The politics of transphobia: We’ve been here before

Over on the TransAdvocate, Cristan Williams examines the history of the “bathroom panic” as the flashpoint of discrimination for minorities in the past century. She finds, unsurprisingly, that the same tactics used to justify discrimination of Black people, Jewish people, and Gay people are identical; as is the rhetoric used today to paint trans women as predators and disease carriers.

During the rally, CCS co-founder Danny Holliday told the crowd that the “leaders” of the trans rights movement were pedophiles who enjoyed having sexual intercourse with animals.

Political discourse situated around the minority use of bathrooms has featured significantly in numerous social equality struggles, from the fight to preserve racist Jim Crow laws to the sexist battle to keep the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) from being ratified. Rhetorical themes featuring bathrooms, privacy, and safety concerns are integral aspects of a specific and identifiable political dialectic used to incite, promote, and sustain the fear that an oppressed group may well rape, molest, harass or infect the majority group should equality between the two groups come to pass. In contemporary times, this political dialectic features prominently in narratives supporting North Carolina’s recently passed law mandating that transgender people who’ve not been able to amend their birth certificate use the restroom assigned to them at birth rather than the restroom that matches their transitioned status, irrespective of legal identification or phenotype. Proponents of laws like North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” assert that these laws are needed to ensure that A.) the privacy of cisgender people is respected[1]; B.) without these laws, rapists will dress in drag in order to molest little girls in the restroom[2]; and, C.) transgender people are actually perverts and pedophiles who need to be prevented from accessing women’s restrooms[3].

I first wrote about the ways in which contemporary anti-equality discourse situated around trans issues closely resembled the sexist discourse used against the Equal Rights Amendment in a 2013 Autostraddle article. In doing my research for the article you are now reading, I came across the work of Gillian Frank, PhD, a visiting fellow at Princeton. I reached out to Frank to help me better understand the ways in which the very discourse currently focused upon the trans community was used against other marginalized groups throughout American history.  What follows is my interview with Frank and a review of the ways anti-equality groups have historically cast oppressed groups as voyeurs and/or perverts, warning the public that should an oppressed group have equality, bad things may happen in public bathrooms.

You can read the rest here and support the TransAdvocate as a patron here.

-Shiv

Nationwide study: “Heartbreaking” levels of violence against Queer youth

It’s tempting to respond to this article with a scathing “you don’t say” but it is, at least, contributing to a body of data which confirms what anyone woke is already aware of. It’s an American study that reports on violence trends against Queer youth, and the outcomes aren’t pretty.

The first nationwide study to ask high school students about their sexuality found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers were at far greater risk fordepression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers.

“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administered the survey.

The survey documents what smaller studies have suggested for years, but it is significant because it is the first time the federal government’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the gold standard of adolescent health data collection, looked at sexual identity. The survey found that about 8 percent of the high school population described themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, which would be about 1.3 million students.

These adolescents were three times more likely than straight students to have been raped. They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe; at least a third had been bullied on school property. And they were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

More than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. The percentage of those who used illegal drugs was many times greater than their heterosexual peers. While 1.3 percent of straight students said they had used heroin, for example, 6 percent of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having done so.

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“It’s no big deal,” says bar owner barring trans people from peeing

Content Notice: Transphobia and harassment.

You can practically hear the mental acrobatics being performed by the management of Corona Tavern, one “Lorraine,” interviewed in a fantastic piece of journalism on Community TV about two incidents: one alleging the bar and its security staff harassed a trans woman patron, and another alleging the bar posted a transphobic sign regarding washroom use. The interview is only 5 minutes long, and I feel it is critical to witness first hand what it’s like trying to navigate through the tangled mess that is transphobia. If you consider yourself a trans ally, please check it out, either at the link above or again in the video below. Please try to truly comprehend what it’s like dealing with people who antagonize you without an ounce of rational thinking.

Corona Tavern is a bar in Medicine Hat, Alberta, that posted this lovely sign, which keen observers will know is a rather flagrant violation of Bill 7:

sign

This sign was shared on social media shortly after the account of a trans woman who states in her interaction with Corona Tavern that management said “[the owner] would’ve thrown me out of the bar for using that bathroom.”

Yes, you read that right–not for harassing patrons, not for assaulting patrons–for peeing. In the toilet, mind. Peeing where you’re supposed to pee is against Da Rules now.

Corona Tavern has two parts to this:

  1. The harassment they enacted on the trans woman patron who did sweet fuck all but mind her own business;
  2. The transphobic sign stating patrons “must use the bathroom of their birth gender,” despite the fact that this is now a criminal thing to require under Bill 7.

