I’m in the middle of a really fun and weird flux with some new hormones, so Heather and I are having a live show on justin.tv tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern time. To be part of the chat, justin.tv requires an account, so we recommend registering an account before joining. If you’d like to come talk with us, go to justin.tv/zinniajones tonight. We’ll see you then!
Jun 01 2013
May 28 2013
As FTB continues its unstoppable spread across the internet, we’ve now acquired a fantastic new member: Tauriq Moosa! I find his areas of focus very interesting…
Tauriq Moosa writes on ethical matters in the news. He writes a regular blog at BigThink.com on so-called “taboo” issues, like incest, infanticide and cannibalism, examining whether evidence matches outrage. He has tutored bioethics and critical thinking.
…not only as someone with a very personal stake in un-tabooing certain widely stigmatized identities and activities, but also as someone who just plain loves picking apart conventional wisdom and traditional attitudes in ethics.
May 17 2013
In a few months, I’ll be attending a secular conference to speak about trans-related issues. Since this subject is pretty general and wide-ranging in its scope, and most of the audience obviously won’t be trans, I was hoping I could enlist your help in figuring out exactly what people might be curious about when it comes to trans stuff.
When asking questions about these things, most people I’ve come in contact tends to be quite polite and tactful , and I really appreciate that. At the same time, I also know what it’s like to be on the other side of this. I used to assume I was straight and cis and a guy, and I really had no idea what it meant to be trans, queer, or anything like that. Frankly, I was pretty much clueless. I didn’t have a good sense of what might be appropriate or inappropriate to say about any of this. There were a lot of things I never asked anyone about, because I wasn’t sure if it would be in good taste.
Normally, that’s the best protocol for everyone to follow. We expect people to exercise good judgment and decency, use their common sense, and not ask us things like “why the hell would anyone want to get it chopped off?” That way, we can more or less get through the day without having to field intimate questions that we might not feel like dealing with. It’s a legitimate and important expectation, because trans people and other minorities don’t want to spend all their time explaining their lives to curious people.
However, speaking at a conference is different: I’ve chosen to be there and explain these issues to an audience that’s prepared to learn. In that situation, my foremost goal shifts from avoiding uncomfortable questions in public, to presenting information that’s as useful as possible. Some areas of discussion that might usually be considered off-limits could actually be helpful to their understanding. I want to locate those areas, and I’d like your help.
In the interests of mapping this out, I’m suspending the usual primacy of tact for anyone who wants to assist me with this. I know that, for most people who aren’t trans, trans-related topics simply aren’t something they think about a lot. I’ve had to learn about this out of necessity, and I’ve largely forgotten what it’s like to be inexperienced and confused when it comes to this stuff. I’m hoping to regain a sense of that, so I can gauge which information a cis audience is most in need of.
Cis readers, that’s where you come in. I know you all mean well and want nothing more than to be polite, but I’m sure there are some things you still wonder about – things you normally wouldn’t say out loud. I bet there have been times when you’ve thought, “I’d better not ask her that.” Maybe there are questions you’ve privately pondered when among other cis people, but would never actually talk about in front of someone who’s trans. Even if you do your best to be supportive and understanding, there are probably some occasions where it still feels like you don’t entirely “get it”.
Those are the sorts of things I want to know about – even if it’s something you’ve learned (correctly) that you should never say to a trans person. If you’ve decided against asking a certain question before, I’d like you to decide in favor of it this time. I need to know what people need to know, so that I can work out how best to answer such questions and clear up whatever misconceptions people don’t often speak openly about. Somewhere between the assholes who just hate us, and fellow trans people who truly know what it’s like, I know there are plenty of cis people who are pretty nice folks and really do want to learn more about these things.
So, what’s something you still struggle to understand about us? What’s something you don’t quite get? If you’d like to get all your seriously honest questions out there, go ahead and leave a comment with something you’d like to know more about. If you’d rather do so privately, you can email me at [email protected], or if you want to be super-anonymous about it, you can send me an ask on my Tumblr. This would really help me avoid, or smooth over, any potential areas of confusion when giving my talk. I can’t guarantee that I’ll have time to reply, but it would definitely show me the sorts of things I might need to address. Let’s get it all out in the open. Thanks!
