Archive for the 'women/feminism' Category

ACTION ALERT: Tell the NY Post to quit its transphobic “reporting”

3/2/07 Update: I’ve been kind of busy since posting this, so I wanted to post a quick thank you to everyone who’s written to the Post, and to everyone who’s reposted this. I didn’t expect such a great and large response, and it’s wonderful. Please keep reposting!

NOTE TO OTHER BLOGGERS: Please link to or repost this!

An important victory was recently won in the struggle for trans rights, specifically around health care. Judge Sheldon Rand of the Manhattan Family Court found, for the second time, that the City of New York is obligated to pay for the sexual reassignment surgery of Mariah Lopez, a young trans woman of color who was denied this important and necessary medical care while in the care of the NYC foster system. The City is constitutionally required to provide adequate medical coverage for all children in its care, and SRS is a medically approved procedure, one that is often necessary for trans people. In the decision, Judge Rand wrote: “Mariah L. should be treated in order that she may go on with her life and be in a body which blends with the gender with which she identifies.”*

Fortunately, Judge Rand was far more understanding and respectful than most of the media coverage, which has ranged from iffy to downright disgusting. (This article from is the most respectful one I’ve found thus far.)

Worst of all has been the coverage from the New York Post. Now, anyone who’s familiar with this sorry excuse for a newspaper should know that it’s usually chock full of shoddy, sensationalist, decidedly conservative-leaning rubbish that they attempt to pass off as journalism, so racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia are all par for the course. But the two pieces that they’ve run on this story – an “article” entitled “Free To Be He-She” and the even worse editorial, “Justice Isn’t That Blind” – are really just awful and enraging. Not only are the articles thoroughly transphobic, but the editorial also falsely paints her as a “sociopath” due to her criminal record, completely ignoring her history of activism and community service and the fact that she and other trans women of color are targeted and abused by the NYPD (see Holly’s comment on this post for more.)

The New York Post needs to be sent a strong message: quit the transphobic “reporting”! Show some respect, some decency, and some attention to journalistic standards.

I ask all of you to join me in writing to the Post and giving them a piece of your mind. Below is a letter to the Post. You can copy and paste it as is, or you can add your own touches to it or write something completely new. Whichever one you choose, send it to and (the writer of the first article.) (It would be great if you also commented here, so I can get a gauge of how many emails they’re getting.)


SUBJECT: NY Post: Quit the Transphobic Reporting!

I was angered by the Post’s coverage of the recent Manhattan Family Court decision in favor of Mariah Lopez (“Free to be he-she,” February 25, and “Justice isn’t that blind,” February 27). Both articles were deeply disrespectful of Ms. Lopez’s gender identity. By referring to her as a “he-she,” a “wannabe woman,” and, in the editorial, using her old name and incorrect pronouns in direct violation of AP style guidelines, the Post has clearly demonstrated that it is more interested in playing to societal prejudice towards transgender people than in following good journalistic practices and treating trans people with the respect that they deserve.

Additionally, the articles’ sensational treatment of this story ignored the fact that the ACS is required by law to provide medically-approved treatment to children under its care, and that Ms. Lopez was indeed a child under the care of the ACS when she initially sought transgender health care, including sexual reassignment surgery. Ms. Lopez was denied access to a necessary treatment that is widely approved by the medical community. Judge Rand’s decision will hopefully ensure that no other child, trans or not, will be denied treatment in the future simply due to prejudice.



* Partly in anticipation of certain questions, I’d like to clarify that I don’t believe that SRS is always a necessary part of a trans person’s transition. Transition can mean all sorts of things, many of which are not medical or surgical; it’s all about what one feels is right for them. I think it’s important, actually, to get away from a medicalization of trans-ness, because that often leads to people passing judgment on who’s “really” or “fully” trans or not based on their medical history. Which is, of course, complete bullshit, given that not everyone chooses – or can afford or access – the same treatment.


Now that I’ve returned to Brooklyn and the life, love, and work contained therein, it’s harder to keep up with all of this blogging business! Not only the writing, but the reading of other people’s blogs, the linking, the commenting, the responding to comments here, etc. How do some of y’all manage to keep up with it all?

Part of what’s fallen to the wayside is continuing to participate in the massive, multi-blog conversation about feminism and trans politics & identity. The conversation continues to move to new blogs and posts; one recent, active, and interesting thread is going on over at Alas, a blog.

I’d intended to write my own post highlighting the excellent conversation going on in the comments on this earlier post, especially the dialogue between Holly and Fire Fly. I’m not going to get to write that post and pull out quotes from that discussion with any degree of timeliness, so instead, I’ll encourage folks to read and participate more in the discussion, either in the comments on that post, or here on this post. (Also, Holly rocks and says a lot of stuff that I just wind up nodding furiously too, since I couldn’t say it better myself.)

