Misogyny in informants

Activist movements are infiltrated by law enforcement. This isn’t really a secret anymore (though law enforcement tend to be selective about when they’ll admit they’re doing it) and it’s commonly accepted that militant participants in the movement are probably spies. If not cops themselves, law enforcement will sometimes “flip” true believers by offering immunity or plea bargains for a prosecution being planned against movements. Courtney Desiree Morris notes a common link between informants in previous movements: Misogyny.

On Democracy Now! Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and cofounder of Common Ground in New Orleans, spoke about how devastated he was by Darby’s revelation that he was an FBI informant. Several times he stated that his heart had been broken. He especially lamented all of the “young ladies” who left Common Ground as a result of Darby’s domineering, aggressive style of organizing. And when those “young ladies” complained? Well, their concerns likely fell on sympathetic but ultimately unresponsive ears—everything may have been true, and after the fact everyone admits how disruptive Darby was, quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with. There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization. [2] Darby created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his “dedication” to “the work.” People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant. Even Rahim, for all of his guilt and angst, chose to leave Darby in charge of Common Ground although every time there was conflict in the organization it seemed to involve Darby.

Maybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles. I’m not talking about witch hunts; I’m talking about organizing in such a way that we nip a potential Brandon Darby in the bud before he can hurt more people. Informants are hard to spot, but my guess is that where there is smoke there is fire, and someone who creates chaos wherever he goes is either an informant or an irresponsible, unaccountable time bomb who can be unintentionally as effective at undermining social-justice organizing as an informant. Ultimately they both do the work of the state and need to be held accountable.

On the plus side, it doesn’t really matter if someone creating tension and pain in the movement is an informant or not–organizing stands to benefit from those who treat their people right regardless.

Read more here.

-Shiv

“In practice, cis people are never satisfied by the sacrifice of trans people’s dignity”

The UK’s current system of acquiring a legal gender change is needlessly onerous, and absurd in its implied assumption that a council of disinterested bureaucrats can determine the “truth” of an applicant’s gender. However, after the proposal to make the process less difficult, TERFs and the media have responded by grossly exaggerating what these updates to the Gender Recognition Act entail. Heather explains:

In fact, none of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act pose any risk to any of the cis women in the UK. The changes serve only to benefit transgender men and women who, for whatever reason, would be unable to prove they meet the current criteria to the satisfaction of their local council. While it certainly is a lot easier to access a counselor or other medical services in the UK than it is in the USA, there’s never a guarantee that said professional would be willing to diagnose a transgender person properly and there is no demonstrable need for this barrier in any case. Exactly zero overly impulsive cis people have been stopped from making silly mistakes. The hurdles in place serve only to satisfy the anxieties of cisgender people. In practice, transphobic cisgender people are not satisfied anyway and the sacrifice of transgender citizens’ dignity and agency so far has been in vain.

Since threats to cisgender women have already been addressed and in changes to these protections aren’t actually a part of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the clown car vomiting op-eds and TERF concerns can and should be easily ignored by members of government reviewing the proposed changes. It cannot be ignored by transgender people in UK and anywhere else they might be subjected to the dialogue. It is neither necessary nor acceptable for the conversation on transgender rights to be dominated by noise about crimes that cisgender men might commit as though transgender people are enabling them. Law abiding transgender people are never to blame for the crimes of cisgender men.

Read more about the UK media’s fever pitch here, and why it’s baseless scaremongering.

-Shiv

“The powerful transgender lobby” is a catapult installed in my livingroom

Lately I’ve stopped deriving any particular joy from pointing out hypocrisy in reactionary movements. Ensuring the premises informing a position are rooted in reality has never been important to them; in the more severe examples, even logical structure is not necessary. Instead I’ve started to notice that contradictions are often indicative of a linchpin that holds the wrongness together, which explains the ability to reconcile the conflicting ideas–it’s too important to ever abandon short of a psychological upheaval. A common example in North American contexts is the simultaneously held notion that immigrants are “lazy” but also “taking our jobs;” or how a millionaire who spends a couple hours each week (if that) managing his portfolio is somehow more hard working than the single mom juggling three jobs.

TERFism is no exception. Trans people are simultaneously skilled, hard-hitting lobbyists that bully powerless politicians into giving us money, but also, we’re not meaningful enough to legislate rights for. J. E. Cook captures the linchpin holding it together: “The powerful transgender lobby.” (emphasis added)

These two views appear to present contradictory claims, unless one truly buys into the conspiracy theory that trans people represent both a statistical minority and also a powerful minority elite that has gathered disproportionate socioeconomic power and influence. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen people who believe that conspiracy theory. Yet the tenor of much of the transphobic discourse we’re seeing never goes so far as to actually present this idea outright. Instead, the reconciliation of this cognitive dissonance lies in the power of suggestion, and I would argue that we need to pay attention to the way staying vague and relying on the buzzword-esque “trans lobby” enables people to hold these contradictory views without questioning their logical inconsistencies.

Nobody ever defines who or what the trans lobby is. That makes it easy for the word to shift meanings even across individual articles or essays. Let’s create a template for how this can work. You start off an article with the implication trans people are here, loud and organized in pursuit of a single goal, and you end with the implication the trans lobby is some tiny group of people asking for way more than their statistical insignificance justifies, justifying society ignoring them by suggesting we are too small for them being overlooked to truly matter. And since a hypothetical cisgender reader is unlikely to have any particular definition in mind- because every previous article using the term has shifted its meaning around too– there isn’t a point where they can explicitly go “but that’s not right, that’s not what it means”, which might lead to the cognitive dissonance coming to the forefront of their mind.

Read more here.

