Today is the Transgender Day of Rage (though some may call it a day of remembrance): Today I rage on behalf of my people, who have been murdered, raped, and incarcerated in the name of cis-normativity, who are still regularly portrayed in media not as people, but as commodities and objects for homophobic violence, and who are routinely discriminated in housing, healthcare, employment, immigration, education, and many other arenas.

Today I rage for Leslie Feinberg, who died this week of multiple chronic illnesses, who (in the words of one friend) had been writing for 20 years about not being able to access healthcare as a transgender person–and that lack of access finally killed hir.

Today I rage on behalf of the myriad young women, many of them women of color, who have either been incarcerated for defending themselves against transphobic attackers like Cece Mcdonald, or who have not survived these racist and transphobic attacks, as Islan Nettles, whose absences in the lives of friends, families, loved ones, lovers, and fellow activists and community members are deeply felt, as we await another sunrise without their incredible spark beside us.

Today I rage for gender variant teenagers and adults who will not live to see another day because the stigma of being gender variant in a world that sees gender solely as a binary became too much, and they succumbed to suicide, or were murdered by a friend or family member that they thought they could trust with their difference.

Today I rage on behalf of trans* and queer youth and adults who are faced with homelessness and poverty, many of whom can not even sleep in shelters when they are available, because there is no shelter I know of that has had a truly trans* sensitive policy–they are all stopgaps, and it is never safe enough.

Today I rage on behalf of those who in their disability live lives of interdependence, whose identities may be kept close for fear of retribution by their caregivers. I see you, I am waiting for you in the reaches of the internet and beyond. We are building bridges that no one can burn. We are all interdependent.

Tonight I will light no candles and I will not be silent–silence can not quell my fury, my fury is the truest expression of my grief. We must rise up against those who would try to silence us, we must exercise solidarity on behalf of one another. Rather than a moment of silence, I envision a world where as part of a continual course of action, we have set fire to the prisons, banished borders, restored sovereignty to indigenous communities, and opened the millions of foreclosed homes stolen by bankers’ greed and dishonesty to those disenfranchised by the wages of late capitalism.

I will not be satiated by the pink-washing of gentrification, political campaigns, and products or gay marriage. I will stop for nothing short of full-fledged revolution that wrests power from the sullied hands of the state and restores it to the people.

more here and here for folks outta the loop d’loop.

Trigger warning for slutshaming and radscum. ’nuff said!

Recently I volunteered to perform at a Take Back the Night rally. A friend had invited me to a feminist book club that also includes an online presence on Facebook, and someone associated with TBTN had put up a call for performers. I’ve been thinking for a few years about wanting to create space specifically for survivors of violence to share our stories and let go of some of the shame that (for me, at least) sometimes accompanies surviving violence, and so I responded to the call with a few pieces. One of the organizers responded enthusiastically and said they’d be glad to have me perform, and gosh, it was really useful to have my pieces ahead of time for the ASL interpreters. ASL interpreters! I have been performing as a hearing person for over 10 years at this point, and I have never performed with an ASL interpreter, so I was excited by the chance.

Take Back the Night has its roots in the mid-1970s second wave feminist movement, as a direct action protest against sexual violence against women. At the same time that these actions were taking place, a woman-led effort to do away with pornography was also taking hold and became closely linked with TBTN. The era of the so-called Feminist Sex Wars is of particular interest to me as a feminist, a pervert*, and a trans person. Several of my favorite writers (Dorothy Allison, Gayle Rubin, and Pat Califia among them) have written fairly extensively about this era and the various witch hunts that ensued, from the exclusion of masculine-identified people from the women’s movement (Leslie Feinburg writes about this in Stone Butch Blues) to the rise of a pro-censorship and anti-pornography faction called Women Against Pornography (WAP), the vilification of the practice of BDSM and beyond.

To be honest with you, I knew all of this history when I volunteered to perform at the rally. But I also thought to myself, “RD, it’s 2012! We’re in [liberal West Coast port city]! We’re known for our sex-positivity! Besides, this rally is supposed to be about survivors, not about political analysis.” Well. I guess I was wrong.

