Archive for the 'trans/genderqueer' Category

Remembrance and Action

I continue to be moved and thankful for the well-purposed outrage and generosity that so many people showed last week in donating to Duanna Johnson’s funeral fund. With the help of everyone who organized the fundraising efforts and spread the word, including Dan Savage on the well read SLOG blog, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition was able to raise all that Duanna’s family needed and more. From the TTPC website:

In only four hours, nearly two hundred people responded by opening their hearts and their wallets. You donated over $5300 to the fund. We are still counting the final figures, but not only will this cover the costs of the funeral, but all of the remaining money is being given directly to the family to use as they see fit.

We realize your donations will not ease the pain of Duanna’s tragic loss to her family, but you have sent a message to the world that the lives of transgender people matter, and that we appreciate Duanna’s fight for respect.

Words cannot begin to express the heartfelt gratitude of all the members of TTPC who are touched by your incredble generosity.

I think that all of us who care about justice for trans people and for Duanna Johnson specifically owe a great deal of gratitude to TTPC. Thank you for your struggle and for supporting Duanna’s family.

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Since writing about Duanna on Friday, I’ve learned about the killings of two more trans women of color in recent months. Ebony Whitaker was murdered in July, also in Memphis. In August, Nakhia Williams was killed in Louisville, Kentucky. GLAAD and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance report that not only was there minimal news coverage of Williams’ murder, but the coverage that did happen was transphobic and disrespectful. And just this past Friday, Teish Cannon, a young Black trans woman living in Syracuse, NY, had her life cut short at the age of 22 because she was trans. Again, the media coverage has been both sparse and disrespectful, identifying Cannon as a man who was killed for being gay, not a woman who was killed for being trans.

(It took me maybe ten minutes to type that last paragraph. It made me feel nauseous. I’m not sure how I’m managing not to cry at this point.)

Teish Cannon, Nakhia Williams, Ebony Whitaker, Duanna Johnson, and too many other trans people who have been murdered because of their gender, will be remembered at ceremonies across the country this Thursday, November 20, the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. Gender Education and Advocacy describes the TDOR:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

There will be many vigils and other events across the country on Thursday; there is likely to be one near you if you live near a city or university. In NYC, some of these events include a vigil at Housing Works in East New York, Brooklyn and an event organized by the Gender Identity Project at the Center (thanks to the SRLP website for this info). There will also be a TDOR service this Wednesday at 12pm at the Union Theological Seminary, organized by their Queer Caucus (James Chapel, 121st and Broadway – thanks for the info, Lissa.)

Both the TDOR and the amazing fundraising effort for Duanna Johnson’s family are about remembering those trans people who have died because of hatred, prejudice, and institutionalized, systemic discrimination. Remembrance is important and necessary, but we cannot stop at remembrance. If we want this violence against trans people to stop, we must move beyond mourning our dead and take up the fight for the rights of our living.

Here are some ways to do that.

  • Read this post from the FTM Livejournal community for specific action points around Duanna Johnson’s murder.
  • Find out how to support the families and communities of Teish Cannon and Nakhia Williams, and spread the word. (If anyone has more information on this, please post in the comments here or send it my way so that I can repost it.)
  • Support organizations in your area that are fighting for the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people. Continue to support TTPC by donating to them directly. In NYC, as usual, I recommend SRLP, TransJustice at ALP, and FIERCE!, as well as the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing for homeless LGBT youth and is really struggling right now due to budget cuts. But there are many more in NYC and in cities and towns across the country. Find the ones near you and find out what kind of support they need. Donations are always good, but you can also volunteer, attend their events, spread the word about them, participate in protests and campaigns that they’re organizing – take your cues from them.
  • Take LGB(t) organizations and the mainstream LGB community to task around trans issues. Most of them can be doing so much more for trans people than they’re doing. Question the distribution of resources and attention so that these organizations and the larger community make the “T” in the LGBT more than just a meaningless display.
  • Hold the media accountable for their crappy and minimal coverage of trans issues. Write letters to the editor or even start letter-writing campaigns. If you work in the press, learn how to be respectful of trans people and encourage your colleagues to do the same. If you’re a blogger or involved in alternative media, work to fill the void left by the mainstream media with respectful, attentive coverage of trans issues. And don’t just wait until someone is murdered to cover trans issues – trans people are alive, they’re fighting, they’re having victories and successes and those need to be covered, too.
  • Come summer 2009, participate in the annual Trans Day of Action organized by TransJustice. I think it’s a good, action-focused complement to the Trans Day of Remembrance. Right now, most TDOA activities happen in NYC, but TransJustice encourages people across the country to “endorse this call to action and to build contingents to march in solidarity together.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list; these are just some ideas that I came up with. I invite people to add more ways to join the struggle and fight for the rights of trans folks in the comments. But please, do something.

