#MeToo as a queer and trans person

I’ve been somewhat open on this blag about my experiences with abuse, and yet I was hesitant to add my voice to the #MeToo hashtag started on Twitter. It was proposed in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations as a way to “get people to see the gravity of the problem”–yet, the ways in which the conversation were carried out led me to believe I would be met with more hostility than support.

Sam Hope concurs.

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

My trans and trans-friendly connections started to throw up alternatives to this original copy&paste meme: “women and non binary people” was one alternative, “women and femmes” another, as people struggled to include the complexity of how gendered violence impacts our diverse world. What was less surprising, perhaps, was how many of my trans friends could say #MeToo: Statistically, trans people, whether men, women or non-binary, are at greater risk of sexual violence as children than cis women, and this extra vulnerability continues into adult lives. Lesbians and gay men also experience more sexual violence than their straight counterparts, and bi people even more than lesbian and gay men.

There’s a reason this is not often talked about. For years, we have been told, without foundation, that somehow abuse turned us queer. The truth is a mirror image of this – queer/trans kids tend to be more easily isolated and have more strained relationships with caregivers. This creates conditions where they are more easily preyed upon. Social exclusion continues to mark out LGBTQ+ people as targets into adult life, and fear of being outed can also give abusers a hold, particularly for people from certain families or communities that hold hostile attitudes to LGBTQ+ people. In a world that was not sexist, cissexist and heteronormative, they would be as accepted and socially included as everyone else, and they would not carry this additional vulnerability.

We see similar themes of elevated levels of abuse within other vulnerable groups – autistic people, disabled people, people who grew up in care, to name but a few.

It was only after my abuser had attempted to burn bridges with a well-respected cis man in the community that people began to believe the trail of allegations that followed her. That’s… hard to forgive.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Mammals? Using mammaries? Shock. Horror!

Or, it shouldn’t really be the case. I don’t understand what motivates such virulent responses to public breastfeeding in North America, but Tony Thompson reviews some common responses:

Once upon a time, in a land across the country, there existed a woman. This woman was mother to a 10-month-old. One day, the two of them set out on a journey to the house of the mouse in Anaheim, California. While they were there, her child became hungry, and the woman found herself facing a critical decision: “do I feed my child like any loving parent would, regardless of when and where” or “do I say screw it kid. You can starve” ? In short time, she made her decision and boy was it shocking: she chose to breastfeed her 10-month-old. Right then and there.

I’m glad she received more support than criticism. That she received a backlash at all though, is really annoying and frustrating. It’s far from surprising though.  It’s pretty much to be expected. Here in the great old USofA, any woman who breastfeeds in public will quickly find herself on the receiving end of some vicious comments. I can predict some of the responses without even going to look:

Read more here.

-Shiv

From reform to abolition

Every thing in our capitalist prison system is to deny humanity, to turn people from people into things; no sex, no control over what food they have, no windows to even look outside, no upward educational opportunities, extremely limited movement, forced and hyper-exploited labor, being sold and traded to fill prison and labor quotas, being given and even sometimes called by numbers rather than their names. It is an ultimate thingification, a state of outright and complete denial of humanity in the utmost form.

–Devyn Springer, “From Prison Reformist to Abolitionist.

Springer ties together a lot of threads in this essay–how poverty is linked to the definition of many crimes, and race to poverty, and then again prison to race, back around to prison and poverty–and I think it serves as a powerful introduction to the prison abolition movements.

I’m still cutting my teeth on many of his recommendations in this piece, but I appreciated it as a start and thought you might too.

-Shiv

Suckered into unnecessary debate

“Due process” is often erroneously cited during sexual assault allegations as to how the public at large ought to respond to allegations of misconduct, especially sexual assault and harassment. Often this is to the benefit of the accused, with the implicit idea that we should mistrust the source of the allegations unless the process goes through criminal court.

The thing is, survivors of harassment and sexualized violence aren’t “against due process,” and framing the issue as such is a tremendous disservice:

The opposing view. I furrowed my brow trying to understand what they were asking. An opposing view to whether a reckoning on sexual harassment was healthy and overdue? An opposing view on whether each case is different and the accused deserve due process? I replied with a request to discuss further via phone.

I’d never interacted with USA Today before, so while waiting, I looked up the representative who had contacted me. She appeared to be a low-level employee who was tasked with putting stories together. It was unusual, as I’d almost always been contacted by editors directly when they wanted me to write a piece.

She called just a few minutes after I sent the email. I asked her to please give me more details about the editorial that they wanted me to rebut. “We are going to write about how we think it is a very good thing that women are going forward,” she began and basically repeated the same thing she had said in her email: individual cases…due process…etc. “Would you be willing to write the rebuttal to that?”

I paused for a second, thinking of how to best reply.

“No, I can’t write a rebuttal to that because of course I believe in due process,” I answered, deciding not to delve into the side discussion of how due process is a legal term that doesn’t usually apply to private employment, “But I’d be happy to write a response.”