Transphobia in Feminism’s Clothing

So much for not diving into the fray – since I started commenting on this rather flippant response from Twisty, I may as well dash off some really late night thoughts that have been knocking around in my head. (by the way, I’m Jack on that thread, not JackGoff, for clarification’s sake. And the comments are looking to get just as messy as the ones that started this whole brouhaha. Once again, some of the comments are a sight worse than any flippancy, silence, or writing on Twisty’s part.)

Society teaches us to be transphobic, just as it teaches us to be all sorts of nasty things. Being queer or trans both violate cardinal rules about what it means to be a proper man or woman in our society. Traditional understandings of gender and sexuality are deeply ingrained and are drilled into us from a very early age. So it’s no small wonder that many folks wind up being homophobic and transphobic, just as most people wind up with sexist, racist, classist, ableist, and all sorts of other prejudicial views – which, in turn, we all have an obligation to challenge in ourselves and overcome.

I believe that some self-named feminists try to hide their own transphobia under the guise of feminism. By claiming that one’s anti-trans views are really just about being a feminist and anti-patriarchal, one creates a convenient moral shield for one’s own prejudices. If, in turn, someone challenges those ideas as transphobic prejudice, one can easily accuse the challenger of being sexist, anti-feminist, or simply not respecting one’s feminism or woman-centrism or what have you. And since, quite often, those trans-positive challengers consider themselves to be feminists as well, it’s a great cheap shot – “You don’t like my pro-women views? Huh, that’s not very feminist of you, is it?” As if one must make a choice between supporting trans people and supporting non-trans women.

I think that one of the most telling aspects of this transphobia dressed up as feminism is the double standard, for lack of a better phrase, that is exhibited towards trans women and trans men by some anti-trans feminists. Oftentimes, I see people claiming that trans women can never truly escape or abandon their “male” privilege and the “male threat” that they somehow pose towards non-trans women (see the arguments about trans women making women’s bathrooms unsafe.)

Alright – so apparently, trans women are always “still men” to some degree, entertaining that view for a brief moment. So what about trans men? Are they embraced by these same anti-trans feminists because of their apparently intrinsic and inescapable womanhood, their continued inherent lack of male privilege? Seems like the logical continuation, right?

Wrong. Trans men are either demonized for taking on male privilege and turning their backs on women, or are patronizingly pitied for being self-hating women duped by their own internalized oppression. Now, following that logic, wouldn’t one think that trans women might be embraced by these feminists for voluntarily shedding their male privilege and aligning themselves in solidarity with other women? Nah – see above.

And who knows where genderqueer folks like myself fall with these feminists. I’m sure they’d have something dismissive, disempowering, and/or vilifying to say about our identities. Luckily, we’re still ignored enough to be spared such commentary.

Well then, it seems like you’re screwed, one way or another, unless you stay right where you belong: within the gender assigned to you at birth, a gender based on biological essentialism, a gender determined by a patriarchal, sexist system of sex and gender roles. Huh. Somehow, that doesn’t sound very feminist to me.

Rather, it seems like a very convenient way to twist feminism in order to protect one’s own transphobia. Hell, feminism has been twisted to protect folks’ racism, sexism, and classism in the past, so I suppose it’s not so surprising that transphobia would get the same treatment.

These folks don’t like trans women, and they don’t like trans men. They can cry feminism all they want, but all I hear is the same “OMG EW TRANS GROSS!!!” that I hear from your average sexist homophobe. Sad, really.

Note: since this was a 3am post, I’ll likely be doing a good deal of editing to it. So please point out any glaring typos, and if you see any sudden changes, that’s why!

Did I miss the party?

And by party, I mean the little firestorm that has erupted around trans and feminist issues, specifically centering around the shitfest of a comments section on this post at I Blame the Patriarchy. Within those comments and the resultant posts on other blogs, there have been some very good points made, and some very disgusting and infuriating things said by people who like to call their transphobia “feminism,” thereby making you anti-feminist and anti-woman if you’re not down with it.

I’m actually glad that I missed the beginnings of this whole craziness; had I been online at the start, I would likely have waded into the fray and made myself batty with righteous rage in the process. As it is, it’s far too overwhelming to start reading everything now, so I’ll just direct you to the good things said by brownfemipower on her blog.