The first speaker to take the mic was the college president, who seemed genuinely glad to be there and said that he “look[s] forward to the day we no longer have to have these rallies, because there is no more violence!” Unrealistic, maybe, but okay. Hopeful. I like hopeful.

Pass the mic, next speaker. My blood ran cold when they said that they were with WAP. It is 2012, right? I found myself frantically checking my wrist and looking around me to see if I was having a nightmare as the tirade was launched. The speech was fairly long and it felt a bit flailing, to be honest, but it certainly riled up the crowd. The first piece of rhetoric that I can recall was “If you can’t imagine pornography without sex, you’re fucked!” My friend W., who was also present, tells me that she noticed people wandering the room beforehand with stickers with the same troubling quotation on it, but I didn’t see or hear it until that moment. What?! As if fucked is the worst thing we could be? I like getting fucked. And I bet I’m not the only one in the audience who does. Next up was the tokenization of queers. The speaker continued, repeatedly checking “LGBT people,” seemingly without actually understanding that hey, we’re right over here, and we can speak for ourselves! It’s hard sometimes when being tokenized to not stand up and start yelling You don’t speak for me! in one’s big voice, but I held my ground. And then they came for the kinky ones, and began deriding “torture porn,” and spoke of being in tears upon seeing the bruises on models’ bodies. As an occasional sex worker and a person who likes bruises, likes bruising others–after all, it is the consent that makes all the difference, this was the last straw. I got up and left in an absolute quaking rage.

I don’t disagree that a significant amount of pornography is exploitive and symptomatic of a violent, misogynist society (not to mention racist, sexist, ableist, etc…class, we remember the terms kyriarchy and kyriarchical, right?) , but it’s just that, a symptom. Trying to do away with a symptom without getting to the root of the illness is simplistic, foolish, and likely to do more harm than good (Comstock Act, anyone?). I felt like the speaker was denying people their agency while making sweeping generalizations about “men” and “women” as somehow homogeneous groups, with men playing the part of the aggressor and women playing the part of the victim. This tactic denies peoples’ agency and erases people who live outside that binarism, and that’s just to start with. W. talks much more about why the arguments used were problematic here.

Overall, I was incredibly frustrated and disgusted. I spent a large portion of the day thinking about and discussing this happening with various friends who frequently act as support to me. I had really hoped to share part of my story as a survivor with others as a part of the healing process of removing shame from those experiences by bringing some of mine out into the open, telling our truths in a safe place, but it turns out the safe place was anything but safe.

Did I deserve to be sexually assaulted if I had had kinky sex with my abuser? Did my father assault me because he could see my perversion before even I knew about it? Are my experiences with violence still important/valid as a masculine-identified person? There are a lot of victim-blaming and slut-shaming narratives that start pounding in my temples when I’m feeling shitty, and I didn’t really need to hear those again. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and a lot of time doing personal healing work for myself to put those questions down like an insurrection, so to speak. I know the answers to them now. But this event made them pop up and it’s gonna feel like whack-a-mole for a few days with the bad brain voice, I think. Ugh.

Anyhow. I think I’d like to organize a speak-out about sexual violence. No politicking about banning pornography or slutshaming about sexual preference allowed. It’s the consent makes all the difference.

ps. this was pretty much all I could think all day: 1982 called and it wants its shitty second-wave analysis back. just sayin’!

06/05/2012

Dear reader, like most folks these days, I’m pretty dubious of online petitions, but just in case I hope you’ll sign this, read this, and read the following. -RD

ps. oh, do you have money? neat! you could donate it here. being in prison is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E.

