurring in pre-existing groups of friends and increased exposure to social media/internet preceding a child’s announcement of a transgender identity raises the possibility of social and peer contagion. Social contagion is the spread of affect or behaviors through a population. Peer contagion, in particular, is the process where an individual and peer mutually influence each other in a way that promotes emotions and behaviors that can potentially undermine their own development or harm others.
Littman’s study surveyed the parents of transgender people ages 11-27, circulating the survey on three websites: 4thwavenow.com, transgendertrend.com, and youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org. Those websites are online communities primarily for parents of transgender people who deny their children’s identities, and the study acknowledged that the survey was specifically targeted to “websites where parents and professionals had been observed to describe rapid onset of gender dysphoria.” In fact, according to trans researcher Julia Serano, the phrase “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” and accompanying acronym originated on those very websites in July 2016, before Littman’s study or abstract were released. The term and acronym are frequently used by parents who do not accept their children’s trans identities; there is even a website called parentsofrogdkids.com. Prior to releasing her full study, Littman published an abstract in the Journal of Adolescent Health in February 2017 describing supposed parental experiences with ROGD.
Gender dysphoria is an established diagnosis involving “a difference between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, and significant distress or problems functioning.” The American Psychiatric Association recommends affirming the gender expression of people with gender dysphoria, including through “counseling, cross-sex hormones, puberty suppression and gender reassignment surgery” as well as social transitions not involving medical treatments.
PLOS ONE is seeking “further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses” after receiving complaints. On August 27, PLOS ONE announced that it would re-evaluate Littman’s study due to “concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology.” Slate’s Alex Barasch noted that “re-evaluating a study’s content and methodology doesn’t stymie the scientific process; it’s a natural and necessary extension of it.” From PLOS ONE’s announcement:
PLOS ONE is aware of the reader concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology. We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy and [Committee on Publication Ethics] guidelines. As part of our follow up we will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses. We will provide a further update once we have completed our assessment and discussions.
Brown University removed a news article about the study after receiving complaints about Littman’s research and its methodology. After experts and advocates pointed out several flaws in the study’s methodology and PLOS ONE announced its own re-evaluation, “Brown determined that removing the article from news distribution is the most responsible course of action.” The next day, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health issued a letter confirming that the article had been removed “because of concerns about research methodology,” acknowledging concerns that the flawed study’s conclusions could harm the transgender community, and reiterating the university’s commitment to academic freedom and “the value of rigorous debate informed by research.” On September 5, the university released an expanded statement, proclaiming, “Brown does not shy away from controversial research.” The statement claimed that the article’s removal from the university’s news site was “not about academic freedom,” but rather “about academic standards,” noting that “academic freedom and inclusion are not mutually exclusive.”
By Graham Moomkaw Richmond Times-Dispatch
Dec 6, 2018
WEST POINT — A Virginia high school teacher was fired Thursday for refusing to use a transgender student’s new pronouns, a case believed to be the first of its kind in the state.
After a four-hour hearing, the West Point School Board voted 5-0 to terminate Peter Vlaming, a French teacher at West Point High School who resisted administrators’ orders to use male pronouns to refer to a ninth-grade student who had undergone a gender transition. The board met in closed session for nearly an hour before the vote.
Like a similar transgender rights case in nearby Gloucester County that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Vlaming’s situation could present a novel legal case as public bodies continue to grapple with how to reconcile anti-discrimination policies with the rights of religious employees.
The high school in West Point, a town in King William County about an hour east of Richmond, has about 265 students.
Vlaming, 47, who had taught at the school for almost seven years after spending more than a decade in France, told his superiors his Christian faith prevented him from using male pronouns for a student he saw as female.
The student’s family informed the school system of the transition over the summer. Vlaming said he had the student in class the year before when the student identified as female.
Vlaming agreed to use the student’s new, male name. But he tried to avoid using any pronouns — he or him, and she or her — when referring to the student. The student said that made him feel uncomfortable and singled out.
Administrators sided with the boy, telling Vlaming he could not treat his transgender pupil differently than he treats others.
“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.”
School administrators recommended that Vlaming be fired, saying he had violated the school system’s nondiscrimination and harassment policies.
“Does this board expect its employees to follow its policies or not?” said attorney Stacy Haney, who was representing the school district.
The nondiscrimination policies were updated a year ago to include protections for gender identity, but Vlaming’s lawyer, Shawn Voyles, said there was no specific guidance on the use of gender pronouns.
Even as a public employee, Voyles said, Vlaming has constitutional rights of his own.
“One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience,” Voyles said.
11/19/2018: “The founder of the Women’s March is calling for the movement’s current co-chairs to step down for allowing bigotry into their mission.”
11/12/2018: “The think tank for the German social democratic party withdrew its Human Rights Award to the Women’s March USA on Thursday: ‘We believe that the Women’s March USA does not meet the criteria of this award, as its organizers have repeatedly attracted attention through antisemitic statements, the trivialization of antisemitism and the exclusion of Zionists and Jews since Women’s March USA establishment in 2017. Women’s March USA does not constitute an inclusive alliance.’”
11/09/2018: Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing are both no longer supporting the Women’s March due to its anti-Semitic leadership.
6/11/2018: Tamika Mallory has been kicked out of a major social policy conference in Australia after her recent statements which called the creation of the State of Israel a “Human Rights crime.”
