Archive for December, 2008
On December 23rd, a trans woman in Memphis called Lenneshia Edwards was shot in the face. She’s currently in a critical condition and undergoing multiple surgeries. From Transgriot:
Memphis police say the shooting happened sometime around 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, December 23, 2008 in the 3100 block of Boxtown Road in south Memphis near T.O. Fuller State Park. Leeneshia Edwards was last seen about an hour earlier at the “C.K.’s Coffee Shop” on Union Avenue in midtown Memphis.
Edwards’ cousin reports that Lenneshia was shot in the jaw, side and back and is undergoing multiple surgeries.
So peeps in the Memphis area, if you saw anything that night, do us and the family of Leeneshia Edwards a favor. Call Memphis Crime Stoppers if you have any information about either this case, Ebony Whitaker’s or Duanna Johnson’s at (901) 528-CASH that gets the po-po’s one step closer to resolving these crimes. Remember, the peeps that did this could one day strike your family, so the sooner you get them off the streets and behind bars, the safer Memphis becomes for you as well.
As Monica points out, this is third attack of a trans woman in the last year in Memphis, though let us all pray Lanneshia pulls through. Decent and transparent investigations of Ebony Whitaker’s and Duanna Johnson’s murder seems to have not exactly been a priority of the Memphis police, let us also hope–demand–that they get off their bloody arses and investigate this one.
So, by now you’re probably aware of the Pope’s speech to the Curia, which has gotten publicity for its linking the destruction of the rainforests with the destruction caused by GLBT people for, like, existing. Full translation is here, but the relevant passage is:
“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term “gender”, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him. But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator. The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition. The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind.”
In other words, there’s two issues being raised here, in typical specious reasoning from the Church.
1. “Confusing” the sexes, as in form of foregrounding “gender” as a construct, is well wrong yeah?
The flaw being this is essentially an onto-theological argument, since there’s no clear legal, medical or social boundary one can draw there. Gender variant people (and quite possibly just the regular normative convergence between the two eg metrosexuality) are essentially polluting the ontology of sexual difference as set down by God, which is profound and unchangeable and nevertheless needs to be defended. Also, intersexed people mumblemumblemumble
2. Marriage is between a man and a wife, it’s value is in procreation, which does God’s work innit.
This is the old switcheroo, switching the legal category of marriage (which is debateable, expandable, has a history) with the divinely mandated one. And heterosexuality should only link sex with the potential for reproduction, since it’s understood to be a (pro) creative act. It’s here that Church opposition to gay rights has its links with anti-abortion and anti-contraception–essentially the reasoning is that gays and lesbians can’t “naturally” reproduce, and therefore can’t continue God’s work of creation. The problem with this is of course, IVF, surrogates etc etc (incidentally most reproductive technolologies the Church opposes on the grounds of they obscure “human dignity,” again an ontotheological construct being brought into being). Married Catholics who can’t have children mumblemumblemumble
The interesting thing if you bring the opposition to trans people and gays together is that even if you were a trans woman (c’est moi) in a relationship with a cis woman (c’est Zan) and sex *could* be a potentially procreative act, or a het married couple like Thomas Beattie and his partner having children, then rather than fulfilling the ideological mandates for procreation it actually short-circuits the whole thing and is even more of a theological problem. Cos it perverts heterosexuality from the inside, as it were.
Needless to say, this not only needs to be opposed on political grounds–coming after Prop 8, gay activists have rightly pointed out that this is a clear attack on gays and lesbians–but on theological grounds. The problem is that the Pope (and the Church generally) are enlisting the transcendent in what is very much a hear-and-now battle, reifying contemporary categories of identity into the eternal (and NOT the other way round).
I want to end, instead, by citing a passage from Matthew 15 that I think is rather relevant:
22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
In other words, the beliefs of Jesus were not unchangeable. Christianity, like any living religion, has to grow and change in relation to circumstances. I refuse to accept that a man as compassionate as Jesus would not have changed his mind with regard to GLBT people, much as he changed his mind for the Canaanite woman.
So yesterday, the Bush administration yesterday granted sweeping new protections to health workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal beliefs. Jill at Feministe has pointed out that while this undoubtedly chiefly aimed at women’s reproductive freedoms, this is actually not about abortion–which depressingly already has this exception–but easy access to contraception.
One point I want to make about that, which I’ve stolen from Lee Edelman’s No Future, is that America is being organised around the figure of The Child. Not actual children, let alone the adults those children grow into, but a rhetorical child who must be protected at all costs–from the corrupting influence of gay marriages, porn on the internet etc and who must always be allowed to exist.
