Posts tagged: politics

Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport

By , February 18, 2016 10:33 am

From Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, August 21, 1790:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Read it carefully, and then reread it. Washington is saying that the time of mere tolerance (“toleration”) – where one group can decide whether or not another deserves rights – is over. The country Washington was working to build “requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

It is undeniably worth applying a sizeable grain of salt to anything written on the topics of equality by the Founding Fathers. Most (all?) of them were sexist, racist, and classist. Nevertheless, they laid an impressive foundation on which to build a truly equal and equitable society.

I’m reminded of this passage as the news continues to come about South Dakota’s anti-trans bill, about the person in Washington who – by all accounts – took advantage of pro-trans laws, and the seemingly endless stream of anti-trans, anti-woman, anti-POC, anti-immigrant, anti-poor, anti- anti- anti- news from around the country.

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights…”

My existence cannot depend on mere tolerance from cis people. The existence of PoC cannot depend on mere tolerance from white people. The existence of the poor cannot depend on mere tolerance from the wealthy.

Washington – slaveholder, sexist, classist as he was – nevertheless hinted at a fundamental truth we are still striving to reach over two hundred years later.

Let us speak no more of toleration as if our rights should be subject to the indulgence of those with more power and privilege.

Creating Change, The LGBTQ movement, and the long game

By , January 29, 2016 11:49 am

Creating Change, the largest LGBTQ conference in the country, was in Chicago recently. There were a few dramatic moments, to say the least. In short, there was about a protest a day: At the Latinx Institute, at the Panel on Trans-Attracted Men, and – most notably and most reported – at the reception hosted by A Wider Bridge, “the pro-Israel organization that builds bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies.” A few articles on the conference for your reading pleasure (I don’t agree with everything these articles say, but I’ve gotten something from each of them): LGBTQ Jews: Let’s Stop Talking About IsraelIn Praise of Discomfort: Learning From Dr. King and Confronting PinkwashingWe Can All Learn from Creating Change 2016. And The Task Force’s Rea Carey on the Protest That Rocked Her Conference.

There’s one more article making the rounds titled “Special Snowflake Syndrome is ruining the progressive LGBTQ movement.” I’m not going to link to it because I think it’s, on the whole, condescending; feel free to Google it if you’re interested. For all that the article does poorly, I DO think there’s a kernel of value in it: Far too many LGBTQ activists are eager to call out rather than call in. There is an utter inability to assume good intent or to try and find a common ground. And there is little room for a plurality of opinions. Either you agree with me or you’re the enemy. Continue reading 'Creating Change, The LGBTQ movement, and the long game'»

A Recipe For Womanhood

By , June 8, 2015 4:58 pm

By now, Elinor Burkett’s op-ed at the New York Times, What Makes A Woman?, has been making the rounds. Those more familiar with trans identity, and how feminism has and hasn’t been an ally to the trans community, have reacted with appropriate disappointment and disgust. In the best response I’ve seen, Jaclyn Friedman wrote, “Womanhood is not an exclusive club. So many people are in it, and we are all so very different from one another. We shouldn’t imagine any of us hold the keys to womanhood.” Those less familiar with trans identity, even many people who would consider themselves allies to the trans community, shared Burkett’s op-ed on Twitter and Facebook with notes like “How interesting!” or “She raises some good points!”


Burkett’s op-ed raises no new perspectives, and is steeped in the same stodgy feminism (so-called) that has spent decades marginalizing and sidelining issues of race, class, sexuality, gender identity and expression, and more. Jaclyn’s piece covers much of what I wanted to say, so I’d suggest you go read it. But, below, I’ll touch on a few other thoughts.

Continue reading 'A Recipe For Womanhood'»

Racism within the trans community

By , January 29, 2015 9:17 pm

I saw a trans person comment on this link, a new NBC segment featuring Janet Mock, and imply that Mock only cares about trans PoC. Specifically, that person said, “I wonder how many times she’ll reference Trans Men/Women of Color — as if that’s all there is in our community??”

Here’s my response:

I’m disappointed to see this comment. Undoubtedly, trans people of all gender expressions, ages, classes, sexualities, and every other possible category experience both explicit and implicit discrimination in our society. We face issues with employment, housing, sex and relationships, and simply walking down the street safely.

And yet, to overlook or deny the impact race has on that discrimination seems – at best – naive.