Cross-posted at Feministe

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

Trans Day of Action – Friday, June 27, NYC

Trans Day of Action

When: Friday, June 27, 2008 – 3:00pm
Where: Starting rally at City Hall Park, Manhattan, NY

Tomorrow is the fourth annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice, organized by the TransJustice working group of the Audre Lorde Project. It’s the fourth year that I’ll be going and every year has been exciting, inspirational, and powerful. (You can read about the 2006 march here.) The Trans Day of Action is my favorite NYC Pride rally/march type event, because it’s both a powerful political demonstration and a strong celebration of our communities. It’s way more inclusive than the Dyke March in both the people it gathers together and the issues it addresses, and it’s obviously way more political than the very commercial and more mainstream big Pride march on Sunday. From the ALP website:

We call on our Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) community and on all of our allies from many movements to join us for the 4th Annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice. We as TGNC People of Color (POC) recognize the importance of working together alongside other movements to change the world we want to see. We live in a time when people of color, immigrants and poor people are disproportionately underserved, face higher levels of discrimination, heightened surveillance and experience increased violence at the hands of the state. It is critical that we unite and work together towards dismantling the transphobia, racism, classism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia and xenophobia that permeates throughout our movements for social justice. Let’s come together to let the world know that TGNC rights will not be undermined and together we will not be silenced!

I strongly encourage folks in the NYC area to come out and march with us. It’s open to all allies, so anyone can (and should) come.

cross-posted at Feministe

Donate money for Mariah Lopez’s bail

Gael Guevara, a collective member of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, is personally organizing efforts to raise money for Mariah Lopez’s bail (see the original story and more recent update.) Note that this is a personal effort and not one being organized by SRLP or another organization; therefore, donations must be made in one of the following ways:

  1. Stop by the SRLP office, where Gael works, to drop off the money early next week – 322 8th Ave, 3rd Floor, NYC (the entrance itself is on 26th Street).
  2. Make a donation directly from your bank account using PayPal.com, sending it to the account of jesse(*at*)tmcnetwork(*dot*)com
  3. Credit card donations can only be accepted through the PayPal account of merch(*at*)tmcnetwork(*dot*)com; however, PayPal charges a fee for credit card transactions, so free bank account transactions sent to the jesse account is preferred if at all possible.

As of early Saturday afternoon, $576 of the $1500 bail had already been raised, with $924 left to go. Since bail is only paid to ensure that the defendant won’t flee the charges, the money will be returned at the end of the trial and will then be split between the New Jersey 4 campaign of FIERCE! and the Safe OUTside the System Collective of the Audre Lorde Project. So your one donation will actually be a donation to three important causes at once.

For more info on the case or the fundraising efforts, please contact Gael at wapinpana(*at*)yahoo(*dot*)com.

ACTION ALERT: Update on Mariah’s Case

Last week, I posted an action alert for Mariah Lopez’s unjust imprisonment. I went to court last Tuesday to participate her support, but wound up having to leave after a few hours. Her case was called last, at the very end of the day; you’ve gotta wonder whether that’s just another way for the judicial system to stick it to folks. “Oh, you all want to come and support this person? Well then, you can wait around all day.” Doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see that happening.