 

PRESS RELEASE Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald & Leslie Feinberg 6-5-12

by FreeCece Mcdonald on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 6:49am ·

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 5, 2012

Leslie Feinberg Arrested in Solidarity with Chrishaun McDonald

Hundreds Take to Street in Protest

Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network, transyouthsupportnetwork@gmail.com, (612) 363-7574; and Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, mntranspr@gmail.com, (612) 823-1152

Leslie Feinberg was arrested last night amidst hundreds of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald supporters protesting outside of the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. Feinberg is being held at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and is facing charges of property damage. The protest was held on the eve of McDonald’s transfer to the state prison system, where she will serve out a sentence of 41 months for defending herself against racist and transphobic attackers. Although McDonald initially faced two charges of second degree murder, earlier this month she accepted a plea agreement to a reduced charge of second degree manslaughter due to negligence.  Outraged supporters took to the streets, blocking traffic for over an hour in protest of the violent abuses McDonald has faced at the hands of our legal system.  Feinberg joined demonstrators in making noise loud enough to be heard within the facility McDonald is currently being held at, and marching through the streets in a show of love and solidarity with CeCe McDonald and with all incarcerated individuals.  Feinberg was the only person arrested, and is excited to draw more attention to McDonald’s story and to the prevalent racism and transphobia within the criminal system.

Feinberg has given the following statement:

Many people across the United States and around the world are watching, and history will record what happens on June 4, 2012.  CeCe McDonald survived a fascist hate crime; now she’s sentenced as she struggles to survive an ongoing state hate crime. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues! I know from the lessons of histories what is means when the state—in a period of capitalist economic crisis—enacts apartheid passbook laws, bounds up and deports immigrant works, and gives a green light to e white supremacists, fascist attacks on Black peoples—from Sanford, Florida, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The prosecutor and the judge are upholding the intent of the infamous white supremacist Dred Scott ruling of 1857.

The same year Fredrick Douglass concluded: “Without struggle, there is no progress!”

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth:  celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation—the formal Abolitionist of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defense against racist violence.

Yet, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jailers are continuing the violent and bigoted hate crimes begun by the group of white supremacists who carried out a fascist attack on CeCe McDonald and her friends.

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison in June—the month when the Stonewall Rebellion ignited in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. From the Compton’s Uprising to the Stonewall Rebellion, defense against oppression is a law of survival.

This is Pride month, and will be bringing the demand: “Free CeCe—now!” to the regional Pride march where I live. I believe many other individuals, groups, and contingents will thunder that demand in Pride marches and rallies all over the world—informing millions who take part, and millions more who support.

The prosecution hopes this struggle is over. But it is not over: Free CeCe—now! An injury to one is an injury to all! Come out against racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and sexist wars at home and abroad!

Feinberg’s arrest is symptomatic of growing anger and frustration at the disproportionate targeting and abuse of young transgender women of color in our society.  The actions Feinberg took last night were in solidarity with McDonald and all prisoners to let them know they are not alone.  Feinberg is excited to garner attention to how McDonald is treated today as McDonald is transferred to the prison intake facility in St. Cloud, MN.

McDonald’s case does not reflect an isolated aberration in the functioning of the U.S. legal system, but rather business as usual within a society that has, for hundreds of years, profited from the incarceration and exploitation of people of color and trans/gender non-conforming people.  McDonald’s sentencing sends a very clear message to all those following her case across the country: transphobia and racism are alive and well, both in the violent verbal and physical attacks on trans youth of color in the night as well as in the legal system which makes surviving this violence a crime punishable by years of incarceration.  Nevertheless, we look forward to joining all of McDonald’s supporters in continuing to fight against these systems of power, for CeCe and for all transgender women of color targeted by the prison-industrial complex.

With love and rage,

The CeCe McDonald Support Committee

For more information on McDonald’s case, visit http://www.supportcece.wordpress.com.