The rights of the Child, who is figured as a full person and not as a body of cells or ffs an egg and a sperm, supercedes the rights of adult women to have control over their bodies. Never mind that people (and I want to make the point that it’s not just women, eg some trans men use birth control too. Seriously, pay attention cis feminists and stop making the normative assumption that reproductive health equals het cis woman) use the pill primarily for other health reasons–to regulate their periods, to moderate PMS and PMDD etc etc. And needless to say, The Child does not grow up to be queer, or trans, or sexually active outside the sanctity of marriage. And The Child is clearly normatively white.
But whilst it is clearly aimed at heterosexual cis women, it will have a massive impact on other groups–especially trans men and women.
From the Washington Post:
“The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable.”
Ok, let that sink in a bit. Care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. Now, where is that going to leave trans people? Sex workers? People they think are drug users (a highly racialized image after all)? People with disabilities?
Like queerness, being trans has been framed by many on the Religious Right as a moral issue. To be trans is to be, by definition, immoral. By situating health care as a “conscience” issue, this law allows transphobic health care workers–not just doctors, but pharmacists, emergency medics etc etc–full license to indulge their bigotry and to not treat us. So, even if you can get through the knife lined obstacle course that is the gatekeeper process and get through to a hormone prescription, the bloody pharmacist might not even give them to you.
We all know health care for trans people is already shitty, let alone giving health care providers carte blanche to treat us worse. Remember Tyra Hunter, who died because firefighters decided not to perform emergency resuscitation on her when they discovered she was trans, and then a doctor at Washington General decided not to treat her. Because she was trans, because she was a woman of color, because she was not a person, she was an “it.” And, because some people consider that our existence is immoral and must be squashed out.
This is a nightmare of a ruling that potentially allows any person in the health-care business to rule that treating trans people goes against their conscience, and when something serious is occuring, you don’t have the time to shop around for someone who will treat you.
And the intersection between transness and race here will be even more deadly. Medicine has a long history of being used against people of color in the US, and this gives health care people legal protections to further that. As Kristin “the mean one on Feministe” just said to me, making the horrid implications of this explicitly clear:
“I didn’t quite make the connection as to why doctors would want to refuse anyone treatment in the context of a miscarriage at first. It just clicked. Why would they want to do that other than to refuse treatment to people they judge to be the “cause” of the miscarriage? You know, people like, say, possible drug users. Or people otherwise marked as “unworthy” of care. Say, homeless people, immigrants… Fuck. I mean, why else would anyone demand that kind of “right”? Fuck fuck fuck… I think this is going to be even more evil in practice than it looks on the surface. If that kind of “protection” becomes a fucking protocol, oh my god… If this becomes widespread… Organized against a specific group, that’s genocidal.”
Julia Serano wants anecdotes from trans women or people on the trans female spectrum who have been sexualized for it in various ways:
via Whipping Girl
I am currently working on a web article that I hope will raise awareness about the ways in which trans women are often “hyper-sexualized” in our culture. And I am soliciting quotes, anecdotes and insights from the trans feminine/MTF community in order to help convey the impact that this sexualization has on our lives.
Of course, all women face nonconsensual sexualization (e.g., cat calls, sexual innuendos or harassment, sexually explicit remarks about our appearances, objectifying comments or depictions, sexual violation, etc.) to varying degrees. But those of us who are trans women sometimes find that strangers and acquaintances tend to be far more explicit, hardcore and/or debasing in their sexualizing comments and behaviors when they are aware of our trans status than when they presume that we are cis women (i.e., non-trans women).
Here is how I put some of my own experiences in my book Whipping Girl:
‘…when I am assumed to be cissexual [i.e., non-transsexual], the sexualizing comments I receive almost always come from random strangers in public. However, if I meet a man in a more social situation (e.g., at a party or a bar), he rarely stoops to blatantly crass, sexualizing comments, even when he is flirting with me. However, in social settings where I am known to be transsexual (e.g., at events where I perform spoken word poetry), men do often blatantly sexualize me: I have had men immediately engage me in conversations about how much they enjoy “she-male” porn, flat-out tell me “I’m turned on by ‘girls like you,’ ” and explicitly describe the sex acts they have had with other trans women in the past. And numerous times I have received unsolicited emails, presumably from men who found my website during a search using the keyword “transsexual,” in which they described their sexual fantasies about trans women in gory detail, or asked me graphic questions about my body and sexual activities. These emails are always centered on my transsexual femaleness; I do not receive similar emails from people who presume that I am a cissexual female.’
If you are a trans woman (i.e., someone who was assigned a male sex at birth, but who identifies and/or lives as female), I would be interested in possibly including your experiences in my web article. I am particularly interested in the following types of scenarios:
1) occasions where somebody sexualized you in an especially extreme or explicit manner specifically because they knew you were trans.
2) occasions where somebody assumed that you were motivated to transition to female for primarily sexual reasons (for example, to receive sexual attention from men, to engage in sex work, or to fulfill some kind of sexual fantasy or “perversion”).
