Signal boosting: “The guards were organized criminals”

Concern over the treatment of inmates is generally my litmus test for how thought-out someone is with the concept of social justice. They’re an incredibly easy group to demonize–hell, even being accused is all it takes for some juries to condemn some defendants–and once that work is done, otherwise knowledgeable people can fumble and overlook the human rights abuses. Often the temptation is to immediately think of the unrepentant serial criminals, especially the violent ones, rather than appreciating that a wide range of individuals are imprisoned for a wide range of activities, some of which have relatively low social cost.

Even so, I have objected to the mistreatment of high-profile murderers in my local prisons because I have good reason to believe it doesn’t stop there.

Susan Ashline, on behalf of an inmate named Jon Fontaine, posted Fontaine’s writings on his lawsuit against the prison that housed him. What’s quite remarkable is that Fontaine screencapped his former guards’ public Facebook postings, which actually helps him corroborate some of his accusations.

Over the past four years, I’ve communicated with a few dozen people by mail, most wanting to know what prison is like. I’d tell them if they’ve seen any “reality” shows about prison, New York prisons are nothing like that. There is no professionalism, no respect. I’d write them, “They literally put unconvicted criminals in charge and let them do anything they want. It’s legal organized crime.”

I’d go on and list all the things officers do, from singular assault to gang assault, murder, rape, planting weapons and drugs, selling weapons and drugs, extortion, and more.

Some believe me, some don’t.

If the public isn’t convinced by the criminal prosecutions now that the Office of Special Investigations was formed to replace the Inspector General’s Office (which was made up of former corrections officers);

If they’re not convinced by the federal charges brought by the US Attorney General’s Office, which stated brutality in New York’s prisons has reached critical levels;

If they’re not convinced by the tens of millions of dollars New York pays out each year to settle lawsuits brought by inmates;

Just look at the corrections officers’ own public statements. They’re playing their positions.

Many thanks to those officers for contributing to my credibility.

Read more about it here.

Community growing pains

A lot of my long-form work is sitting incomplete since I’ve been spending the past couple weeks with my boots on the ground. March on! Edmonton, the successor to the Women’s March (an American incorporated “Women’s March Canada,” because nothing says “intersectionality” like embracing your inner capitalist scum), had a town hall and I’ve been networking with various community organizers in a bid to coalition-form for the 2019 provincial election and 2020 federal election. It’s a ragtag bunch of misfits, and we’ll see how it goes.

In the mean time, my palm has been glued to my forehead in some of the most migraine-inducing nonsense I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Edmonton’s BDSM scene is going through some growing pains and it is neatly cleft in twain along an aggravating but not surprising fault line: Consent. There’s my peeps, who are principally concerned with organizing around sexual ethics, and the other peeps, who are literally complaining that our spaces have rules and standards.

Maddening. Utterly maddening that it’s 2017 and people are still trying to pretend that sexual ethics is difficult. I seriously do not have any respect for this debate anymore. We live in a culture that provides a fertile ground for honing sexual predation as a technique, why in the everloving fuck of Dog would you create a space that is especially vulnerable (lots of naked people high on adrenaline) and not police the shit out of it?

Answer? Some of them are the fucking predators. Others are just clueless. I don’t think the distinction matters to me. I’m trying to fight for an ethical BDSM space and that includes telling rape apologists they are unwelcome. But the sheer amount of resistance to a space that affirms bodily autonomy is not encouraging in a broader political landscape that increasingly targets minorities as disposable.

-Shiv

Signal boosting: Trans people shouldn’t have to be perfect

Alex DiFrancesco touches upon the observation that trans women with high visibility are held to ludicrous standards, and that these standards stifle perceptions of us as just ordinary flawed human beings:

None of this made it into the final piece. I am shaking just writing these things now. Because I know, as a trans person, as someone writing about trans people, as an ally to trans women, that I am never ever supposed to publicly suggest something that could make any trans person look bad. I am never supposed to write that I was abused by a trans woman, because this is exactly what the people who want to see all trans people disappear off the face of the earth want everyone else to think is true of all trans women. I am never to suggest that a vulnerable population (which I am part of) could be anything less than perfect.

For the record, the idea that a relationship with one abusive trans woman validates all the horrible things trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) and others say about trans women is absurd. Were a cis person, male or female, to be abusive in a relationship, no one would ever take that to mean all cis people are abusive.

My ex-wife is one person out of the large community of trans people I know and love. The wonderful people I know among this community, most of them transgender women, have taken me into their homes when I was homeless, supported me mentally and emotionally when I was at my worst, helped me find jobs, and fed me when I was hungry and broke. They are people I turn to when I am unsure about my own often imperfect politics, or the many issues I myself have as a person. And yet the fear instilled by TERFs is so real that many trans writers, when telling their stories, feel we are not supposed to talk about anything that questions any trans person beyond the confines of our own community. Certainly not in venues for public or cis consumption.

