Archive for the 'civil rights' Category

Another stupid argument against marriage equality – and adoption?

Like others, I’m kind of excited about the prospect of same-sex marriage being legalized in New York state, despite my ambivalence around marriage in general and my disagreement with the centrality of same-sex marriage to the mainstream gay rights movement. So I was happy to read that the New York State Assembly approved the same-sex marriage bill yesterday. But in reading the Reuters article, I read yet another idiotic argument against same-sex marriage that offended me more deeply than usual, not only as a queer person but also as an adopted person:

Rev. Duane Motley, a Christian lobbyist, said in Albany on Wednesday that legalizing gay marriage would “undermine the stability of our society” because he said a child of a gay couple could only have one biological parent.

Um, WTF? First off, I don’t know whether Motley was misquoted or partially quoted by the article’s author, because I can’t imagine that anyone would be so stupid as to assert that a child of a gay couple would actually only have one biological parent. Until science makes greater leaps than it has so far, every human that is born will have two biological parents.

Whether they have both biological parents in their lives is another matter, of course, and I’m assuming that’s what Motley is ineptly referring to as a possible destroyer of the fabric of our society. However, same-sex marriage is hardly the first or only cause of one or both biological parents being absent from a person’s life. As a happy adoptee of two wonderful non-biological parents, I can personally assure Motley that the absence of my biological parents in my early life didn’t cause me any damage. (Well, unless he’d count my queerness, leftist politics, and assorted other perversions as damage done by only having one biological parent.)

Perhaps we’ll soon see Motley and his fellow “Christian lobbyist” fighting against adoption, child rearing by non-parental family members, and all forms of single parenthood (including parenting by widows or widowers) for fear that these scenarios will undermine the stability of our society!

Can the LGBT community spare some outrage for Duanna Johnson?

UPDATE: The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has set up a fund for Duanna Johnson’s funeral expenses that you can donate to via PayPal. This seems to be the most legitimate and secure way of donating. Any funds collected above the cost of the funeral will go to Johnson’s family. Please donate if and what you can, and do it soon. A special request to everyone (like me) who donated to the No On Prop 8 campaign: try to match that donation, or even just half of it if you can’t manage the whole thing right now. We can get this raised fast if we all commit to that.

UPDATE 2 (11/14/08 7:46 EST): TTPC reports that they have received $4745 in donations for Duanna’s family. “The response has been tremendous. We have received around 165 donations from as far away as Japan. Duanna’s family will be thrilled. Thank you world!” I echo their thanks to everyone who donated and helped spread the word today. I wish we hadn’t had to raise this money in the first place, but I’m glad that we did. While no amount of money can undo the tragedy of their loss, at least we can help ease their financial burden and give them one less worry as they grieve. (end update)

Duanna Johnson On February 12, 2008, Duanna Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis police officer after she refused to respond when the officer called her “he-she” and “faggot.” That night, Johnson became yet another of the countless trans women of color to be targeted and brutalized by police in this country. Two officers were fired after the attack; neither was prosecuted.

Just to be trans, just to be a woman, just to be a person of color in this country is enough to drastically increase one’s exposure to hatred and violence; when oppressions overlap, violence tends to multiply.

This past Sunday, Duanna Johnson was found murdered on the streets of Memphis. I didn’t hear about this until today, when I read a post on my friend Dean’s blog. When I read the awful news, I felt heartsick in a way that has become all too familiar and all too frequent.

After reading Dean’s post today, I was surprised to find out that Johnson was murdered nearly three days ago already and that I hadn’t heard about this until today. I know that I haven’t been very good at keeping up with the news or the blogosphere these past few days. But I can’t help but notice that despite this relative disconnection, I’ve read and heard no shortage of commentary, protest, and outrage about Proposition 8.

A Google News search for “Duanna Johnson” yields 50 results, many syndicated and therefore redundant. Much of the coverage is tainted by the transphobia and victim-blaming that tends to inflect media coverage of violence against trans women of color (like this Associated Press article). A search for “Proposition 8″? 18,085 results – 354.6 times more than for Duanna Johnson.

The skew in the blogosphere is less severe but still pronounced. A Google BlogSearch for Duanna Johnson: 2,300 results. For Prop 8? 240,839, or 100 times more.