Now that my two weeks with the family for the holidays has been blessed with broadband wireless internet access, I’ma really try hard to start this blogging business again. Yeah yeah, I know, I’ve said it before, but this time I really mean it! But first I’d like to let folks know that if you comment on really old entries – say, ones about gentrification – I’m not likely to respond. I just can’t keep engaging with people who stumble upon those articles and want to tell me that gentrification is really a great thing and that I’m really just a reverse racist. Boring! Please wait until I write a new entry on gentrification, maybe then I’ll bother responding.

And finally – I returned to the blogosphere just in time to see Blac(k)ademic making her departure. We’re losing a really good one there. Kudos to her for all the knowledge she’s dropped over the year plus of blogging.

if my friends could see me now

Lookie here – my piece on polyamory and radical feminism made it into the 17th Carnival of Feminists!

The carnivals kind of mystify me. I’m never on top of my game enough to actively submit something to one, and yet I’ve wound up in three so far. Hmm. I’m not complaining!

Also – I’m dreadfully behind on responding to comments. It makes me want to weep. Well, maybe not weep, but I definitely pout about it. There’s been a lot of thought-provoking stuff written and I’ve read it all, let me reassure you. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to write anything remotely thoughtful, whether it’s in agreement or in disagreement. I guess I never expected my blog to get this many comments and I haven’t yet hit my stride for handling them! Perhaps I should also not require myself to respond to nearly every single comment, since, you know, this is most certainly not my full time job.

Ain’t I a Woman/Womyn/Wimmin?

Dyke March Card

Maybe not.

While at Brooklyn Pride this year, I was handed a postcard for this year’s NYC Dyke March. In bold, red letters, the postcard proclaims: “Women! Womyn! Wimmin!” and, below, says “This march is for women only. Allies should cheer us from the sidelines.”

The postcard left me wondering where I belonged – in the march, as I’ve been every year since moving to NYC in 2002, or on the sidelines.

Last year, there was something of a campaign at the Dyke March. People handed out stickers that said, “A Dyke March for All Dykes.” These folks were primarily calling for the inclusion of dyke-identified trans men in the Dyke March.

Something about this protest rubbed me the wrong way. I think it had a lot to do with the people who were most visibly involved – mostly white, mostly thin, mostly “good looking” by typical standards trannyboys who seem to occupy a particular scene in NYC – the scene in which (certain) trans guys are omgsohott!!! In my limited interaction with this scene, I’ve felt a lot of entitlement and a certain amount of privilege, namely racial and male, (though I’m quick to acknowledge that the male privilege that a trans man may possess is thoroughly complicated by the lack of privilege that comes with being trans.) The crowd that seemed to be calling most loudly for trans male inclusion in the Dyke March, and the particular way in which they went about it, did not make me so sympathetic to the cause, despite my understanding of and, in large part, agreement with their points.

There was a pretty big debate last year with (and within) the Dyke March Planning Committee over whether the march should be explicitly women-only, or whether it should be opened to dykes of many genders, including dyke-identified trans men and genderqueers. The portions of the debate that I witnessed were thoroughly upsetting; there was a whole lot of transphobia lacing the entire thing, and a whole lot of wilful ignorance and reductionism around people’s gender. I myself went to the beginning of a Dyke March planning meeting and spoke to some of the organizers. One particularly prevalent message that I heard was that genderqueers, and maybe even trans men, could attend the March as long as they came to it identifying with and embracing whatever part of them was still “woman.”

This notion – that, deep down inside, all trans men and genderqueers still have a “woman” side – really pisses me off. It is completely invalidating of many people’s gender identities, and is an attempt to reinforce a gender binary that dictates that, when you get down to it, everyone is really either a woman or a man as determined by whatever gender they were assigned at birth. Some trans men and genderqueers who were female-assigned at birth might embrace or acknowledge a female or woman side of themselves, which is a completely valid and wonderful individual choice. (Though, actually, who am I or anyone else to say whether someone else’s understanding of their gender is valid or not?) However, that choice cannot and should not be forced upon all trans men or genderqueers. And when the organizers of the Dyke March or any other space say that, somehow, they’re welcoming trans men and genderqueers when they say “women only,” that’s exactly what they’re doing – stripping people of their right to gender self-identification and pushing them into one of two predefined boxes.

As far as I understand it, one of the primary motivations behind the Dyke March has always been visibility – the visibility of dykes and other queer women within a larger queer movement that has often completely ignored them or pushed their needs and issues to the side. Therefore, it makes me profoundly sad that the Dyke March is making increasingly invisible those people who have long been part of the lesbian/dyke/queer women’s communities, but do not, perhaps, fully or even remotely identify as “women.”