You make an implicit accusation against Janet, that she’s only speaking on behalf of trans PoC, or only using her position in the media spotlight to work for their success. Certainly, white trans people deserve attention and recognition. I say this as a white trans person; I don’t want my story to be overlooked or forgotten, or the hardships I’ve faced to be erased. But PoC – as a population – have it worse at every step of the way. Educationally, socially, when it comes to employment, when it comes to the criminal justice system; PoC have the deck stacked against them. In turn, white trans folks benefit from that stacked deck. No, this doesn’t mean white trans people have it easy. But we have it ever-so-slightly (and often very significantly) less hard. Continue reading 'Racism within the trans community'»

Review: Selma

By , January 4, 2015 5:28 pm

You should see Selma, the fictionalized telling of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s involvement in the march from Selma to Montgomery in March, 1965, to push for voting rights for black Americans. The movie is definitely entertainment and not an accurate representation of history, although it appears to do pretty well at getting the broad strokes – and many of the minor details – right. Even when it falls short in getting every detail correct, it does a masterful job of capturing the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the civil rights movement. Simplicity, because the stated goals – full and complete legal and civil equality for black Americans – could be easily encapsulated and fit on a protest sign. Complexity, because the many organizations, leaders, politicians, and individuals involved in the movement had different – and often mutually exclusive – ideas on how to get there. Continue reading 'Review: Selma'»

Attending the 2014 HRC Chicago Gala, and an open letter to HRC President Griffin

By , September 30, 2014 2:31 pm
Because the trans community can't go fifteen minutes without talking about HRC...

Because the trans community can’t go fifteen minutes without talking about HRC…

Less than a week ago, I wrote a post about HRC President Chad Griffin apologizing to the trans community on behalf of HRC. If I may, I’m going to quote something I wrote in that post:

I expect to continue to view the HRC with skepticism. My dollars will still go, first and foremost, to smaller and more trans-specific organizations. My primary support as an activist will do the same. We cannot afford to be complacent, or to give the HRC any sort of free pass. But, near the end of the keynote, Griffin asks, “please continue to hold HRC accountable. Hold me accountable.”

So lets do just that.

Shortly after I published that, I was offered the opportunity to attend HRC Chicago’s 2014 gala. The invitation was utterly unrelated to my post – the ticket came through the Chicago trans activist community – but it nevertheless seemed timely. Chad Griffin would be speaking at the dinner. I’d be attending with other members of the Chicago trans community. And I’d have the opportunity to see what, exactly, HRC meant when it called for people to “celebrate the strides HRC has made toward achieving equality for our community this past year.”

Lets avoid any building of suspense: The “strides” the HRC was celebrating rarely included trans people, and the “community” was overwhelmingly white, cis, and male.

Continue reading 'Attending the 2014 HRC Chicago Gala, and an open letter to HRC President Griffin'»

Trans women, sex, and race

By , September 25, 2014 3:34 pm

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working on a sex guide for trans women and their partners, titled Trans Women + Sex = Awesome. The current version is available for free online at Early to Bed. I’m trying to figure out what would make sense as a long-term home, as well as how to create a print addition. (Any suggestions on either of those projects is, of course, most welcome.) Earlier this month, Trans Women + Sex = Awesome was picked up by Autostraddle, which led to some awesome exposure, including a shout-out from Crash Pad on Twitter (squee!). One response, however, has given me the most food for thought, and I felt like it deserved more than 140 characters of consideration. Specifically, a post from Viva La Luna titled So You Can Fuck Us, What’s Next? // Going Beyond Sex With Trans Women.

For all the shit trans women experience as a broad community, Luna says, trans women of color (TWOC) have it even worse off.  It would be stupid to argue with that position. Across every survey and study I’ve seen, TWOC are the most targeted group for hate speech, violence, and sexual assault, not to mention the most likely to suffer issues of homelessness and unemployment. We live in a racist society, and that racism is only made worse when overlapped with societal and interpersonal transphobia. But Luna draws upon her experiences to respond to Trans Women + Sex = Awesome and Mira Bellwether’s Fucking While Trans, and to bring race into how we discuss trans sex and sexuality.

I’m thrilled to have her voice in the conversation, and honestly embarrassed to admit that issues of race and racism had not crossed my mind while writing Trans Women + Sex = Awesome. 