Don’t think I’m being deliberately unrealistic or dismissive here. I don’t deny that the passage of Proposition 8 is harmful to the LGBT community and bears much anger, attention, and agitation. I understand the difference in magnitude of the number lives directly affected by the passage of Proposition 8 versus the number of lives directly affected by Duanna Johnson’s murder. I get that.

Yet still, the disparity in attention is damn stark. And that skew isn’t limited to this particular incident; it is a skew that is present in the collective coverage of and attention paid to all violence against trans women of color. And it is a skew that reflects what the GLb(t) mainstream chosen to prioritize with time, energy, and resources, and what it has chosen to address primarily with lip service and leftovers. An apt example of this: the Prop 8 op-ed written by Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese communicates more anger, more commitment to an enduring fight for justice, more of a sense of giving a damn than his brief, comparatively tepid statement in HRC press release on Duanna Johnson’s death.

There is a call out for people to donate money to help Johnson’s mother pay her funeral expenses, which are right now expected to total $1195. Unfortunately, there is some confusion about how to make donations and concern about whether the funeral home is doing right by Mrs. Skinner. I advise folks who wish to donate to use caution; I hope that a clearer, more secure way of donating is established soon. UPDATE: It’s been established.

But when it is possible to make donations safely, I hope that many people donate whatever they can. $1195 is a relatively small amount to raise. Given that the No On Prop 8 campaign was able to raise $37.6 million – or 31,464 times the cost of Duanna Johnson’s funeral – raising this far smaller amount should be no problem for our community. Right?

Cross-posted at Feministe and Racialicious

Voter suppression has already begun

This morning’s headlines on Democracy Now! included reports of people having problems at the polls during the early voting process that has already begun in many states. Two weeks out from Election Day and we’re already hearing this – what does this bode for November 4? The DN! reports include claims from voters in West Virginia that the touchscreen machines they used changed their votes from Obama to McCain, allegations from Democratic Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio that the Republican Party is trying to scare newly registered voters by challenging the status of almost 200,000 new registrations, and this most chilling report from North Carolina (a contested state that has been swinging towards Obama):

McCain Supporters Harass Obama Voters in North Carolina

In North Carolina, over 200,000 residents have already cast ballots in early voting. In Fayetteville, a group of John McCain supporters heckled and harassed a group of mostly black supporters of Barack Obama as they voted on Sunday. The Washington Times reported the McCain backers shouted and mocked the voters as they walked into the voting place. The website Facing South reports the McCain supporters likely broke the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits anyone from intimidating or threatening a person for voting or attempting to vote. On that same day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thirty people reported having their tires slashed after attending an Obama rally.

UPDATE: Christina Bellantoni provides video of the hecklers and the heckled in NC on the Huffington Post.

And although it’s not an example of direct voter suppression per se, DN!’s next headline is inextricably linked to Republican efforts to cast aspersion on the newfound empowerment of newly registered, formerly disproportionately disenfranchised voters, many of whom have been registered by ACORN and similar organizations:

Obama Campaign Volunteer Assaulted in Wisconsin

In Caledonia, Wisconsin, a fifty-eight-year-old Obama campaign volunteer was assaulted on Saturday while canvasing. Nancy Takehara was attacked by a disgruntled homeowner who accused her of being connected to the community organizing group ACORN. Takehara said, “He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming.” Takehara said she was not seriously injured.

Between reports like that and the vile, racially-charged garbage that’s been coming out of the McCain camp and his supporters of late, it really does feel like we’ve been forcefully transported back to a darker time in American history. Or, more accurately, the venom and bile that’s been mostly simmering under the surface all along is boiling up thanks to McCain, Palin, and their surrogates stoking the flames.

It’s getting scarier and scarier out there. And we’ll all have to be that much more vigilant and vociferous in our defense of everyone’s right to cast their vote and have it properly counted – no matter who they are or who they’re voting for, and no matter the color of their skin or their chosen candidate’s.