May 11 2013
May 07 2013
It looks like we’ve got another recent addition to the collective: Ally Fogg of Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men! For those unfamiliar with his work, Ally explains gender and social justice issues for people who are only willing to listen to a straight white guy. While the need for this is unfortunate, I suppose someone has to do it, and it’s good that Ally has chosen to engage in this kind of outreach. Everyone go and give him a warm welcome!
May 03 2013
FTB welcomes an awesome new member today: Yemisi Ilesanmi of YEMMYnisting! Yemisi describes herself as follows:
Yemisi Ilesanmi is a Nigerian woman, resident in UK. She holds a Masters of Law (LL.M) degree in Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights. She is a trade unionist, human rights activist, an author, a poet and sometimes moonlights as a plus size model. She is a passionate campaigner for equal rights, social justice and poverty alleviation. Her debut book ‘Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African’ is available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon (www.amazon.com/dp/1481864815). In sometimes, what she thinks as a past life, she was- – National Women leader/Assistant National Secretary, Nigeria Labour Party. – Vice President, International Trade Union Congress – Chairperson, ITUC Youth Committee – International Labour Conference (ILC) Committee Member on Applications of Standards – Founder/President, National Association of Nigerian Female Students She is the founder and coordinator of the campaign group Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same Sex Laws.
Needless to say, I share many of her interests, and it’s wonderful to have her here. I’m definitely looking forward to reading her work.
Apr 20 2013
(Warning for casual transmisogyny.)
I’ve watched Arrested Development a couple times. It’s not really my cup of tea, but Heather enjoys it, and I can certainly see why people might like it. Now that it’s returning on Netflix for another season, I might have given it another chance. And then someone who runs their Facebook page had the great idea of posting this:
For those not in the know, when cis people use the word “tranny”, they’re typically not referring to us in a kind or affectionate way. It’s vastly more likely to be used as a cheap insult, a threat, a porn keyword, or as seen in this case, a joke unto itself.
And that’s literally the entire joke here: Trannies! Ha ha, isn’t that funny?
Well, honestly… it’s kind of not funny at all. It’s the sort of lazy humor that every comedy, given enough time, will arrive at eventually – like a Godwin’s Law of transphobia. These low-effort attempts at comedy are made under the assumption that the mere idea of men in dresses, or trans people, is inherently laughable. Treating both as though they were the same is just the icing on the cake.
This can make it difficult to enjoy otherwise entertaining media, because you can run into it anywhere. You’re just looking up a Facebook page for a TV show, and… oh. There it is, the all-too-frequent reminder that This is not for you. It’s meant for other people, so that they can laugh at you. It tells us that the fact of our humanity wasn’t actually taken into account at any point between someone having an idea, someone cobbling it together, someone approving it, and someone clicking “post”. Just being able to go about our lives would be too much to ask – we have to be someone’s punchline.
That’s me they’re talking about.
You don’t have to be trans to have a problem with this. Knowing trans people is enough. Having an understanding of trans people as real human beings should be enough. Hell, all you need is a good sense of humor that doesn’t force you to lean on what’s become the most pervasive and played-out “joke” in comedy.
You can do better than this.