Continue reading 'Trans women, sex, and race'»

HRC Apologizes to the Trans Community

By , September 23, 2014 4:40 pm

(I realize this post is slightly dated, as HRC President Chad Griffin gave his speech almost a month ago. Still, I figured that – like his apology – this post would be better late than never.)

Southern Comfort is one of the biggest trans conferences in the US, and the 2014 event took place earlier this month. The keynote speech was delivered on September 5 by Chad Griffin, the President of HRC.

Wait, what?

The HRC, the largest LGB-and-sometimes-T political advocacy group in the US, has an…ahem…troubled history when it comes to the trans community. TransGriot has two in-depth pieces that go over the details, one from 2007 and a followup from 2013, but here are some key points:

  • The HRC came out of the gay rights movement of the 1970s, which was pushing for mainstream acceptance, often at the expense of trans folks
  • Elizabeth Birch (HRC Executive Director from ’95-’04) once said a trans-inclusive ENDA would happen over her “dead body”
  • Since then, the HRC has consistently done a poor job of pushing for trans-inclusive ENDA legislation, even after Birch left
  • More recently, the HRC asked a trans activist to take down their trans flag at a march

Needless to say, many – myself included – are skeptical anytime the HRC says they’re going to support the trans community. So why the heck would the president of HRC be delivering the keynote at a trans conference? Well, because he stood on the stage at Southern Comfort and apologized to the trans community, on behalf of the HRC, and pledged to do better.

Should we believe him? Even if we do believe his apology, should the apology change anything?

Continue reading 'HRC Apologizes to the Trans Community'»

Thoughts on The White House’s non-response ‘response’ to the Petition on Non-Binary Genders

By , July 13, 2014 8:45 pm

In 2011, the White House opened We The People, a site where people can petition the Obama administration and vote on (“sign”) what petitions they think deserve a response. For the most part, the responses have been tepid at best. For example, Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was chosen to respond to a petition on marijuana legalization when the holder of that office is legally bound to oppose the legalization of any and all currently illegal drugs. (The White House does deserve some credit for humorously responding to a petition demanding the US build a Death Star.) Check out this January 2013 article at The Atlantic for more thoughts on the petition site itself.

This past week, Roy Austin, the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council (wow, what a long and ridiculous title) responded to a petition requesting the US Government to Legally Recognize Non-Binary Genders. The petition notes that Australia and New Zealand both allow for some sort of non-binary gender marker on passports, and requests that the Obama Administration…

…legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary (such as agender, pangender, genderfluid, and others) and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

Not surprisingly, the response was a carefully bureaucratic attempt to seem supportive without actually providing any language of, y’know, support. In particular, there’s nothing that could be easily quoted to use against the administration by conservative news outlets or politicians. Lets examine the response paragraph by paragraph. Continue reading 'Thoughts on The White House’s non-response ‘response’ to the Petition on Non-Binary Genders'»

Responding to “15 Women Say Why They Don’t Need Feminism”

By , July 12, 2014 12:14 am

Someone recently tagged me on Facebook to make me aware of this list on Buzzfeed (tellingly, with the URL ending in “/i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means.”) The friend tagged me specifically because they disagreed with the list, and figured I would too. They were correct.

So, point by point, a response and refutation. All emphasis (underlines/italics/etc) are from the original post.

1.”I don’t need feminism because I don’t want to politicize my gender.”

That’s a lovely sentiment, but others are going to politicize it for you, whether you like it or not. From the Hobby Lobby ruling, giving your boss additional ability to control your healthcare, to politicians attempting to define “legitimate rape” that your body can “shut down,” to politicians rejecting the idea that you deserve equal pay for an equal job, your gender is going to be politicized. So while it’s a noble idea to want to stay above the fray, it’s also a naive and ultimately harmful one. In a world where the political becomes personal, the personal must be political.

2. I don’t need feminism because I am NOTVictim.

I don’t need the civil rights movement because I’m not a person of color. I don’t need to combat Islamophobia because I’m not a Muslim. There is an inherent selfishness in saying “This issue doesn’t directly impact me, so it’s unimportant.” And – in the vein of “The only moral abortion is my abortion” – it’s easy to forget how issues of feminism might impact you until they do impact you.

Continue reading 'Responding to “15 Women Say Why They Don’t Need Feminism”'»

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