Cross-posted at Feminste

Hip hop activists attacked and arrested for daring to hold the NYPD accountable

Members of Rebel Diaz being arrested

Sometimes there’s too much to blog and far too little time. I’ve been wanting to blog about this since I heard about it last week, but Vivir Latino and illvox and Racewire and a bunch of other folks have gotten to it already so I’ll refer to them. From VivirLatino:

Last Thursday, independent, radical, revolutionary, activist Hip Hoppers Rodstarz and G1, two brothers known musically and in the movement as Rebel Diaz [along with MC/vocalist La Tere], were walking in the Bronx, NYC when they witnessed an all too common occurrence. Police officers from the 41st Precinct were in the middle of a sting against street vendors, aggressively confiscating the fruit and vegetables of a street vendor. What happened next was a mix of the sadly uncommon and the everyday threat that is faced in many of our communities. Rodstarz and G1 didn’t walk by quickly or quietly, watching their extended community being attacked. They approached the officers to ask why the vendor was being treated in that manner and asked for their badge numbers. The police, who aren’t exactly keen on the idea of being monitored by the very same community they allegedly serve, turned their aggressions on the duo. After beating them and arresting them in front of over a dozen witnesses, they were taken to the 41st Precinct.

Within hours, over 75 friends, community members and activists gathered outside the precinct (1035 Longwood Avenue at Southern Blvd.) to sing, chant, drum and march for over 4 hours, demanding that all charges be dropped and that Rodstarz and G1 be immediately released.

The following morning more than 25 people gathered at the Bronx County Criminal Court for their arraignment. The men are charged with two misdemeanors: obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, and are scheduled for court on September 3rd, 2008.

Check out video of the arrests and the subsequent protests.

Obstruction of justice and resisting arrest should really be renamed the Activist Charges, since they seem to be what all of us are threatened with whenever we’re arrested for either protesting or observing the cops and holding them accountable for their actions. The latter seems to particularly piss the cops off. I know this from personal experience, having been pepper sprayed along with other community members and seeing two friends being violently arrested for doing just that – questioning police actions, asking for badge numbers, taking pictures of their activity. All the charges against the two people arrested were dropped. Three members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s Cop Watch were arrested while videotaping an arrest in Brooklyn in 2005. All charges against them were later dropped. When the cops went on a bike-confiscating frenzy in the East Village last summer, two people who dared to observe and question them were arrested. It happens over and over again.

Why? Because, as they’ve demonstrated on countless occasions, the NYPD has zero interest in being held accountable by the communities that they purportedly serve. In fact, even the threat of accountability seems to make them angry. So in response to peaceful observation and requests for badge numbers, they respond with rage, with violence, with threats, and ultimately with arrests on trumped up charges that are almost always dropped. It’s not about arresting people who are actually doing anything wrong – after all, observing the police is not officially a crime, though I’m sure they wish it were. No, they do it to scare us, make us too scared of arrest or other retaliation to hold them accountable.

And you know what? Sometimes their fear tactics work. Getting arrested is fucking scary, and even just getting messed with or threatened by the cops is daunting. Especially when I’m alone, I get nervous to stop and watch the cops. Not even question them, not even take pictures, and certainly not even anything close to intervening – I get scared of standing nearby and looking at them. And that fear pisses me off. When I’m with someone else, it’s easier; with a group, even easier. The fear makes sense – cops and the power they wield are scary – but we can’t let it stop us from practicing our civil rights and our civic duties in holding them accountable.

Another important issue raised by this incident: illvox posted a press release from VAMOS Unidos (Vendedoras Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad — Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity) expressing solidarity and thanks to Rodstarz and G1. The release gives some background on the NYPD’s frequently awful treatment of street vendors, often low-income folks, people of color, and immigrants – all vulnerable populations:

Street vendors experience state repression day to day as they deal with arrests, crippling fines, confiscations, beatings, and abusive treatment by the NYPD. Members of VAMOS Unidos are often incarcerated for 1-3 days, severely beaten, victims of theft by the NYPD, and endure humiliating treatment. Marcela, a flower vendor in the Bronx for seven years, was violently forced to the ground as the police yelled xenophobic comments. She was handcuffed and placed against her cart as police gave her merchandise away. She was then taken to jail where she was kept all day.

It’s important to remember that even while it might be scary for some of us to observe the police and hold them accountable, there are often people who are even more vulnerable than us; even if it’s scary, we have to do what we can to stand in solidarity with them. Big ups to Rodstarz and G1 for doing that.

Rinku Sen on Same-Sex Marriage and Communities of Color

Qualms about the marriage equality movement aside, I appreciated this perspective from Rinku Sen at Racewire.

