Archive for February, 2011
So Ticked Off Trannies With Knives has made it to Australia. Bloody marvelous. In all its infinite wisdom, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival has decided to not only screen the controversial (ie widely despised) film but double down with a good old-fashioned “hilarious” costume party where attendees are encouraged to “come dressed as your favourite horror/exploitation character or Ticked Off Trannie to win great prizes!”
Jonathan Williams, a consultant on some of the trans programming, has the full story behind-the-scenes up at Hoyden, and boy is it a charming one.
You see, TOTWK was not run past the trans selection panel – it was selected by the all cis selection panel. One would think that the fact that the film was protested in the US might give MQFF some pause as to scheduling the film. It is not unreasonable to think that the inclusion of this film would make many trans people profoundly uncomfortable. It is also not unreasonable that you might want to ask the trans people you have selecting films about their opinions on it.
I don’t want to make this conversation simply about the word “tranny” because it is about much more, but it remains relevant. The word is highly controversial in trans communities, with fiery arguments about who can use it and in what context (if at all), but one thing is actually fairly uncontested. Many trans people – and trans women in particular – work very hard to educate about how hurtful and harmful this word is when used, and do not appreciate the circulation of the word in majority-cis contexts (as a website, film festival, program undoubtedly are). If this seems unduly sensitive, it is worth pointing how extremely unlikely it is that a film about gay men with the word “faggot” in the title directed by a straight director would appear in the MQFF line-up. This should be common sense, but I guess not.
Snark aside, I want to point out how completely the perspectives of trans people have been occluded from this process. This is not a film written and directed by a trans woman, who might have some claim to the narratives of transphobic violence, but rather a cis gay man. Who is speaking and why is important to the reception of a text and the fact is, this is not a trans authored text. Because there are few if any trans written and directed movies. Few of us have access to the means of production, to that level of funding.
Trans people, as a historically disempowered community, very very very very very very rarely have any control whatsoever over the narratives that circulate about us. That includes films, TV series, academic work, medicine, governmental, etc etc. Even at a queer film festival that has a trans selection panel, we cannot remotely claim to be adequately represented, cannot remotely avoid harmful, misogynistic and transphobic narratives circulating about us as a community. We cannot avoid cis people deciding that our lives – which we live at considerable social cost – are hilarious jokes.
But wait, clearly all this controversy is supposed to be a selling point. The program includes a quote from John Waters
“It’s quite funny. And GLAAD came out against that…lighten up! What the fuck!?” - John Waters.
Warning: contains scenes of extreme violence and political incorrectness that WILL offend some viewers.
I’m so glad that cis gay bloke John Waters came out to authoritatively put us in our place, and for the laziest fucking excuse of all – “political incorrectness” to be put forth as a shield from criticism. If you want to court controversy to put bums on seats, fine. But don’t make any pretenses to ethical conduct, don’t pretend as though you actually give a shit about the comfort of your trans patrons. As a festival that makes some claim to represent the wider queer community including many transsexual and transgender people, MQFF can and should do better.
Jonathon states that “the director has also suggested that the festival should have trans representation on the main selection panel in the future – a praiseworthy step in the right direction.” I hope this does occur, because it is direly needed, because this right here? This is just pathetic.
Instead of representation and reciprocity, what we have is tokenism, privilege, and epic amounts of bullshit. I do congratulate whatever genius came up with the idea of dressing up as trans people, I mean, it’s not like the idea of trans-as-costuming is one of the most pervasive and malignant stories around. Oh wait. In turn, I hope the Melbourne International Film Festival invites straight cis people to dress up as their favourite fag or dyke in July though, that’d be fine, right? Oh, is that a bit homophobic? Surely you have just not got a sense of humour and are overburdened by political correctness.
I note that the “vision and values” page on the MQFF website is currently unfinished. How telling. Sort yer shit out.