You can read more about it and the silencing effect of TERF-perpetrated oppression has here.

-Shiv

I’ve asked and answered

Random musings from another nattering TERF cloud that recently bombarded my feed: “Just asking questions of gender identity” was one of the ways this particular TERF piece of shit cloaked her bigotry.

So, thing is, gender variance as a concept is already being investigated. By researchers, not anonymous bloggers on the internet. Even I don’t perform original research, I merely propagate its findings in the naive hope that facts will eventually enter this fucking conversation. But when TERFs say this, they don’t mean they’re investigating gender variance as a concept–more of them would be actual researchers if that were the case, and they’d have more than one citation that will inevitably be That Fucking Swedish Study–they mean they have taken it upon themselves to question my questioning as to how it applies to me.

Frankly I just want to stop and ask them how many times they think I’ve wrestled with this question. Did I come to terms with my gender by popping up one morning and saying “oh yeah, this’ll be a laugh”? Or was this a process delayed unnecessarily for 15 years between the first inkling that something was wrong and having the vocabulary to articulate myself because the very culture I live in treats my existence as some kind of baby-eating taboo?

It’s fucking offensive, and that’s not a word I use a lot, to tell me I haven’t thought this through. Every day. Every morning. At most finding distractions for half an hour to get my mind off it. I’ve spent more time questioning my life than living it, so the sheer arrogance of some self-appointed fucktwit spouting off a bunch of invasive and uninvited psychosexual nonsense just blinds me with anger. Don’t you dare fucking tell me I could’ve found better ways to cope when those “other ways” would involve me drowning myself in drugs and pain all because you misapprehended Judith Butler in first year women’s studies. Like if I say I don’t want any motherfucking blueberries, that doesn’t mean I want you to keep giving me blueberry pie or blueberry tarts or blueberry salads until we find a format I might like, it means don’t. give. me. blueberries.

Fuck me I’m so done with TERF bullshit. I think after I get these projects up I’mma do a couple weeks of something else.

-Shiv

Journalist or Activist?

Borrowing from the tradition of anti-intellectualism, activist is now a snarl word in journalism, too. 

As a gender variant person who writes on gender variant issues, I am routinely accused of being “political” in my writings.* What I find utterly bizarre is that I label any contextualizations of my personal experiences as personal experiences. In the absence of that label, I stand by that work on the basis of its adherence to evidence.

I am utterly baffled as to how drawing upon sources to make statements supported by scientific consensus is now a “political” activity. Let me be perfectly clear: If evidence-based argument is “activism” rather than a strain of politics, then by definition your politics don’t include facts. This is ultimately what has alienated me from mainstream media, this strange and frankly broken idea that all opinions are equivalent, even when one is bullshit from start to finish and the other is well-researched. It has groomed an entire generation of self-appointed experts who quite frankly are amazing at wasting my fucking time.

Of course I’m hardly the first person to encounter this and I doubt I’ll be the last. Stephen Colbert (apparently) called this out back in the era of Bush Jr.–“reality has an anti-conservative bias”–but it’s quite another thing to actually experience it first hand. When it comes to gender variance, the bottom line is that enough people consider themselves equipped to participate in the conversation, spouting off shit that’s already been refuted forwards and backwards, or more commonly not bothering with citations at all.

My politics require facts. I will not be made to apologize for that.

-Shiv


 

*Even the, uh, political posts.

Self care Saturday, Revisited: Cleaning out the gunk

I pushed myself a little too hard.

Between Thursday and Friday I woke up at 3 AM. I couldn’t fall back to sleep anyway. Knowing “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best” had been aired, I briefly popped it into Google to see what the internet spewed forth. Obviously I found Sarah Ditum and felt compelled to respond.

Then I picked up some more evidence for another piece I’m doing on the judicial undermining of gender identity laws in the UK, USA, and Canada, and something snapped. Or shattered, perhaps. Like a dropped champagne glass, and suddenly the whole room went silent and turns to face you. All the areas of my brain which usually just bounce information around at a speed and volume that leaves me caught between “hyperfocused” and “disoriented” gave way to a single voice.

You monsters.

A flippant comment on a petition. I know the comment was based on a blatantly false assertion, and still the imagined voice of the commentator filled in the silence. Abominations. You’re all sick.

I’ve been examining a bit too much transphobia, lately, and now those positions are taking root in my head. Even as I know they are wrong.