Rather than fixating on communities of color as though we’re the last of the homophobic holdouts, we should be thinking of ways to bring people together, socially and culturally, across sexual lines.

Very true.

And yeah, qualms aside again, the images of these couples getting married were thoroughly heartwarming, especially the couple in Fresno!

Why this queer isn’t celebrating

I’ll admit it: I couldn’t help but get a bit happy when I heard that California was legalizing same-sex marriage. And today, when I heard about the first couples in line to enjoy their new rights, couples like Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin who got married again after their 2004 marriage was declared invalid, my heart was kinda warmed. After all, politics aside, it’s beautiful to see people celebrate and commemorate their love, out in the open, and with a long-awaited sense of equality and societal recognition. It’s hard for me not to get a little bit sentimental and proud in the most rainbow-flag-waving sense of the word.

But it didn’t take long for that warmth to turn chill and that pride to shrivel up completely when I read this article from the LA Times:

The gay and lesbian couples who packed a Hollywood auditorium last week had come seeking information about California’s new marriage policies. But they also got some unsolicited advice.

Be aware.

Images from gay weddings, said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, could be used by opponents in a campaign designed to convince California voters that gays and lesbians should not have the right to marry. Those getting married, she cautioned, should never lose sight of what they might be supplying the other side.

Sitting close to his husband-to-be in the audience, hairstylist Kendall Hamilton nodded and said he knew just what she meant. No “guys showing up in gowns,” he said.

The article goes on to discuss how “proponents of same-sex marriage are now taking care to emphasize mainstream unions.”

Many of the … early weddings around the state were also of long-term couples who could have been selected by central casting to appear both nonthreatening and mainstream.

And as the SF Gate reports, even the gay-marriage-themed window displays are being engineered to be as normative as possible:

In window one: two men on a wedding cake, one in a $6,000 Brioni tuxedo, the other in a $4,000 Belvest tux.

In window two: two women, one in a black Roberto Cavalli skirt tuxedo ($3,655) and the other in a $1,900 Catherine Regehr white dress.

“Describe them as straightforward,” [San Francisco clothier Wilkes] Bashford said. “I definitely did not want them to be camp.”

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community.

Continue reading ‘Why this queer isn’t celebrating’

no justice. none.

Reactions outside of the courthouse
Reactions outside of the courthouse. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The cops who murdered Sean Bell have been acquitted of all charges. I would say that it’s unbelievable, but it’s not. It’s all too believable, but no less shocking and appalling.

There may be civil, federal or departmental charges filed against the cops, and those cases may wind up approximating some sort of justice. But in truth, justice could never be served in this case, even if these officers had been convicted on all charges. Nothing could possibly make up for another life taken by the NYPD.

A protest has been organized by the People’s Justice coalition for 5:30pm today at the Queens district attorney’s office. I will probably get my ass out there (ETA: didn’t make it) but admit that I am nervous about it; hopefully the cops will be held in check because of the nature of the case and the protests, but one never knows. We can’t let the police scare us into silence and submission, but be careful, folks.

Time to switch to AMD processors?

This is a little old and has probably made the round of the blogs already (if I could finally start keeping up with the blogosphere already, I’d know!) But being both a techie and an angry brown butch, I couldn’t possibly let this one slide without posting it.

Racist Intel Ad

Those runners on their mark look a whole lot like rows of faceless, muscular Black men bowing down before a professional-looking white dude, who is apparently going to “maximize the power” of his employees with them. And yet somehow no one at Intel noticed that this ad is majorly fucked up until, well, everyone else noticed. The wide-reaching outcry prompted Intel to pull the ad and offer up a rather weak apology: “We made a bad mistake … this ad of using African-American sprinters did not deliver our intended message and in fact proved to be culturally insensitive and insulting.”

Now, cases of multi-million dollar corporations doing stupid, racist things are a dime a dozen, but an interesting point is being made and getting attention on the heels of this gaffe. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is using the case to draw attention to Intel’s support for a California ballot initiative that they claim will “eliminate class action lawsuits over civil rights issues.” I haven’t managed to find out much more about the initiative besides the info including in the article linked to above and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights’ website, but I’d be willing to wager that any lobbying group whose board member organizations include the rogue’s gallery of mega-corporations listed in this PDF from their website isn’t looking out for the common man first. It’s a good reminder that, while the racism and classism of large corporations occasionally gets revealed through highly-publicized advertising gaffes like this one, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes as well.