3) occasions where medical or psychiatric professionals (particularly those fulfilling a “gatekeeper” role) made especially sexualizing remarks about your appearance, behaviors or motives/desire to transition, or were sexualizing in other ways.
4) occasions where someone sexualized your trans body, identity and/or motives for transitioning in order to dismiss your female identity or to insinuate that you are not a “real” woman.
For each incident you wish to share, please write a brief paragraph describing what happened (btw, you may submit more than one incident/paragraph). Obviously, other factors besides trans status (e.g., race, age, class, size, ability, to name a few) can also impact the specific ways in which women are sexualized, so feel free to include any other contextual information that you feel is necessary to accurately convey what happened. Also, keep in mind that other people may eventually be reading these quotes, so be sure to omit any unimportant info that you feel might place your (or anyone else’s) anonymity in jeopardy (e.g., where you live or work, people’s names, etc.). Also, I will not be editing these paragraphs at all (except possibly for length), so you might want to double-check for spelling mistakes and typos.
For those interested, please send your experiences to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I can assure you that YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED OR SHARED WITH ANYONE. Please paste the text into the body of the email (no attachments please). In the email, please also include a statement along the following lines: “I certify that all of the provided information is true to the best of my knowledge, and I give Julia Serano permission to permanently post these quotes on her website and to allow her to excerpt them in her future writings or presentations on the topic of the sexualization of trans women.” I hope to complete this article by the end of January, so I’d appreciate it if you sent me your experiences sooner rather than later.
For the record, this work is not the part of any kind of “research project.” I am approaching this subject as both a trans activist (who wants to raise awareness about an issue which has a profound negative impact trans women’s lives) and a journalist (who wants to chronicle a phenomenon that has been largely ignored by the cis mainstream and in cis feminist circles). It is my hope that the final web article will contain a series of quotes from trans women speaking in their own voices, describing the types of sexualization they have faced and the impact it has had on their lives. The article will be permanently placed on my website, as I hope that it will become a useful resource for trans activists, trans feminists, trans academics, and others who wish to analyze and/or call attention to the nonconsensual sexualization that trans women routinely face.
One last point: The purpose of this article is to highlight the ways in which trans women are nonconsensually sexualized by others. It is *not* about healthy, consensual sexuality, nor about trans women’s sexual behaviors and proclivities. Too often people who wish to sexualize women use our own sexual expressions or experiences against us in order to insinuate that we are somehow “asking for it” (i.e., asking to be sexualized). For this reason, this article will focus solely on the sexual assumptions that *other people make about us*, rather than on our own sexualities.
Feel free to cross-post this request on any trans-focused websites/blogs/email lists at your discretion. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at email@example.com
Thanks in advance!
writer, spoken word artist, trans woman activist
So, puberty blockers have for awhile been the next frontier of trans medical treatments. With children involved–children who could be potentially cis and saved from the fate-worse-than-death that being trans is for some people–it’s a button pushing topic.
Anyway, the Endocrine Society has just published a report that’s gotten a bit of press that recommends puberty blockers for 12 and 13 year olds diagnosed with GID. Cos I’m lazy and have had a headache for a very long time, I’m going to work off the horribly-titled New Scientist article summary which has a couple choice quotes:
“The hope is that by delaying puberty, young teens will be given valuable thinking time in which they can decide if they are sure they want to begin gender reassignment using cross-sex hormones at the age of 16. Ultimately, this strategy would also make it easier for them to live in their chosen gender.”
Ok, so far so good. The voice of gatekeeper conservatism appears to put a damper on things:
“‘The real question is: if you intervene early in a young person who would otherwise change [their mind], do you reinforce their gender identity disorder? Do you remove the chance for change?’ says Russell Viner of the Institute of Child Health in London.”
Oh noes! Zomgtrannieslulz! Fate worse than death etc. God I hate how gatekeeper protocols always keep first and foremost the possibility of accepting your assigned gender as the BEST possible outcome. More:
“There is also the issue of fertility. Blocking puberty in boys before mature sperm have had the chance to develop removes the option of freezing sperm in case they later decide they want to start a family after going ahead with gender-reassignment surgery.
‘We recently had the case in the US of a transsexual man who chose to become pregnant, and that may not have been possible if they had had early intervention,’ says Viner. ‘When is it reasonable to let a young person remove major life choices?’”
Ah, finally, some classic double binds. Cos as we saw in my last post, trans people’s fertility is used to deny us access to reassigned gender documents and indeed full citizenship in a very real way, but hey, here’s it’s used as a way to prevent medical treatment. And not even hormones, but just something to prevent the damage that growing up in the wrong sex does to our bodies. Genius.
Anyway, the rest of the article’s pretty decent, and the actual news is good, so I have exhausted my snark. Heh.