“Tamika Mallory’s enthusiastic public praise for Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite … makes her a dubious choice to speak about inclusion and social justice,” he said.
5/15/2018: Tamika Mallory has now joined Linda Sarsour in defending terrorist group Hamas and their deadly use of human shields. When responding to a tweet which said, “It takes a special kind of evil to sacrifice your people for the camera,” she tweeted: “Or bravery! Depends on how you look at it!”
4/27/2018: Due to the attacks by Women’s March leaders below, ADL has been bullied into no longer leading the Starbucks anti-bias training. NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, and Demos are now the only organizations leading the training.
4/18/2018: New anti-Semitic attacks by Women’s March leaders! Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour are now attacking the Anti-Defamation League (an international Jewish non-governmental organization) with the following false statements, continuing to spread their anti-Semitic hate far and wide:
“The ADL is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people. This is a sign they are tone deaf and not committed to addressing the concern of black folks. Be clear about what’s happening here!” – @tamikadmallory
“Starbucks almost had me on their anti-bias training for all employees UNTIL I heard ADL was enlisted as one of the orgs to build their anti-bias curriculum. An anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian organization that peddles islamophobia and attacks America’s prominent Muslim orgs and activists and supports/sponsors US law enforcement agents to travel and get trained by Israeli military.” – Linda Sarsour via Facebook
“I don’t know which one is more disappointing, @Starbucks bringing on @ADL_National or @ADL_National agreeing to do the anti-bias training when this directly impacts black folks! There R great black organizations & people who can conduct this training! @ADL_National not good!” – @msladyjustice1 (Carmen Perez)
We demand that all sponsors of Women’s March Inc. remove their sponsorship until the organization’s current leadership is replaced by leaders who are not affiliated with and do not defend those associated with any organization classified as a hate group. Sponsors and/or partners include Planned Parenthood, SPLC, ACLU, and Emily’s List.
Many feminists refused to join the Women’s March because they did not feel comfortable with the current leadership. Now, Women’s March participants also no longer feel represented by this organization due to the behavior of its current leadership. We, as supporters of women’s rights, donated to this organization, promoted it, and went on to march once again on January 20, 2018.
We REFUSE to march behind leaders who support an open anti-Semite.
We REFUSE to march behind leaders who defend those affiliated with an open anti-Semite.
We DEMAND new leadership.
“That the group refuses to be accountable for a high-level alliance with an open anti-Semite disqualifies it from ranking among today’s movements for social justice.”
“A liberation ideology that rests on the demonization of other marginalized groups should be, and is, unacceptable to most contemporary activist movements….Mallory’s unwillingness to see Farrakhan for what he is will surely cost the entire Women’s March organization its credibility among many Jewish people, LGBTQ people, and those who see themselves as allies to those communities.”
“If the Women’s March continues to count [Mallory] as a leader, the organization deserves to fail.”
Please sign this petition & reach out to any of these 550 organizations and insist that they terminate their sponsorship of the Women’s March, Inc. until new leadership is in place.
These sponsors include:
Natural Resource Defense Council
American Federation of Teachers
Human Rights Campaign
Peace is Loud
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
Southern Poverty Law Center
On November 17, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario passed a resolution for debate at the next convention, according to which “gender identity theory” is “[a] highly controversial, unscientific ‘liberal ideology’; and, as such, that a Conservative government will remove the teaching and promotion of ‘gender identity theory’ from Ontario schools and its curriculum.”
Even though the resolution was later rejected by Premier Doug Ford, with little explanation and without clarifying whether he can block it from being debated at the next convention, the fact that the party proposed this debate invigorates proponents of the dangerous belief that trans people are delusional and shouldn’t have their gender identities recognized.
Moreover, they play into the myth that the growing inclusion of trans people is being pushed by ideologically-motivated activists with no regard for science, even though scientists are very much in favour of trans inclusion.
Gender identity didn’t emerge out of activist communities, but was coined in 1963 by psychiatrists Robert Stoller and Ralph Greenson, both professors of psychiatry at UCLA Medical School. The term allowed them to put into words the psychological experiences of trans people.
As explained in the Yogyakarta Principles, a leading international human rights document, gender identity refers to a deeply felt internal and individual experience of belonging to a gender, whether male, female or non-binary.
It was also the work of healthcare experts which led to the recognition of trans people as a protected group under anti-discrimination law in the late 90s.
The expert testimony of Dr. Richard Robinow, a psychiatrist for the Centre for Sexuality, Gender Identity and Reproductive Health, was integral to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal’s 1999 decision to establish the right to access to bathrooms according to gender identity.
As the Tribunal explained, society assumes that sex is binary and unchangeable, but the medical profession better recognizes the complexities of gender, which is neither binary nor fixed.
Recently, more than 2,600 scientists including nine Nobel laureates, signed a letter condemning the Donald Trump administration’s decision to redefined gender as biological and assigned at birth. According to the group of scientists, such a proposal is “fundamentally inconsistent not only with science, but also with ethical practices, human rights, and basic dignity.”
Many prestigious institutions have also opposed the proposed redefinition, including the journal “Nature”, writing in an editorial on behalf of the publication that, “Political attempts to pigeonhole people have nothing to do with science and everything to do with stripping away rights and recognition from those whose identity does not correspond with outdated ideas of sex and gender.”