ACTION ALERT: Pack the Courts tomorrow in support of Mariah Lopez

In March of this year, I posted about Mariah Lopez, a young Latina trans woman whose case against the City of New York – as well as her very identity and existence – were being vilified in the New York Post. I’m writing about Mariah again because, almost unbelievably, she has been targeted and seriously abused by the NYC police. Mariah Lopez has a long history of being targeted by the police, as do many trans people, especially trans women of color, in NYC. Unlike most, though, her abuse has been repeatedly documented by Amnesty International as part of their Stonewalled report on police violence against LGBT communities. You know, wouldn’t you think that someone whose abuse at the hands of the police has been so highly publicized and protested would maybe not be so attractive a target to the NYPD? A cynical thought, perhaps, or maybe the police really just don’t care what’s said about them, seeing as they continue to get away with the constant abuse of Mariah, other trans women of color, and other disenfranchised and therefore vulnerable people.

Mariah Lopez needs our support, the support of any New Yorker who gives a damn that someone has been not only arrested under apparently dubious circumstances (she was at the police station filing a complaint about getting assaulted in the West Village), but also degraded, abused, harassed and assaulted while in custody. And even if she had done something that “justified” her arrest, there can be no justification for the transphobic abuse that she’s suffered since. I think that’s another important note here: people who are held in police custody, whether justifiably or not, are often stripped of their rights and abused, amounting to extrajudicial cruel and unusual punishment. This must be stopped, not only for Mariah, but for everyone unlucky enough to find themselves at the mercy of an incredibly corrupt system.

***

PACK THE COURTS IN SUPPORT OF MARIAH LOPEZ

Early in the morning on July 17, Mariah Lopez, a young Latina transgender woman and community activist, got arrested after she went to the police department to file a complaint about getting beaten up in the West Village. She has been in jail since then, held on bail ($1.500) that she cannot afford to pay.

Since she has been in jail, we have had reports that:

  • She was first taken to a women’s jail, then ordered to drop her pants to show her genitals so they could decide if she belonged there. When she refused a ‘genital check,’ she was moved to a hospital and then lock-in (isolation) in a men’s jail.
  • She had her clothing, bra, and underwear withheld from her.
  • A male prisoner sexually harassed and assaulted her.
  • An officer assaulted her.

Mariah’s lawyer got her case moved up and is making an argument about her bail this Tuesday. She has asked that as many people as possible come to court because a strong showing of community support will help her argument. It also means a lot to Mariah to know that there are people on the outside who care about what’s happening to her.

The details:
Tuesday, August 7
Criminal Court, 100 Centre St., Part B on the fourth floor (all the way to the right)
The time is never sure, but it will probably in the late morning—be there by 10:30!

Please come if you can—your presence will increase the chances that Mariah will get out of jail and cut short the abuse she’s facing there!

NYC Queer and Trans Youth of Color – Know Your Rights!

FIERCE! is offering an awesome training (details below) at their office this Friday. While FIERCE! is an organization for queer and trans youth of color, their FIERCE Friday events (like this one) are open to all allies. Trainings like these are important because the cops most definitely take advantage of folks not knowing their rights when it comes to dealing with the police. It’s hard to know how to deal with a cop, especially when you already feel targeted and vulnerable because of your age, your race, your sexuality, your gender, your class. Hopefully this training will help folks understand what rights they do have in such situations (not to say that some cops won’t completely disregard those rights anyway, but still.)

Queer and Trans Youth of Color: Do You Know How to Talk to the Cops When They Start Talking to YOU?

No, really? Do you?

You have the right to learn your rights when dealing with encounters with police. FIERCE is offering KNOW YOUR RIGHTS training and self-defense workshop on FRIDAY the 27th

Where: FIERCE Office 147 W. 24th Street. 6th Floor;(Right by Paws on Chelsea)
Take the F/1/C/E to 23rd street.

When: FIERCE FRIDAY!!! July 27th from 600-800pm

Allies Welcome

More info: www.fiercenyc.org 646-336-6789 x203