I told her that I’d be happy to write about how the fixation on “due process” for these men was an attempt to re-center the concerns of men. How the question itself was absurd, because if there’s anything these stories show, it’s that these men in their years of open abuse were given more than just due process — but the women, many of whom had tried bringing this abuse to those in authority years before, were given no process at all. I said I’d love to write about the countless women whose careers were ended by coming forward with the abuse they faced, about the countless women whose careers were never able to get off of the ground because of abuse and gender discrimination. Due process. Women would love ANY process. They would love to even be heard.

Read more from Ijeoma Oluo here.

-Shiv

Overcompensate

At this point it’s no longer a secret to anyone but Democratic politicians that their way forward is to reinforce the voter franchise, the undermining of which has primarily affected black and poor voters. In the wake of Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama, however, commentary has largely seem to have taken the franchise for granted. Black voters were lauded for tipping the scales against a literal pedophile, but hardly any ink has been spilled to talk about the importance of the franchise.

As Talynn Kel notes, this isn’t the first time this has happened, and won’t be the last.

Over the last few months, we watched white supremacy work overtime to disenfranchise voters and advocate for a known racist and alleged sexual abuser to take public office. And now that the election is over — and we see from the exit polls that Black women played a pivotal role in electing Doug Jones, the first Democrat Alabama senator in 25 years — we must, in typical fashion, watch as white supremacy skews the narrative to minimize and erase the impact and importance of Black women.

“They saved us,” white people say, erasing our personal motives and structuring the narrative to prioritize whiteness. As usual with white supremacy, our votes aren’t being viewed as designed to save us — they’re being viewed as designed to save white people. To save the country.

And meanwhile, this country we saved? It will inevitably continue to turn its back on us. “This is not just a question about African American voters,” Doug Jones said. “This election is about everybody in the state.” But somehow, that American “everybody” seems to rarely, if ever, include Black women.

Read more here.

-Shiv

I thought the Section 28 boat set sail already

Section 28 was a British law until 2000 that required government authorities to censor and omit any information on homosexuality. Nearly two decades after its repeal, gay Brits lambasted the law for the damage it caused it in their youth–the deafening silence of the resources available to them led many to believe something was inherently wrong with them. Its heinous effects haven’t deterred the press from quoting Section 28 arguments verbatim, only this time against trans people.

[Read more…]

First six J20 defendants acquitted of all charges!

If you’re unfamiliar with J20, you can review here. It’s been my exclusive focus for the past month. I’ve been holding my breath for 45 minutes because the verdict was returned. From Shay Horse, Alexei Wood, and a court reporter for Unicorn Riot, all of whom are present in the courtroom, the first six defendants have been acquitted of all charges.

Gonna go find a corner and collapse from exhaustion. See you again after the holidays.

-Shiv

Siobhan in VICE: The Strange Saga of Arrested Inauguration Protesters’ Seized Property

It was a crisp winter morning when Shay Horse set out to cover the protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration. The Brooklyn-based freelance photojournalist was one of hundreds of reporters who traveled to Washington, DC, to cover a demonstration that would set the tone for Trump’s presidency: defiant chants, smashed windows, and hundreds of people, including Horse, surrounded by police.

The segment of the protest Horse followed gathered around 10 AM at Logan Circle, a couple miles northwest of the Capitol. The energetic, enthusiastic crowd attracted the attention of journalists as they slowly marched south. They didn’t get far—at the corner of L and 12th streets, the march was surrounded by police, who subjected Horse and the rest of the group to clouds of pepper spray, dozens of “stingball” grenades, and strikes from batons. According to a lawsuit later filed by the ACLU, the protesters, legal observers, and journalists were hemmed in so closely by cops they didn’t have room to sit down; officers spent most of the day arresting people, taunting them in response to requests for food, water, and toilets. When they got around to Horse, he was handcuffed so tightly he lost feeling in two fingers.


Read more in VICE.

-Shiv

Medicine’s history of eugenics

Hey folks. The blog hasn’t died or anything. I’ve been tied up in something that’s probably bigger than anything I’ve ever pursued before, and I’m pouring all my free time into it.

Just quickly sharing this article on medicine and eugenics.

Medicine is rife with old eponyms — diseases or body parts named after their discoverers or researchers — that are beginning to be replaced by more logical names for practical reasons. (The term “rectouterine pouch,” after all, tells us more precisely what we are talking about than “pouch of Douglas”).

But this was the first I had heard of the entire medical profession deciding to change an eponym for the sake of revoking honor from someone whose actions were now deemed immoral. And, more than that, the name change accompanied a small but repetitive teaching of why there was a new name — actively passing on the unethical history that led to greater understanding of a rare disease.

When other diseases gained new names, we were typically allowed to use the original eponym and the logical name interchangeably. But here? We were being told: Don’t use this old name.This man was a Nazi, who used tissue from Nazi prisoners to make his discoveries. And this moment of reflection on the history of this disease’s name happened almost every time I was taught about GPA.

The piece goes on to describe some pretty grizzly methods of discovery in medicine, so content warning for racism and extreme violence.

Read more here.

We’ll be back on schedule soon.

-Shiv