Anyhow – Mariah is still in jail, and her next court date is tomorrow (Tuesday.) In advance of her appearance, there’s an additional call to action; this time, folks are being asked to called the prosecutor on the case and the LGBT liaison in the district attorney’s office. Read on for the text of the action alert.

*****

Thank you to the many people who turned out to support Mariah Lopez in court on Tuesday! Mariah asked me to pass on her thanks to everyone as well.

Mariah’s defender used the powerful showing of widespread community support in her argument to have Mariah released on bail. She discussed not only Mariah’s incredible work for and ties with the community, her strong reasons for showing up to court, the strength of Mariah’s case and the many people who cared enough about what happening to her to spend the day in court, but also the terrible abuse Mariah is experiencing in jail. Based on her past record, the judge nonetheless chose to keep the bail at the same amount, $1500, which is much more than she can afford to pay—so Mariah was sent back to jail. Mariah’s defender took her argument to another court the same afternoon, but that court let the first judge’s decision stand.

Mariah had to deal with more threats, abuse, and harassment even on the way back from court.

She and her defender are asking that everyone call the District Attorney’s office before Mariah’s next court date on Tuesday to encourage them to agree to Mariah’s release.

Who to call:
Mirella DeRose (212) 335-9000 (prosecutor assigned to Mariah’s case—most important)
Katie Dorin (212) 335-9291 (LGBT liaison in the D.A.’s office)

What to ask for:
Mariah’s release on her own recognizance! If not that, reduction of bail to $500 and lowering their recommendation of jail time to 30 days.

What to tell them:
It’s great to share a couple of things about the important work she does in the community (such as speaking, writing and activism for transgender youth), her strong ties to and support from people and organizations in the community, and the terrible abuse she is facing in jail.

What not to tell them:
If you know anything about the facts of the case against Mariah, do NOT share any of that info with the D.A. Instead, if you think you might have useful info, talk to Mariah’s defender. (Contact me at if you want me to put you in touch.)

When to call:
Before her next court date on Tuesday, August 14th at 10:30 am.

Please call if you can and help free Mariah!

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.

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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

Gender/queerness and street harassment

Yesterday morning I listened to a segment on the Brian Lehrer show about street harassment (cat-calling) in NYC. Lehrer interviewed three women: Latosha Belton and Ashley Lewis, two Brooklyn teenagers who worked with Girls for Gender Equity to create “Sisters in Strength Strikes Back: Our Struggle with Street Harassment,” a city-wide summit this past May; and Maggie Hadleigh-West, maker of the anti-street-harassment film War Zone.

The three women talked about their extensive experiences with street harassment directed at them from men of all ages. Ashley Lewis described how she feels like her new way of responding to street harassers is better than staying silent:

The approach I’m taking now, I feel like it’s better ’cause I’ll ask a man something, “Do you really think it’s appropriate to come at me in the street?” And they’re so taken aback by the question that they’re stunned, they don’t know what to say. So instead of answering it, they kind of walk away from me, so it kind of helps.

Hearing that, I couldn’t help worry that the girls would encounter some men who would do far more and far worse than run away. Continue reading ‘Gender/queerness and street harassment’

Hierarchies of health care: who deserves what?

There’s an interesting conversation going on over at Feministe, where Holly’s posted about various aspects of health care: universal health care and the lack thereof in this country; the very limited state-provided health care that does exist in this country, specifically for prisoners, foster children, and other “wards of the state;” and trans health care and the constant uphill battles for access and coverage free of societal prejudice. Both Holly’s posts and the ensuing comments elucidate the wide range of responses that people have to these topics, especially when they’re all mixed together into one big messy dilemma.