-Shiv

 

Justice for an abolitionist

I was given a highly sanitized version of justice in my upbringing–cops catch “bad guys,” and only the “guilty” are convicted for prison–and sadly despite the mounting evidence that neither of these pillars is true, it’s still a relatively common response to the law system. When I finally found myself in the crosshairs of behaviour that is arguably criminal as defined by the law system I am bound to, I did not relish the notion of my abuser being jailed. There was no inherent satisfaction to me in that outcome. She would either be hurt by someone else (which is not what I want) or she would hurt someone else who was imprisoned (which I don’t consider acceptable either). So what does justice look like for people like us?

Punishment and revenge will not heal the harm that has been done to me. It will not take away the pain, nor will it make me feel better about myself when I look in the mirror. But putting forward a system that advocates for a radical shift in our culture, in our way of surviving and handling these atrocities and collectively preventing them, will.

I don’t want temporary healing. I don’t want a fleeting safety.

I genuinely don’t blame anyone for wanting those who have harmed and violated them or someone they love in a jail cell or even dead. That’s what we’ve been fed and told is the only appropriate way to deal with perpetrators of violence, enablers of patriarchy, and even non-violent forms of deviance. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that prisons do not, will not, and cannot protect us. Prisons have never made me feel safe.

My violator(s) did not spend a minute in a cell for what they did to me. I never came forward. I don’t regret that, but I do regret not making it known how they violated me. I regret going through the process of healing alone, which is something I’m still working through as I type this.

If I could go back in time and do things differently, I still to this day would not put my violator(s) in a jail cell. But what I would have wanted was a community, or even a single person, to show me a love that was sincere and much more nuanced than simply regurgitating the hatred I should feel toward my violator(s) and wanting them dead. A community that works toward protection and prevention, where survivors don’t feel it’s their sole responsibility to survive, heal, and search for a nearly non-existent justice for not only themselves but others who have been harmed.

Read more by Joshua Briond here.

-Shiv

Steamrolling Charter rights in street surveillance

Street surveillance, sometimes called street checks or “carding,” are a common practice for police in Edmonton, Alberta. It was recently revealed in The Star that those same police have been handing over data harvested from street surveillance to intelligence authorities–who have then, in turn, constructed profiles on entire communities without any specific allegation of criminal behaviour.

Much to my frustration, there is a substantial portion of Canadian progressives who stop paying attention after the ballot box. The Liberals aren’t “the same” as the Conservatives, but they don’t differ in a number of critical areas–including surveillance, the tool that arguably threatens grassroots organizing the most.

Cell phone video of an Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officer’s interaction with a group of young black men at a south side gym last month offered a rare close-up look at the controversial practice of carding – or street checks, as the police prefer to call it – and raises troubling questions about whether EPS is violating citizens’ Charter rights even as both the Edmonton Police Commission and the provincial justice department is reviewing the practice.

On the video, an officer can be seen engaging with a group of young men who are waiting around for a manager to give them a refund. The officer demands the men produce identification and when they question why, they are all threatened with arrest. When one of the young men says he doesn’t feel comfortable giving the officer his identification, the officer responds (at 3:07 of the video clip), “You don’t feel comfortable? How about I tell you right now that you’re under arrest for obstruction? Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

The incident – which arose out of a now-resolved commercial dispute between a business and customers (neither of which wished to be quoted on the record for this story) resulted in no arrests. No complaint that a crime had been committed was ever filed.

“While there are some occasions when an individual is required by law to provide identification,” she said, “It does not appear that the individuals depicted in the video would be required to do so as there is no lawful basis for an arrest and minimal prior investigation to justify them as being legitimate suspects.”

We asked the Edmonton Police Service if they felt the officer acted appropriately. “Based upon the information provided by both parties and a review of the incident, the EPS believes the officers’ actions were appropriate,” responded EPS communications advisor Carolin Maran.

“Reviews” and “panels” won’t stop this. It’ll be up to the grassroots organizers once again to summon enough pressure to end the practice. The same organizers who have dossiers in Canadian intelligence, because we inconvenience the State by delegitimizing their abuses.

Read more from Mimi Williams here.

-Shiv

Anne Frank’s diary was edited?

The Diary of Anne Frank was a portion of my public education. Knowing what I know now I think the way it was used was more to scare the children who read it, rather than contextualize what actually led to the events described in Frank’s diary. Shocking, horrible material of the holocaust is important, but it’s difficult-to-grasp nature has often had the effect of distancing current circumstances (“that could never happen here”) rather than bringing them home–at least, that was my conclusion based on how it was presented in my particular education.

That was the last thought I had on Frank’s diary a few years ago. It never crossed my mind that the material was altered.

After her father was given the remains of both versions by Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, who hid the Franks, he and the publishing house edited them into a version that combined the original diary and the rewritten version, with some additional redactions. I considered this blend offensive to Anne’s privacy — since in the diary itself she stated that she didn’t want anyone to read her unfiltered thoughts. Moreover, it omits things that she surely would have wanted kept in version B, since she put them there in the first place.

According to the forward of Penguin’s Definitive Edition (the audiobook I began listening to), several paragraphs on Anne’s personal attitudes and experiences were edited or completely removed from version C. Anne’s opinions on her parents were edited to seem less harsh — for instance, this version removes the line “Father’s fondness for talking about farting and going to the lavatory is disgusting.”

Anne’s thoughts and observations about her body were also cut in version C. Take a look at this section in which she talks about her vagina: “Until I was 11 or 12, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside [of the vagina], though you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris.”

Thankfully there is an edition which compares the edits between the three versions of the diary, and discusses their impact.

-Shiv

#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