###

fumbling over talking about race and urbanism with L, i explain how uncomfortable the homogeneity of my friendships and acquaintances in [other city] made me, how i felt like in almost any given situation i was the closest person to a PoC in the room, and i’m fairly translucent (by which i mean: i pass, whether unintentionally or not, and experience white privilege in my daily life). it felt telling. i feel like that occurrence given as a recurring situation is evidence of underlying problems, the way that race and racism are but aren’t a part of the dialogue in those rooms, the way that homogeneity in [other city] felt palpable.

how did you learn to talk about race?

i feel like my parents each had a distinct way of conveying discourse about race and racism. my father’s tack was to ignore racism by pretending to be colorblind (“we’re all just people!”), and essentialising our own heritage down to food and language without exploring colonialism beyond military history, primarily that written by (what i would consider to be) the oppressor. my mother’s strategy was in policing identities and behaviours, making broad stroke generalisations and racist jokes in poor taste.

i feel like for a long time it was easier for me to see racism in individual circumstances, and glossed over in the way it creates and strengthens structural and institutional inequalities.

i’m still working on all of it, the language in which i understand concepts, the concepts themselves.

i feel like the most brain-opening thing that happened to me was at some point i started hearing people calling out racism as white supremacy culture. something clicked there, “aha!” and i began to do a lot more concerned reading. i would say that this is where my anarchism comes from, but it’s not. my anarchism comes from a whole host of observations and experiences, based on what some anarchists would dismiss as identity politics. (guess i’ll never be a member of the (A) team now?)

it seems like a lot of the time when people talk about white supremacy outside of activist/radical contexts, people are thinking of racist skinhead punks or neo-nazis. but when i talk about white supremacy culture i am talking about white supremacy as a

historically-based, institutionally-perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of establishing, maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

definition from here.

i am talking about white supremacy culture as the culture the perpetuates those systems, either overtly (through imprisonment, economic/educational discrimination, etc) or with the assumption that whiteness is “normal,” the assumptions that other, well…everyone who has not been assimilated. and so on.

whiteness as the Borg, anyone?

anyhow. there are a lot of shitty narratives that contribute to white supremacy culture, and i’m trying to work on calling them out, both internally and externally. accountability is (of course) uncomfortable–but it also gives me a lot of hope.

this piece, Challenging White Supremacy Culture in Organizations by Tema Okun, is a worthwhile stop along the way.

more reading, more thinking, more work to do.

Trigger warning for police violence, riot porn, etc. Take care of yourself! -RD

it’s been a year of radical firsts. first convergence, first proximity to chemical weapons, first arrest, first mass mobilization.

they just do it to scare you and keep you off the streets. the flash-bangs, the tear gas, the pepperspray. temporary disability (not being able to see, breathe unlaboriously, or hear) is terrifying, particularly when those symptoms are a departure from your normal.

it’s terrifying but if we remain calm and keep our wits about us, just steady ourselves and help eachother…it seems doable. we’ll get thru this, come out on the other side. i’ll see you in the streets again (like i have before), your face milky white-stained and your eyes big and red, but still smiling. there’s a war on but there’s a grim humor here, too. boner jokes and boot dances make the time pass more quickly, keep us warm, too.

*****

the burrito brigade passes, around and around, insistently kind. “burrito? another burrito?” it is good to feel cared for. good to give care, take care.

for some people police weapons are extremely triggering, and it is for them that i most want to be here. a gentle voice, a calm hand. do you want us to walk you out of here? okay, let’s do that. what do you need? anybody thirsty?

a lot of medics like to be where the overt action is, the noisy chaos and crush. sometimes i can do that, but more often than not i can’t, and my level of training/prior trauma baggage (so easily triggerable) make it more appropriate that i keep out of the fray. i’m most interested in preventative care and/or the networking of people-places-resources (as i do in my daily life), anyways. have you eaten today? would you like some water? hey, we have hats and gloves, who needs some? how about a ride home for your shivering’n’traumatized pal? have you seen this person’s buddy? some people get addicted to the adrenaline rush of trauma medicine, but i’m more addicted to graciousness and gratitude. sometimes the receipt, but what also so much i love being able to thank other people for their goodness, their kindnesses. eating my humble pie a mouthfull at a time.

there are still confrontations, of course, tho they are often of a different sort (fewer nightsticks and longer sentences, but i still shake for days afterwards). full-body blocking the camera: you can’t take a picture of this person without their consent, and they can’t consent until they can breathe without sputtering again. “oh?” yes, thank you so much for your understanding. i smile ingratiatingly from under my bandanna (make sure your eyes wrinkle nice, i think) and reach out my hand, the photographer takes it, we make introductions. wish we were meeting under better circumstances, you can call me ____. another would-be photographer is not so gracious, but the subject of the photos hollers consent (thank you) and i bug out gladly.