It’s a feeling I haven’t had since I ended my relationship with my abusive ex, someone who routinely engaged in manipulation and emotional abuse. Like feeling that I suddenly can’t trust my own judgement, despite the great pains I take to fact check.

We know if Trump repeats something enough times to the media that the volume of people who believe him increases. Is this the strategy of trans-antagonists? Can they really repeat it enough times to make even an evidence-based trans feminist crack? It seems my clarity has finally left me, and all I can see is the trail of fog left in trans-antagonistic’s wake.

This is the “hyperbole” as it is often characterized by opponents to trans rights. This debate, that trans people are sane and worthy, ironically eats away at your sanity. Who could possibly retain a flawless psyche against a never-ending undercurrent from every fucking thing you open questioning “HEY YOU? ARE YOU SANE? ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE SANE? ARE YOU REALLY REALLY SURE?”

And it feels like no matter how confidently I answer, I get another round of “ARE YOU REALLY REALLY SURE?”

Imagine if that was all people wanted to talk about. Imagine you liked NASCAR and every day of every year some asshole somewhere on the internet is petitioning the government to intern NASCAR fans in psychiatric hospitals. Imagine the courts stripped your parental custody because they think liking NASCAR is child abuse. Imagine hearing story after story of police raping NASCAR fans. Imagine entire sections of the internet dedicated to both hosting and mocking violent videos of NASCAR fans being assaulted, raped, and murdered.

And then imagine a snarling asshole whose career is organized around telling you all these things are made up.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can convince me I deserve it.

I’ve got a few posts left in the queue, but I’m gonna try my best to unplug for a few days.

-Shiv

All the reasons I won’t ever have a FB Page or Twitter

I’ve had a few people ask me whether I plan on opening a Twitter or Facebook page. The short answer is no, but I thought I’d provide the long answer.

1. Both platforms facilitate abuse, especially of minorities

Twitter is almost unmoderated. I think its well documented tolerance of abuse is thoroughly proven.

Facebook moderation actually goes a step farther and allows abusers to make bad faith reports, resulting in such absurd outcomes as a trans artist being banned for quoting the abuse directed at in her inbox while the people sending the abuse are left active.

Given that my fans include Jihadists, TERFs (sorry, “gender critical” dingleberries), fundagelicals, MRAsshats, libertarians, capitalists, and a smattering of transphobes from across all ideologies, I have every reason to believe increasing my access on social media would simply result in a torrent of abuse and major headaches as I try to clean up after automated moderation.

2. Neither serves a function I care for

Twitter’s 140 character limit abhors me, because it is next to impossible to have anything other than snarky quips. Don’t get me wrong, I love snark. But I can just snark here, where I am able to moderate comments, and couch it in actual arguments.

Again, I have little reason to start conversations on Facebook when I can just start them here.

3. People use either tool to share my posts anyway

Self explanatory. Sometimes people like my shit enough to post it on social media. Yeah I’d get shares faster if I posted directly to Facebook. But then there’s the whole “access to abuse” thing again. I’m okay building exposure slowly if it means not having to filter nattering TERFs all the time.

4. Trolls are annoying

On here, you have to sign up. Then your first comment has to be approved, and my bullshit detector is pretty good. Then if you get obnoxious, or if you ping my trolldar, all that effort you spent signing up is wasted when I ban you.

On Twitter and Facebook, a troll has their account open already. With more editorial control, the website itself is a bottleneck for abusers.

5. The rest of the network is my editorial control

Facebook and Twitter can pull the plug on my content. But their editorial control is based on generating traffic, rather than convincing arguments or anything resembling an ethical compass. FTB is based off a mission statement, which makes me more confident my material wouldn’t be arbitrarily challenged.

6. I have a contact email anyway

If someone wants to engage in a way that wouldn’t work in the comments, they can just email me instead. Again, gmail allows me to filter bad faith actors. But for now it is predominantly used by readers giving reasonable feedback, as well as my back-and-forth with other outlets as I try to sell some investigative work I’m sitting on.

So, yeah, that’s why I won’t be on other forms of social media.

-Shiv

 

Decent human beings tie up mental health resource to prove how decent they are

Content Notice: Ableism and gaslighting.

Gold star human being Clay Travis of Fox Sports decided the highest priority in his life was to coordinate a mass of false reports to a university mental health help line after it released a Halloween reminder that minorities affected by the extensive stereotyping that occurs on the crude celebration could ask for help:

“Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions,” the post said. “Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people.”

Clay Travis, the prank-calling journalist, learned about the post and the CWC hotline from one of his readers. He said he wanted to make a point about how overly sensitive people have become to seemingly harmless acts or comments.

“Anyone who is offended by a Halloween costume is a complete and total loser deserving of ridicule and satirization,” he wrote in an email.