ETA: Lisa Daniels, director of the MQFF left a comment at Hoyden About Town, noting that the film page has now been updated with the following:
Ticked Off Trannies With Knives was selected by the main MQFF selection panel. The Trans selection panel of Teague Lee and Jonathan Williams were not involved in that selection process. The MQFF defends the selection of Ticked off Trannies With Knives, and believes that audiences have the right to make up their own mind about controversial films. We encourage discussion about the merits or otherwise of such films. The MQFF acknowledges that our dress up theme of coming along to the screening as your favourite ‘ticked off trannie’, while irreverent for some, is ill advised, and just plain insensitive. In line with this we have changed the night’s theme encouraging audiences to instead come along dressed up as their favorite superhero. As the late night session requires an audience participation element as per our funding agreement, we felt this change better reflected the film’s theme of vigilante justice for the trans characters in the film. The MQFF supports discussion and debate concerning queer representation in the media and believe that audiences should be allowed to critically engage with the film and the concerns its inclusion in this year’s festival may raise.
Well, that’s something. I thank MQFF and Lisa Daniels for hearing us on this.
I believe in trans people.
Not because we are magically insightful. Not because we are full of arcane shapechanger wisdom. Not because we are more or less great or holy than anyone, in our way. We have among us wonderful people and people who do and say terrible things. We have our crooks and our hypocrites and our abusers and our traitors, same as anyone, right alongside our heroes and champions and grand examples of high character. We are a mixed bag, you and me and you and you and you. We don’t have any more or fewer secret Mysteries in our blood, wherever it bleeds from. We’re people, with our tiny daily mistakes and triumphs, our hopes and our hopes for forgiveness.
I believe in trans people.
This is the right wing political movement in the United States today:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.
Jensen did not return calls to his home or his office requesting comment on the bill, which is cosponsored by 22 other state representatives and four state senators. UPDATE: Jensen spoke to Mother Jones on Tuesday morning, after this story was published. He says that he disagrees with this interpretation of the bill. “This simply is to bring consistency to South Dakota statute as it relates to justifiable homicide,” said Jensen in an interview, repeating an argument he made in the committee hearing on the bill last week. “If you look at the code, these codes are dealing with illegal acts. Now, abortion is a legal act. So this has got nothing to do with abortion.” Jensen also aggressively defended the bill in an interview with theWashington Post‘s Greg Sargent on Tuesday morning. We have more on Jensen’s position here.
“The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers,” says Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. Since 1993, eight doctors have been assassinated at the hands of anti-abortion extremists, and another 17 have been the victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes have tried to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. “This is not an abstract bill,” Saporta says. The measure could have major implications if a “misguided extremist invokes this ‘self-defense’ statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer,” the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families warned in a message to supporters last week.
I don’t know if this is the actual logical outcome of that bill, but the wording does strike me as leading and suspicious.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the longtime leader of efforts to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s funding that goes towards women’s health programs, has released a statement saying that the videos produced by Lila Rose’s radical group Live Action should push Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. The Religious Right has consistently tried to demonize Planned Parenthood in order to strip the organization of its federal funding, and Live Action’s videos have encouraged anti-choice groups to step-up their activities. While Planned Parenthood notified the FBI of a possible sex trafficking ring promptly after members of Live Action tried to scam clinic workers, anti-choice leaders embraced the discredited videos anyway. Pence is now calling on Congress to pass his legislation that would end federal funding of Planned Parenthood:
The recent release of an undercover video exposing duplicity and potential criminality by an employee of Planned Parenthood is an outrage.
Every American should be shocked that an employee of the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X has been recorded aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking.
The time to deny any and all funding to Planned Parenthood is now. In the wake of yet another scandal involving Planned Parenthood, I urge Congress to move the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act to the floor for immediate consideration.
This is it. Right now, Congress is considering a provision to strip all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers.
This is truly an emergency for Planned Parenthood and women’s health. Call now and tell your U.S. representative to vote NO.
Anti-choice leaders in the House are forcing a vote that would deny Planned Parenthood health centers every dime of federal funding.Without this funding, many people would lose access to their only source of basic health care.
We need you to act now by calling your representative. Click here to be connected, or just dial 202-730-9001 and tell your representative to vote NO on any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
Critical public health programs including Title X provide funding for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, and other lifesaving care for those who can’t otherwise afford it — and all of this funding is in danger. For many women, Planned Parenthood clinics are theonly source for these services.