Regarding point #2, let’s review this interview from Community TV, a conversation between a journalist and the management of Corona Tavern:

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Canadian Blood Services p3: You’re like, halfway there

As part of an ongoing series investigating the research CBS claims to have in support of their new policy, you can follow the progress of my communications with related parties here (list updates with every new related post):

  1. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  2. That’s Not The Question I Asked
  3. You’re Like, Halfway There

 

Canadian Blood Services has now posted an information page specific to trans folk, which is an improvement over inserting us as a foot note under the “men who have sex with men” policy. You can check it out here. There’s a few pieces I will draw your attention to.

The first:

We are also working on updating our computer system so that donated blood components can be processed to reduce the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) without donors having to be identified as female.

Credit where credit is due, I suppose. As aggravating as CBS’ announcement has been, it’s still progress to acknowledge that trans men generally don’t want to be called women. TRALI is an elevated risk in blood from people who have at some point been pregnant. Under a cissexist system, this means any women who have been pregnant have their blood flagged for additional screening–this policy appears to redress the fact that trans men can also have pregnancy somewhere in their history, which still justifies flagging their donations as a TRALI risk, but without forcing trans men to suffer the indignity of misgendering in order to donate. As I observed previously, the correct risk factor is “has been pregnant,” not “was assigned female at birth.”

Things still crash and burn elsewhere, even if this policy is a good start.

 

The second:

Canadian Blood Services is dedicated to providing the safest possible blood to transfusion recipients. Donor criteria that affect recipient safety should be based on available scientific evidence. And, these criteria must be approved by Health Canada, our regulator.

I’ll also draw your attention to the word “available.”

There is little information available on the safety of subgroups of trans* individuals and blood donation.

That’s practically an admission they drafted policy this policy without accurate data.

There is very little information available on the risk of HIV in trans* individuals in Canada, as they are not included in a separate risk category by the Public Health Agency of Canada in their annual reports of HIV and AIDS in Canada.

You don’t say.

However, in a review of available studies,

The same ones that lump sex workers and needle-sharers in the same risk category as monogamous MSMs?

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Canadian Blood Services p2: That’s Not the Question I Asked

As part of an ongoing series investigating the research CBS claims to have in support of their new policy, you can follow the progress of my communications with related parties here (list updates with every new related post):

  1. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  2. That’s Not The Question I Asked
  3. You’re Like, Halfway There

 

 

Following the announcement from Canadian Blood Services that pre-operative trans women who’ve had sex with men would be considered “males who have sex with males, (MSMs)”–and therefore subject to the 12-month abstinence requirement for blood donation eligibility imposed on gay men–I sent a letter to their public inquiry box stating a concern with the methodology. I have reproduced my communications so far.

I establish that health statistics on trans folk is shoddy and incomplete because of medical establishments subsuming us into cisgender male and female populations; and also that CBS, in lumping pre-op trans women with MSMs, was not only perpetuating misinformation, but also doing something flatly unscientific.

Their public email clerk responded thusly: (emphasis added by me in all emails)

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One step forward, two steps back: CBS adds trans women to MSM deferral

As part of an ongoing series investigating the research CBS claims to have in support of their new policy, you can follow the progress of my communications with related parties here (list updates with every new related post):

  1. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  2. That’s Not The Question I Asked
  3. You’re Like, Halfway There

Canadian Blood Services has announced a new policy that will defer trans women from donating blood if they’re pre-op and sexually active with men:

But many activists are upset with the policy because it focuses on whether or not a trans person has undergone gender confirming surgery.

Goldman says the criteria will create a countrywide, streamlined mandate for all trans blood donors.

According to Canadian Blood Services, there has been an increase in potential trans donors and this prompted the organization to implement criteria for those individuals.

The policy specifically targets trans women and is similar to Canadian Blood Services’ updated guidelines for gay blood donors. On June 20, Health Canada announced that gay men would be allowed to donate blood if they had abstained from sex for at least one year.

Trans women who undergo gender confirming surgery will have to wait one year before they can donate blood. After the wait period, Canadian Blood services will also identify them by their reconfirmed gender. “If a trans woman has not had [gender confirming surgery], that person would be considered as a male having sex with a male,” Goldman said.

Canadian Blood Services says there are regulations specific to trans women because that demographic is at high risk for HIV.

According to the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development, an estimated 27.7 per cent of trans women in Canada are living with HIV.

“There is a very high HIV prevalence rate in trans women,” Goldman said. “So we are obliged to treat (them) as a high risk group.”

There seems to be a taken assumption made by Dr. Goldman that post-operative trans women are less likely to contract HIV than pre-operative. Now as a demographic the stats hint that we do experience higher rates of HIV, but the exact extent to which this is a problem is difficult to pin down with existing data for reasons I’ll get to in a minute. And I suspect the elevated rates of HIV in our community have far more to do with socioeconomic discrimination than our genitals. So what does the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development even say?

Let’s find out: (emphasis mine, plus I’ve added paragraph breaks to make it more readable)

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