I, myself, am included among that number. When people ask me my gender in a free-form manner, I always respond with “genderqueer butch.” That’s my gender, to a T. It fits me better than any other gender label that I’ve come across. The term “woman” is so loaded down with so much cultural and societal connotation that I’m not really all that comfortable with it, under most circumstances.

Somehow, “woman of color” is different. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much, it’s something I can identify with much more easily and it’s an identity that I embrace. A lot of that is about kinship, about shared experience, and about solidarity. It’s far easier for me to be proud of being a woman of color, to be comfortable being a woman of color, than it is for me to be comfortable just being labeled as a woman.

And it’s not as if I don’t identify with the label “women” at all. I do. I function in this binary gender world primarily as a woman. I am denied privilege and discriminated against as a woman; I receive privilege as a non-trans woman. I am seen by most as a woman who doesn’t act like a woman should, but a woman nonetheless. And, when pressed, when given the choice between two options, man or woman, I will (at this point in my life, at least) invariably choose woman.

That’s the thing, though – I don’t like having to choose between two boxes and squeeze myself in, however bad the fit may be. I am perfectly content identifying as a genderqueer butch, full stop. I don’t feel that I need to tack “woman” onto that to preserve my connection to women’s struggles, to women’s cultures, to women’s communities. I don’t feel the need to do so in order to share the kinship and community that I do with other women of color. And I certainly don’t think that I need to call myself a woman in order to prove my allegience to women or to feminism.

It sucks that I’m so often forced to choose between the two, or that the choice is made for me when people make assumptions based on how I look or sound. It’s something that I deal with almost constantly – any time I meet someone new, speak to someone on the phone, or am forced to choose a gendered title like Ms or Mrs or Mr; any time that I walk into a public restroom and get the double-takes, the questioning, and eventual approval after I reluctantly say “Yes, I’m a woman;” any time someone calls my office asking for me after only reading my name in an email or on a website and I hear those few moments of confusion before they decide, “Oh, this must be a woman named Jack.” However, I’m fairly used to all of that. I expect it from mainstream society, and those low expectations make it a little easier to deal with.

But it’s a whole other story when it’s communities that I expect more from, like queer communities. To be pushed into boxes by people who struggle against being shoved into boxes of their own, to be made to feel invisible and disrespected by people who know what it feels like to have to fight to be seen and respected for who one truly is – that’s a special kind of hurt right there.

So, will I march this year, or not? I don’t know. I sure as hell won’t be cheering from the sidelines like I’m apparently supposed to. I’m either in it or I’m not. I know that the Dyke March isn’t really about the policies that some small, select group of women come up with; it’s about the collective power and often disparate voices of all of the people who show up to march. I know that it’s not likely that anyone will try to enforce this policy, and I know that, even if they did, I’d be lucky enough, in a way, to be read as a woman and let be. But I don’t know if I’d be able to really have fun and enjoy myself without having that queasy feeling that comes when you’re forced to pass for something that you’re not.

If I do march, I think I might make a sign to carry. I’m thinking it’ll be a list of labels with checkboxes next to them – woman, womyn, wimmin, genderqueer butch. The checkboxes next to the first three will have a big red “x” through them; the checkbox next to the last will have a big green check through it. And then the sign will say, “Am I still welcome here? If I am, then say it!”


I’m writing about my own experience as a not-exactly-woman-identified person, but I’d also like to point out that many people who very happily identify as women are not truly welcomed or included in many women’s and dyke spaces and communities – namely, trans women.

Yes, the NYC Dyke March, like many other similar spaces, is “officially” open to all women – as their website reads, “biological or otherwise,” because, you know, all those trans women out there are inorganic or mechanical or something. (Trans women are women, just as biological as any other women. The term “non-trans” is far more respectful and accurate than “biological.”) But there’s a big difference between talking the talk of including trans women, and walking the walk of truly making a community or space welcoming and inclusive of trans women. The former is easily about posturing and empty declarations; the latter is about changing personal attitudes and overcoming individual, collective, and institutional transphobia.

Some friends of mine have posted a petition to demonstrate community support of trans women that will be circulated at the Dyke March on Saturday. I encourage you all to read it and sign on if you’re down with it. There’s no automated way to sign online quite yet, but if you email me (see “Contact Me” on the sidebar) or leave your name and location in the comments, I’ll be sure to pass it on to them.

Who Said It Was Simple

I’m a bit behind on the blogging and probably won’t catch up until next week. But I just stumbled upon this brilliant poem by Audre Lorde, one of the few by her that I haven’t read before. It reminded me of the recent conflicts that I’ve witnessed between certain white feminist bloggers and women of color (also feminist) bloggers, especially the drama that was playing out at blac(k)ademic. This poem seems a good response to said white feminists.