*****

“Wisdom” I view through an anarchist lens: what dismantles hierarchy and oppression, what redistributes and builds power in the hands of those with the least of it, what equalizes and empowers. There’s a lot of forgiveness in my personal understanding of ‘right action’ for doing the best one can, recognizing structural limits, and acknowledging complexity, unknowns, lack of or multiple right answers. But the definition stands on choice, that knowledge that at some point we can choose our reactions to the circumstances in which we’re placed. Courage is only one value of many. There may be a courageous act one chooses not to do for important, valid reasons. That’s ok. But its important that we acknowledge our choices.

The key thing I try to internalize is the principle that standing against oppression– yours or in solidarity with someone else– is more courageous than dangerous, brave shit that reinforces it.

*****
so. guess i’m trying to eke out some sort of synthesis between the flash-bangs and the burritos. just decompressing, y’know?

-RD

hey reader! i know that lots of folks have experienced trauma at the hands of the mental “health” industrial complex (i.e. abusive therapy, involuntary incarceration, etc), and this post addresses some of those topics. please read with care and feel free to click away as needed. love and light, RD

i wish i had had the resources to do solidarity for incarcerated folks earlier in life, and/or learned how earlier. i remember the myriad times my friends were locked up, the stories they would return with–not just from psych wards, but from facilities we knew as juvie, rehab, or (ugh) “camp”.

here is what i know about how to practice solidarity for my friends when they get locked up involuntarily in the psych ward:

1) get their legal name, especially if they’re a trans person. birthdate can be helpful, too. depending upon where they are incarcerated, the medical staff may refuse to call them by their preferred name, and so you will need to use their legal name with those people.

2) get the name/phone # of the facility where they are incarcerated. if you can, find out what block they’re locked up in. some facilities are really big, and it’s easy for them to “lose” a person if you don’t have specifics.

3) call and ask to speak to that person.

4) call again. you don’t usually get thru the 1st-3rd times. sometimes you can leave a message. in your message, tell them (assuming you’re going to) that you will call back, and when.

5) if you’re able to reach your friend, ask if there’s anything they need. do they want you to get in touch with someone? what do they want you to tell that person? can you feed their cat, pay their phone bill, or complete some other time-sensitive task for them? sometimes it can be simple as letting their sweety know where they are.

6) ask (don’t insist!) if they’d like to be visited. if they don’t feel like being visited, accept their “no.” if it’s a soft no, let them know that it’s okay to change their mind later (like: cool, but if you change your mind, i’d still make time to visit you!).

7) if they’d like to be visited, ask if there’s anything you can bring them to make them more comfortable. food, a particular blanket or stuffed animal, art supplies, whatever.

8) call the day of your visit, and give them a time frame to expect you in, and set a limit for how long you will stay (this is healthy, and part of taking care of yourself!). confirm you will try to bring the things they have requested if that’s part of your agreement.

9) during your visit/over the phone: if your friend feels comfortable discussing it with you, you can ask if they are getting their needs met. ask if the doctor(s)/orderlies are listening to them and their experiences with their own body. sometimes the medical “professionals” will ignore what the “patient” is saying about their prior experiences with certain meds, and the results can be disastrously fucked.

as a person on the outside, you have the power to advocate for people on the inside. you can call the facility where they are incarcerated and ask them to contact that person’s prior healthcare providers, probation officer, etc, and/or to advocate for them to be supplied with whatever they need to survive. it doesn’t mean it will work, but you can try. it’s better than leaving your friends to rot, yaknow?

of particular note around meds and not getting one’s needs met: oftentimes trans people are denied their hormones while incarcerated, which can exacerbate any existing instability and be really really fucking upsetting.