In an Oct. 12 livestreamed video, “LSU-Florida mess, CFB gambling picks,” Travis called the hotline and said he was a gay student who went to a fraternity’s Halloween costume party. He said he was offended by someone at the party dressed like Harambe, a gorilla who was shot in late May at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure.

Travis also gave out the CWC’s phone number to his live audience. He already made headlines earlier this month for his criticism of the cancellation of the Oct. 8 game against LSU, alleging impending Hurricane Matthew was used as an excuse to avoid losing to a superior team.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the prank calls have burdened UF’s counseling services. The hotline, a free service available every day of the year, is not exclusively for costume complaints, and students with mental health concerns or issues also use the hotline.

“Our role is to support students,” Sikes said, “and when we are diverted to having to deal with people calling in fake reports, we aren’t there to help our students.”

So because you’re an ignorant sack of manure who can’t wrap their head around the exhausting, non-stop drivel minorities have to deal with from assholes like you, you decide the best use of your time is to sabotage a mental health resource that we need. You want to mock people for being “overly sensitive,” yet self care and setting boundaries for ourselves fucking triggers enough outrage such that you orchestrate a harassment campaign against a group of people that are trying to help people cope. In other words, you want to grind us down with denigrating stereotypes, ignorant statements and widespread myths, and then mock us for seeking help because of it.

That meets every definition of abuse I can think of.

Clay Travis, you and everyone who participated in that stunt are ethically bankrupt, egocentric, and unfathomably provincial. It’s a wonder you know how to put your pants on in the morning.

I throw it right back at you: Anyone who who is offended by minorities demanding respect is deserving of nothing less than satire and ridicule.

-Shiv

Seasonably Miserable

“Get the attention you deserve.”

Despite the protestations of Edmontonians, autumn continues apace. The temperature dropped below freezing, and with precipitation, brought the season’s first snow. It would bring with it a cutting wind that at least had the courtesy to make me feel what I had felt for some months: a sense of cold, numb, a stinging pain made distant, but never entirely gone.

Several hours after her words flashed across my screen, I made my way to a busy downtown street. I wawhytented the histories to tower over me. On either side of the avenue stood scowling sentinels, snow-peppered witnesses to drunken revelry and crime of desperation. So too did they bear witness to hapless little me, waltzing straight into the black widow’s web. I traced my steps past her apartment, the grocery store we’d walk to, the drug store where she’d buy her stupid “all natural” this and that, the corner where she first called me girlfriend, the pizza parlour we had our first date at, the restaurant of our second date, the pub where we celebrated with friends, the place where we celebrated Valentines, the bus stop where we’d await our public chariot to the local dungeon.

“Get the attention you deserve,” or so sayeth the dating profile from the app that had the indifferent cruelty to tell me my rapist was, evidently, a “great match.” Her piercing blue eyes filled my screen, her hair flowing behind her as if she posed for a shampoo commercial. Knowing her, she did. Of course it would be her profile picture. She was beautiful, stunning, statuesque. Every bit as alluring as when we first met. The app, in its ignorant calculus, specifically recommends her.

“Get the attention you deserve.” What a way to introduce yourself. She is an escort, I suppose. Perhaps that was the logic in her mind when she humiliated me while I was at her mercy. You couldn’t convince her she did anything wrong that night–certainly a select few of our mutual friends tried. Seeing the first line of her profile, the profile so graciously specially recommended so we’ll send it straight to your phone! by the dating app, brought to the surface the flood of our peers. Their indifferent scoffs and eyerolls and “I don’t do dramas,” composing a tangle of silk all leading back to her hands. After so many months stumbling through the “why” of it all, the answer delivered itself to my phone: She thought I “deserved it.” She says so herself at the start of her profile. The attention I deserve. 

In a sense, it is clarity. I stare at the street ahead of me, knowing the web I am about to traverse. The wind has the common decency to make my plunge into ice literal. I thank it. I trace these good memories not as a testament to the good person I think she can be, but as a reminder of how skilled her act is.

She may spin her web. I will burn it down.

-Shiv

Signal boosting: Everybody’s against rape as long as we’re not proposing to do anything about it

Content Notice: Abuse and sexual assault.

Yes Means Yes is a delightful blog, in part because it discusses the sort of 300-level feminist analyses that I don’t often get outside of school. As a whole, it covers a wide range of topics. Unsurprisingly, I found their BDSM posts and immediately exploded with glee–feminist kinksters write amazing stuff. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in Thomas’ series on the intersection of kink and rape culture.

It is a long read, but my gosh it is detailed and sharp and to the point. Check out some of these select quotes:

[Read more…]