Apr 13 2013
Apr 12 2013
In early 2011, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested on charges of murder related to his abortion services: one charge for the death of a woman who had sought an abortion at his Philadelphia clinic, and seven additional charges for the killings of infants that had been born alive. The grand jury report on Gosnell’s clinic contained a variety of emotional appeals that were largely irrelevant to the actual charges, and at the time, the sensationalized report received wide coverage and was frequently used to attack abortion generally. My partner Heather analyzed the report and its subsequent coverage, and found many arguments by the grand jury and the media to be lacking. Many magazines and publications refused to print her analysis, and now that the trial of Gosnell has begun and these same arguments have flared up once more, we’ve chosen to republish her piece here. -Zinnia
Looking Gosnell in the Eye
by Heather McNamara
In the wake of the release of the grisly grand jury report and the media firestorm surrounding the atrocities at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic, we, as pro-choice feminists, have been posed a difficult question. Basted in gruesome quotes, the emotional appeals from the pro-lifers (and more reserved pro-choicers) who read the report are everywhere and seem to ask, “Did you know it was this gruesome?” The responses from pro-choice advocates have been reserved – usually articles featuring calming, tranquil images of very pregnant women in silhouette standing by windows, presumably contemplating all the trials and joys ahead of her, and certainly not crying on the bathroom floor with a positive pregnancy test. “Think of the women!”, we say, “think of the babies”, they say, and nobody seems to be answering the question: well, did you know it was that gruesome?
The difference between flashing the grand jury report and flashing large poster images of aborted fetuses in front of clinics is subtle but effective. Gosnell broke the law. He kept an unsanitary facility; he performed abortions that were so late term that they should have been done, assuming they were legal, in hospitals where better monitoring was available; he did not properly care for his patients; and he was arguably negligent with the way he prescribed drugs. These things are absolutely wrong, and no doctor, no matter how much good they intend, should be recklessly endangering lives. Each and every woman who sought the help of Dr. Gosnell deserved a safe, clean, well-staffed clinic. It’s difficult to argue that the abortions Gosnell performed were not wrong, because there were clearly so many things he did that were wrong.
However, there is no connection between the lives Gosnell endangered and the ethicality of abortion, and some of the things in the grand jury report that disgust us – jokes about the fetuses being “so big they could walk me to the bus stop”, for example – are things that could happen in clean, professionally staffed clinics. There is no law against bad taste. So why were they even mentioned in the grand jury report? Among the shocking and frankly manipulative language contained within, we find outright misleading quotes such as “these women were giving birth” to refer to the induced contractions to dilate cervices, “he played with the baby” to refer to his touching the fetus’s hands, and “he stuck the scissors into the back of their necks” to refer to a method of terminating a fetus that has long been widely recognized as entirely valid and comparatively humane. The proper vernacular is “intact dilation and extraction”. Quotes like these, considered rationally, should not compel us to question abortion, but instead should make us question the state of mind and competency of the grand jury. In legal contexts, emotional appeals are out of place.
The reality is: medical procedures can be violent, visceral events. Every day in hospitals everywhere, people are bruised, broken, and cut open. Ribcages are cracked open, skin sliced open, veins burned and yanked out, sensitive areas cut, and burns scraped. These things are done to help and save people. The inner workings, procedures, ethics, and yes, tasteless jokes in any clinic could be detailed in such a way as to turn you off the idea of healthcare forever, but that does not make anyone’s need for it any less valid.
Dr. Gosnell ended the lives of some fetuses, which, left alone, would have become cute little bouncing pink babies in adorable little outfits. He cut into the backs of their necks and severed their spinal cords. Legitimate abortion providers also do this. They dilate women’s cervices, which can be painful, they terminate fetuses, and they cut flesh. And so what? Does the weakness or strength of your constitution, or anyone else’s, comprise a valid basis for granting or removing a woman’s control over her most precious domain – her body?
These arguments exist for one purpose: to desensitize us to the plight of the presumably healthy, if scared and distraught pregnant women we imagine, and turn our attention instead to the horror we can observe. They’ve caught us at a vulnerable time when several states are introducing bills to limit and outright deny access to abortion. Now is not the time to be squeamish. Now is the time when we, as feminists, can show we’re not afraid to confront the difficult and unpleasant realities of abortion – the disturbing bloody images, the fact that sometimes women don’t actually have a Very Good Reason to be seeking one, and even the unfortunate physical and emotional consequences that sometimes follow. Once we acknowledge that these things are there and real and unpleasant, we can continue to assert our right to do it anyway, and in doing this, remove their power over us.
Heather McNamara writes about indie literature, politics, and civil rights at HeatherMcNamara.net.
Apr 06 2013