Who Said It Was Simple
Audre Lorde

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

AngryBrownButch in the flesh

This weekend I’m going to be sitting on a panel at the New Fest, the big queer film festival here in NYC. The details:

Masculinity In The Lesbian Community
1pm on June 11, 2006
The New Yorker Hotel
481 Eighth Avenue (at 34th St.)
Grammercy Park Suite

As seen in NewFest 2006 films like Boy I Am and Gender Rebel, there’s a lot to say about FTMs and genderqueer people and how they do and don’t fit into the larger lesbian community. With such diversity now present, is it still the lesbian community? Filmmakers Sam Feder and Elaine Epstein and activists continue the dialogue.

I’m one of the aforementioned activists, along with my friend Naomi; we’re both coming as representatives, so to speak, of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, though we won’t really be talking about SRLP’s work and therefore won’t be speaking as official representatives of what SRLP’s official positions on these issues are.

Note that the premise of the whole panel is a bit weird and is reflective of a problematic trend in “lesbian” communities to focus on the presence of trans men and female-assigned genderqueers and generally ignore the issues and presence (or lack thereof) of trans women in the community. It’s also a bit odd that we’ve gotten to this point where the synopsis of a panel entitled “Masculinity in the Lesbian Community” (and, at one point in the NewFest guide, is even simply called “Lesbian Masculinity”) includes nary a mention of butches, studs, AGs, and other masculine folks who have traditionally been a part of the lesbian community.

I, myself, tend not to identify as a lesbian anymore; my sexuality is queer, though I still do identify with lesbian community and culture, if that makes sense. And I certainly wouldn’t say I belong to a lesbian community, given the wide range of genders and sexualities in the communities of which I’m a part. But the question, “is it still the lesbian community?” is an odd one. It all depends on what you mean by community – is it just a general term applied to all people who share an identity, or is community an actual, localized social group of people who know and support each other? I’ll be speaking to these points and more on the panel. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

The Onion: spot on, indeed

By way of Vagina Magazine: New ‘Anti-Abortion Pill’ Kills Mother, Leaves Fetus Alive. From the article:

Pfizer, manufacturer of UR-86—dubbed the “last-morning-ever pill”—said the drug is intended only for occasions when the mind-set or politics of the mother threaten the life of the fetus.

“This drug is designed for extreme cases in which the mother cannot or should not be saved, or when her health has been placed before that of her unborn child,” Pfizer spokesman Anthony Wright said.

Of race, gender, and mutants

Jean Grey and Storm

Spoiler alert: don’t click on the link below if you haven’t seen X3 yet, plan to, and care about things getting ruined for you. (I myself am extremely irritated when people, blog entries, film reviews, etc reveal crucial plot points of films that I’ve yet to see.)

Just read some astute analysis on the WIMN’s Voices blog of how some major sexism plays out in X-Men: The Last Stand, specifically in the portrayals of Storm and Jean Grey. In the blog entry, Makani Themba Nixon writes that “a story about fierce women and their struggle to step into their power becomes little more than anti-feminist propaganda.”

Sad, but true, though the phrase “anti-feminist propaganda” kind of irks me – I’d just say that the portrayals of supposedly strong women just wind up being weak and sexist.

It’s a shame, given that I love the X-Men films. And even though this did have many problems (the aforementioned sexism, the weird treatment of some POC characters, etc) and was, as many have said, not as good as X2, I did like it fairly well. And, damn, do I love Jean Grey. Totally my favorite character, followed closely by Magneto, then Wolverine. Too bad Storm’s portrayal totally sucked, maybe I would’ve liked her more.

Magneto and Professor X Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X

Speaking of Magneto – does anyone else find themselves cheering for Magneto and his side of things more often than not? Sometimes I’m just like, hell yeah, fuck those humans!

Which brings me to another piece of excellent thinking on the politics of X-Men: Black Politics, X-Men, White Minds. In the essay, Morpheus Reloaded discusses the parallels between the narrative of the X-Men and the Black civil rights movement, with Professor X symbolizing Martin Luther King Jr and Magneto symbolizing Malcolm X. Before you balk (if that was your impulse), it’s not so far-fetched – the white creators of the X-Men, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements that they were witnessing in the 1960s. Morpheus Reloaded also discusses that aspect of the X-Men: what is going on when white people create an allegory for Black liberation movements? What’s the end result of that sort of thing? In summation, Morpheus Reloaded writes, “The reality however, for better or for worse, is that the X-Men are here to stay as is: an intended expose on race, bigotry and intolerance in society that actually in the end sheds more light on the white psyche than anything approaching reality.”

(thanks to Josue for the heads up about the first article)