10) keep your friend’s incarceration confidential, unless you are given permission to do otherwise! there’s a lot of stigma around mental “illness diagnoses/incarceration, so make sure you don’t jeopardize their safety by disclosing this information to others without permission.

11) provide support for them (if they want it) when they get out, if possible. that can look like: making them cookies, letting them crash in your spare room, whatever you want it to look like.

12) set and maintain boundaries. this helps keep you healthy.

13) when talking with your friend, use your active listening skills. don’t give them a fuck-ton of advice unless they ask for it. while there are some mental health facilities that offer not-fucked-up care, if your friend was incarcerated without their consent i can almost guarantee you that they are dealing with some level of trauma, so don’t make it worse by being a jerk! you don’t have to validate everything they say, but you can listen. sometimes this is one of the most healing things of all.

14) what else can you think of? i’m sure there’s lots of stuff this is missing, and i’d love to hear other ideas!

okay, time to call back and see if i can get ahold of my friend.

-RD

 

Hey reader! This rant is potentially triggering for frank and frustrated discussion of rape culture and trauma. Please take care of yourself! XO, RD

Ps. gratefully I somehow avoided encountering that which lies below for quite a while since moving in with a bunch of other rad queer feminists. separatism, what? wheee!

There are two categories of rape jokes in the world, and they’re both pretty fucking insensitive and prickly. The category of rape joke I can tolerate, nay, even sometimes make (in a fit of bitter sarcasm) is the nuanced kind. The unnuanced kind, where you joke about rape like it’s a mythical beast that you and no one you know will ever meet, a dour invention of some feminist with their trousers on backwards–that kind? Well, it makes me want to hit you in the face, honestly, although I generally refrain.

Nuanced rape jokes at least acknowledge the bitter pill that is: the fact that as survivors we are forced to live in, confront, sometimes even pretend to be pals with, a world that is rife with rape culture and trauma. Rape jokes with nuance acknowledge any one or many of the following: sexual assault/community response to sexual assault can be deeply traumatizing, sexual assault is really pervasive, sexual assault can happen to anyone, no one ever deserves to be raped, sexual violence and talking about sexual violence are deeply stigmatized, rape is sex without consent (i.e. unconsciousness/severe intoxication do not equal consent), etc. Insert queasy depressed chuckles here because it’s more socially acceptable to laugh together than to cry together (sigh).

A rape joke is never sensitive (seriously, don’t even try me on this one), but the most insensitive of all treat rape either as a Gorgon or a thing that would never happen to “Us”. “Us” is also a mythical beast, but “Us” is formed out of a clay made of your privilege, and molded to the needs of the wearer at any given moment, may also go as “We”. Guess what? Rape happens to people you know. It may have happened to you. It may have happened to the people closest to you, and if they haven’t told you, it may be because: they don’t trust you (or don’t trust you enough), they can’t acknowledge what happened to them, or because you raped them. That’s right, I just called you a rapist. Potentially.

For a long time I’ve struggled with how to deal with rape jokes in sensitive situations, places where I feel my social standing would be damaged if I spoke up. Many times I have left a social gathering or a social group because of the pervasive misogyny apparent in the dominant members of that community. But when you come into my home, to my party, and you make a rape joke without acknowledging that you are standing next to a survivor, sharing social space with people who might be survivors, that you have any history with confronting sexual violence at all, and you just treat rape like it’s hilarious and gosh, isn’t your sense of humor daring! I am going to start asking you to stop. I don’t care how awkward it is, how the room swirls around us as all other conversations halt, I don’t even care if I get a reputation for being no fun, a bitchy feminist, or too sensitive. My home is meant to be safe space for everyone, and I expect you to respect other people and their experiences within it.

And if you can’t? Don’t come.

**Dude-bro: often a male-identified person who is utterly and completely heteronormative, perfectly masculine, usually white, able-bodied, and middle-class, completely unaware of their own privilege and often misogynist, either overtly or inadvertently.

Love and…oh fuck it. I am so tired of the dude-bros of the world.

-RD