Archive for the 'relationships' Category

After 20 years’ fight, expanded domestic violence law in NY state

Twenty years ago, Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein of Brooklyn introduced legislation that would expand protections for victims of domestic and intimate partner violence in New York state. After reintroducing similar legislation every year since, the Fair Access bill has finally passed in the state legislature and will soon be signed into law by Governor David Paterson. From the NY Times:

The new law would make it possible for people in dating relationships, heterosexual or gay, to seek protection from abusers in family court. As it stands, New York has one of the narrowest domestic violence laws in the country, allowing for civil protection orders only against spouses or former spouses, blood relations or the other parent of an abused person’s child …

“New York lagged behind all the other states in the Northeast in terms of addressing orders of protection,” the governor said. “We expanded the coverage to include what we would consider to be intimate relationships. They do not have to be sexual. Theoretically, it could be two people who are dating and haven’t had sex. They’ve come close, one refuses the other and then the stalking starts.”

Advocacy groups say that current law has deterred teenagers and gay men and women from seeking protection from abusers, because their only recourse is the criminal courts. Getting an order of protection in criminal court requires reporting abuse to the police, the arrest of the alleged abuser, and the cooperation of a prosecutor.

Civil protection orders in family court accept a lower burden of proof and do not require police involvement, and an accuser can be represented by a lawyer and not have to rely on a prosecutor.

This is an incredibly important development. My partner works as a lawyer representing victims of domestic and intimate partner violence and has frequently voiced her frustration and anger at the lack of recourse available to clients whose relationships with their abusers do not fall within the incredibly narrow requirements of the current law.

These limitations do work against many adults in heterosexual relationships – as it stands, the law only allows orders of protection “against spouses or former spouses, blood relations or the other parent of an abused person’s child,” excluding a vast swath of intimate and domestic relationships of any sexuality – but they also tend to severely limit the options for queer people and teenagers, as the NY Times article points out. Both populations are particularly vulnerable to domestic and intimate partner violence, both because of the lack of options and because of the lack of awareness that this violence happens all too frequently to teens and queer people.

A survey released on Tuesday reveals that “sixty-nine percent of teens who had sex by age 14 reported some type of abuse in a relationship, with slightly more than one-third saying they had been physically abused.” That is one horrifying statistic. And safer sex education isn’t the only thing that’s severely lacking; education about abuse in relationships is also missing, and the results are clearly damaging, as the CNN article states: “Despite the number of teens and tweens who say they have experienced abuse or say they know someone who has, only about 51 percent say they are aware of the warning signs of hurtful dating relationship.”

Intimate partner violence is also a serious problem in the LGBTQ community, but one that frequently goes overlooked and unreported. People tend to think of domestic violence as resulting from clearly gendered power dynamics, with abusers tending to be men and victims tending to be women. And though it is true that sexism and misogyny create a society in which this is true, that doesn’t mean that the gender dynamic is always the same in instances of domestic and intimate partner violence. We can’t pretend that same-sex relationships create instant equality, eliminate power dynamics and erase the chance of intimate partner violence. That only serves to limit the resources available to LGBTQ survivors of abuse and force them into silence and even shame. The LGBTQ community must recognize that this is a problem for us as much as it’s a problem for straight people, and we must respond as a community by acknowledging and condemning abuse and supporting survivors.

I hope that the passage of legislation like the Fair Access bill will help LGBTQ, youth, and other survivors of abuse not only by giving them more recourse for protection from their abusers but by also bringing attention to the problems of abuse in these communities. Tremendous thanks to Assemblywoman Weinstein and all of the domestic violence advocates, including my partner, who have fought this twenty year battle to win protections that should have existed as a no-brainer in the first place.

cross-posted at Feministe

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’

how the Radical Feminists™ made me mad today

A brief change from writing about gentrification (just wrote a response to Paul Brady’s comment in my last post that is basically a post in itself, with how long it got.)

Lately, I tend to avoid the blogs of self-proclaimed “radical feminists” (in which “radical” apparently means “more feminist/less brainwashed than thou). While we probably agree on a great deal of feminist thought and philosophy, the frequent posts and subsequent debates about how all pornography and BDSM are inherently patriarchal and evil, well, they just give me headaches, so I’d rather not partake.

Yet today, I wound up reading a lengthy indictment of polyamory over on Angry for a Reason. (I got there by following an old Technorati link; seems that there used to be a link to my blog on the blogroll there, but it has since been removed, probably because of my rampant misogyny and all.)

Lost Clown’s article, which was published in off our backs, begins thusly (after the requisite Dworkin quote and a definition of the word polyamory):

I believe in polyamory, but only in a society where everyone is equal, where everyone is allowed to be human. Polyamory, therefore, cannot exist in our society.

I have been a polyamorist all my life, before I had knowledge of the word polyamory. I am still a polyamorist today, but I cannot bring myself to practice anymore, because polyamory as a mutually fulfilling practice cannot exist in a society that does not see me as human. The rise of polyamory as the preferred lifestyle in the radical leftist/anarchist circles parallels the “sexual revolution” of the late ‘60s movement. This supposed sexual freedom for women is done not for our benefit, but for the benefit of men. The ultimate goal for these “radical” men is still the fuck.

The article continues as such, with nary a mention of, you know, polyamory that maybe doesn’t involve men and is not all about “the fuck.” Despite the grand pronouncements of polyamory at the beginning of the article, it looks only at heterosexual relationships (in which, of course, polyamory only serves the interest of the men involved, and women are stripped of all possible power and agency because, hey, the patriarchy exists!)

In the comments, I criticize Lost Clown for this narrow, heterosexist dismissal of polyamory; she responds by saying that obviously she was only talking about heterosexual polyamory, despite never explictly saying that anywhere in the article. Funny, it seems like when you say things like “polyamory cannot exist in our society,” without any qualifications, you might be read as talking about polyamory in general. Unless, somehow, one is supposed to understand that by polyamory, she means heterosexual polyamory – heterosexuality being the default, which is a thoroughly heterosexist approach. If you’re going to completely disregard non-heterosexual relationships, please own that and say it outright, instead of assuming that everyone will just understand what you meant. Or, better yet – just don’t disregard them.

I suppose the whole thing hits a rather personal sore spot for me, since I am polyamorous. And, while I do not think that polyamory is some perfect philosophy, or that it is easy to navigate without fucking up or hurting people, or that it is inherently better than chosen and intentional monogamy, I also think that chosen, intentional polyamory that is pursued in an open, honest, equitable and kind way is far preferable to societally-enforced, by-default monogamy. Everyone always seems to think that polyamorous relationships are destined to blow up in people’s faces, but hey, monogamy doesn’t seem to have that good a success rate, either.

Edited to add: Some dialogue continued in the comments of Lost Clown’s post, in which she wrote that she sees my point and that, if or when she re-edits her article, she will try to make it clear that she’s talking specifically about leftist men’s practices of polyamory. I still disagree with her on many points, but I appreciated her seeing my point and planned efforts to make the article more clear; I also do think that, though I probably wouldn’t take the same approach as her, it is important to discuss the problematic aspects of polyamory. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, it seems like there is clearly a lot of sexism going on in certain polyamorous communities. And one problematic thing I have seen is this faulty view of polyamory as sort of “more radical” than any other relationship configuration, privileging polyamory as an inherently more enlightened practice than monogamy. Um, no.