Some people wonder why convicted criminals should have access to free health care far and beyond what’s available to most people on the outside of the bars; here, I find it necessary to point out that, of course, due to our royally screwed up (in)justice system, it’s not just criminals behind the bars and upstanding citizens outside of them, this being just one of the many arguments against making access to health care a merit-based system. Other folks question whether trans health care is really a necessity; in the face of countless trans people and medical professionals who maintain that, yes, trans health care in its various forms is medically necessary for some people, this is simply another form of meritocracy, with trans people’s needs falling rather to the wayside, being deemed less important than – what – “normal” health needs? Still others take the “divide and conquer tack”, asserting that by advocating for the inclusion of trans health care in universal health care, we’re providing conservatives with ammunition that can take down the whole damned cause. Funny, this sounds familiar: hasn’t social movement after social movement tried to shunt their less popular members and issues out of sight, asking them to take the back seat so as to not prevent the more publicly palatable people and issues from getting a pass from the establishment?

I found one point that was made in the course of the commenting to be particularly interesting and something I haven’t considered before: even if we did end up with universal health care, who’d have the power to decide what would be covered and what couldn’t? Individual patients and their doctors? The larger medical establishment? Or, heaven forfend, the government? With the latter especially, what kind of frightening roles will religiosity, moralizing, and prejudice take in deciding who and what are worthy, and who and what are not?

Holly ties up her entry quite well here: “If you accept that trans health care is neither experimental nor unnecessary, and a doctor has prescribed it to a patient, then you have to provide it to those patients who the state has an obligation to provide health care for.” And, it would follow, in the push for universal health care, no medically sanctioned health care should be pushed to the wayside, whether out of misunderstanding or prejudice or some sort of subjective “morality.” Universal health care should be just that: universal, for all people, regardless of where they and their needs fall on some sort of hierarchy of normalcy and necessity that conveniently places the needs of the people in power right up top.

NY Post Follow-Up, Revisited

This post has changed since I originally posted it, after I was made aware of certain edits to my published NY Post letter; see below.

It’s been a busy few days, so I haven’t gotten to write much or respond to many comments. Over the next few days, I’m going to be catching up on those comments, especially those posted on my most recent post on gentrification, which has gotten quite a few.

The NY Post letter writing campaign has really taken off since Thursday, with many people sending in their letters and reposting it on their blogs. Thank you to everyone who’s participated and supported this effort.

As for the effects of our efforts, well, it’s not certain what those effects are or will be. the NY Post is notorious for its generally conservative slant and crappy treatment of topics related to oppression and discrimination, and I don’t think that the letters, numerous as they are, will really make them stop being transphobic. Nevertheless, I think that it’s important that we’ve hopefully made it clear to them that a whole lot of people think that transphobia is unacceptable, so much so that they’re willing to take time out to let the Post know. Who knows, maybe it actually will make some sort of difference to individual writers and editors there. Positive change can add up, even if it comes in small, slow steps.

A visible, public outcry is also important, whether or not it has an effect on the Post, as a show of solidarity with and support for Mariah Lopez and the wider trans and genderqueer community, and as a general condemnation of transphobic prejudice and discrimination.

The Post hasn’t published any of the letters, which is not surprising. They did publish a letter that I shot off earlier in the week, after reading the first article and before they published the even-worse editorial. But – and thanks to Holly for pointing this out – they edited my letter in such a fashion that it wound up coming off as fairly transphobic and disrespectful in and of itself.

When will The Post and its reporters learn to be respectful towards trans people?

Calling this woman a “wannabe” and a “he-she” is disgustingly disrespectful, not only to (old name here) “Mariah” Lopez, but to all trans people.

It’s not so hard to respect trans people – it’s a matter of a tiny bit of education and just being nice.

Would you rather try to sell newspapers through crude sensationalism or through respectful, decent journalism of actual substance and quality?

My original wording: “Calling this woman a ‘wannabe’ and a ‘he-she’ is disgustingly disrespectful, not only to her individually but to all trans people.”

I have no idea how I missed their change when I originally copied and pasted the letter to this blog. Using a trans person’s old name against their will, and putting their current, true name in quotation marks, as if to say it’s less valid or just a nickname, is just wrong for reasons that should be obvious. And the way they edited my letter makes it look like I did so on purpose. I don’t really know what to do about it; I just wrote an irate letter “strongly requesting” that they change the version on the website, but they say that they reserve the right to edit letters, so who knows if they’ll even pay attention.

Fuckers.