The consequences of passing this bill are clear — and they would be devastating. More women would have unintended pregnancies. Cancer would develop, undiagnosed, in countless women. There is no doubt: cutting off millions of women from care they have no other way to afford places them at risk of sickness and death.
That’s exactly what Congress is voting on this week. It’s up to us to tell them NO. It’s up to us to protect local health centers and the people who rely on them every day. It’s up to us to make it clear that we will not stand for these outrageous attacks on Planned Parenthood or any effort to undermine access to lifesaving care. Speak out now — demand that your U.S. representative vote NO.
Thank you for standing with us and helping to protect Planned Parenthood and the women, men, and teens our health centers serve.
Sarah Jaffe has started a series of posts at Alternet profiling the Democrats sponsoring the appalling HR3 and HR358 bills:
And the thing is, the DCCC and other organizations are blaming this on Republicans. But just like the Stupak-Pitts amendment to healthcare reform, this bill comes to us as a special gift from some Democrats, too. Ten of them cosponsor H.R. 3 and did so even with rape-redefining language; four of those ten also apparently don’t care if pregnant women [people with uteruses] die.
Of particular interest (follow the money, always) is this paragraph:
The DCCC spent $231,112.63 on Shuler’s reelection this year in North Carolina’s 11th district. The Blue Dog PAC also kicked in $30,000, and Shuler’s largest individual donor was a company called Phillips & Jordan, to the tune of $56,150. (They contribute mostly to Republicans, but Shuler was by far the biggest recipient of their largesse–hmmm. They appear to get quite a few federal contracts, mostly for demolishing things in New Orleans post-Katrina. I’m not even going to get STARTED on that.)
Sarah links a post from Michael Whitney at Firedoglake, who notes that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Comittee (the DCCC, the “party apparatus whose sole purpose is to elect Dems to the House”) has funded the HR3 Ten to the tune of a total $3.3 million. Funding anti-choice politicians intent on removing rape, incest and health exemptions? Fuck no.
The left in this country does not have a Congressional majority. What it can have, and should have, is a united front on choice, which includes rejecting and condemning Democrats who cross party lines to create or pass legislation that violently harms pregnant people. If we have reached the point that Democratic politicians are going to start killing their supporters, then we have reached the point of no return. Aside from the fact that we deserve to live even if we have risky pregnancies, we are their base; it’s time they treated us that way. We can go back to the old ways: We can march, we can call, we can get right in their faces until they are too scared to act as if we don’t exist when they make our votes.
It’s what we did last time they were killing us. It’s what we have to do again.
Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was released on February 3rd. Pieces of this report have come out over the past several months (posted about here and on Bird of Paradox, as well as likely many other locations). This is, however, the full 220-page report, which is filled with some depressing statistics.
- Respondents were four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with incomes lower than $10,000
- Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed
- One in four reported being fired for their gender identity or expression
- Half said they experienced harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace
- One in five said they experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression
- 19% said they had been refused a home or apartment
- 19% said they had been refused health care
- 31% reported harassment or bullying by teachers
- 41% reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% for the general population
In category after category, the study showed that transgender people of color faced even more pronounced discrimination and higher negative outcomes; for example, African-American respondents reported unemployment levels at double the other respondents’, or four times the national average.
“The data really shows the compounding effects of racism combined with antitrans bias that combines to cause devastation and life-threatening discrimination for trans people of color,” said Mottet.
I am disappointed to note that there is no serious breakdown of how these numbers intersect with disability. 31% of the respondents indicated they had disabilities (categorized as physical, mental, or learning – national average is 20%), but the survey was perhaps not specific enough to match the CDC’s definition of a disability. 8% of the respondents received disability benefits.
I think this report largely covers the kinds of issues we’re facing as a community (or rather, as several overlapping communities). It finally gives us a focus on the concrete obstacles that trans people face, as well as how these obstacles differ on the basis of race. There is no rational objection to the idea that institutionalized cissexism is a real force that harms people on a daily basis.
Far more than the brain scans that Quinnae critiqued last week, this research has an immediate, practical, obvious purpose. Hopefully this data will translate into meaningful action.
I’ll need more time to digest the report before I’ll be able to say more about this.