I hope you vote NO for Governor McRory!

If you live in North Carolina, you know about HB2 – the bill that has cost you the NBA playoffs, caused your tourism officials to spend your money to explain why a discriminatory law isn’t actually discriminatory, and generally been a way for Mr. McRory to keep his name in the press (at your expense).

I visited North Carolina when I was in high school, on a trip to a national science event. I listened as Duke University and North Carolina State tried to influence our college selection process.  I remember experiencing the best of southern hospitality, seeing a beautiful state. When I got home, I decided that there were only a few places I wanted to live – and North Carolina was one of them. Alas, I got lucky and didn’t get to move to the beautiful state of North Carolina, but instead am fortunate enough to live in a state where we have legislators focused on problems like K12 education and roads. I’m sad that such a wonderful state, with wonderful people, has chosen to hang out a sign saying, “Trans people are unwelcome here!”

Isn’t Common Sense

You’ll hear this phrase a lot from Pat McRory – that bathrooms are a common-sense issue.  What he really means is that people generally are ignorant of the complexities in the science of sex (the biology of people in our species, that is, not the act). I’m not speaking of gender identity, but actual sex, as in what genitals a person has and what chromosomes they have. One example: an individual might have XY chromosomes but have a vagina (from formation in the womb). It also means, “I don’t have a good reason to defend this, so I’m counting on you not thinking too hard about it.” Nor are all states and nations uniform in birth certificate law – some allow you to change the birth certificate with no surgery at all. I suspect Pat McRory either is completely ignorant of the issues (and, thus, incompetent) or a liar. You can decide.

Not Protecting Kids

Kids are being exploited in North Carolina already. Typically, it’s a relative, family friend, or someone in authority over the kid (like a teacher or priest). It’s typically someone that is seen as trustworthy. It’s not typically a stranger – child sexual abuse thrives on the abuser keeping his acts secret, which means he’ll (usually a “he”) want to groom a child first, to ensure that the child doesn’t tell an adult. This law does nothing to stop these kinds of abuses.  Other abuses, such as an adult (of either sex or gender) exposing his or her genitals in front of a child, or watching a child in a state of undress for the purpose of sexual gratification are, already, illegal in North Carolina – in fact, unlike HB2, the law that makes these things illegal actually has a penalty attached to it. There is no penalty under HB2 for a person using the wrong bathroom, just a requirement for governments to allow private businesses to discriminate and for governments to actively ensure trans people are discriminated against.

Doesn’t Fix Privacy

I don’t want to be stared at in a pool locker room by a man or a woman. I expect most people feel the same way. I expect that you feel even stronger if I talked about whether or not a man should be able to sit in a pool locker room all day and watch boys undress – of course you would be angry and want to do something about it. HB2 doesn’t address this. What would address this is building code changes! I suspect plenty of breast cancer survivors, accident victims, abuse survivors, and others would like a truly private place to change. Heck, even trans people want this – the highest desire for the vast majority of trans people is to blend in so they don’t get killed.

Experience Elsewhere

You literally have more chance of being hit by lightning or winning the Powerball Lottery than being abused by a trans person in a locker room or bathroom. Don’t believe me? Go Google lottery winners, lightning strikes, and “assault by trans person in bathrooom”. Perhaps North Carolina’s Governor could spend his time legislating about lightning strikes to defend kids! In places with non-discrimination law, men who violate the privacy of women’s facilities are still prosecuted and jailed (for instance, in liberal Boulder Colorado, a man who watched women in women’s bathrooms and porta-potties was successfully prosecuted and sentenced to prison – Boulder’s non-discrimination law was no obstacle for prosecutors to successfully overcome).

Safety of Trans People

What is a problem elsewhere is assault on trans people, particularly people who decide to take matters into their own hands and enforce their view of gender on the trans person. As collateral damage, women who look too masculine are also subject to bathroom policing. In some cases, these non-trans women have been dragged out of bathrooms, even after the women tried to show a driver’s license, by, ironically, men acting as bouncers or security. These bathroom laws don’t just make using a bathroom more dangerous for trans people that are “clocked”, but for non-trans women who don’t look stereotypically feminine.

Disclosure: I don’t live in North Carolina, and have no plans on changing that until North Carolina treats all their citizens fairly under the law.  This is my personal opinion, and was not society by any candidate, PAC, or similar group.

Sex Crimes and Hackers

I’m going to speak to men here, about the recent photo hacks. For anyone that hasn’t heard, several famous actresses (some accounts say 100 or more) had their phone backups hacked. In a complex and scary example of how awful humanity is, the hackers found images these celebrities took of themselves naked and they, or people they sold the images to, posted these images publicly. These pictures were obviously intended to be shared with a person in a relationship with the celebrity, not with the public.

The first thing I’m going to say to the men is this: You don’t need to Google these images. I’ll just say a few words on why: sexual gratification without consent is at best creepy. These women didn’t consent.

But in the interest of confronting some of the men who justify this behavior, let me respond to some of the creepy things I’ve seen other men say online.

But they are celebrities, in the public eye.

Yes. But that doesn’t entitle you to violate their privacy and get sexual gratification from violating them. Just as it would be creepy for you to try to peek in their window while they shower, it’s creepy for you to do this. Even if they are famous.

Don’t put anything online you don’t want to be public.

Uh… Seriously?  I do my banking online. I pay taxes online. My work has my performance review online. Your kid’s address is online. Your medical records are sent to the insurance company online. We do plenty of things that should stay confidential online. Someone doesn’t give up expectation of privacy simply because they use a computer to do things not everyone wants to see.

This part of the argument is interesting because most people reacted negatively to the USA government saying, basically, “Don’t worry about us spying on you if you don’t have anything to hide.” In other words, don’t do anything you don’t want the government to know about, and you’ll be fine. Uh, no.

Well, taking pictures of yourself nude is dumb.

No, sharing your sexuality and romance with someone you care about is not “dumb.” It’s intimacy and trust. In intimacy, we share things, whether they are pictures or acts or our deep fears and dreams. Sharing is good.

Certainly trust can be violated. Of course. But someone hoping they found someone they can trust is not dumb. I hope others can be themselves with their intimate partners – it’s wonderful to share a relationship without things to hide.

And I’ll say another thing, which I hope most men in straight relationships can agree with: it’s nice when you see your partner’s body! Why is it wrong for a woman to be sexy and show you that? Which gets into the next one…

Only sluts would take pictures of themselves naked.

Perhaps your idea of sexual intimacy is in a darkened room where only missionary style sex is performed while wearing clothing covering most of your bodies and is done for the sole purpose of creating a baby.  But a lot of us find sexuality fun and exciting when done with consent, even outside of these parameters.

There is nothing wrong with a woman taking a picture of herself for her husband or boyfriend. Think about it:

  • She probably feels pretty sexy doing that. That’s cool! Too often women are ashamed of their bodies, because people (often men) give them the idea they aren’t sexy if their body doesn’t fit a certain pattern. So it’s awesome when a woman overcomes that and knows she’s sexy in someone else’s eyes!
  • She knows her husband likes looking at her. As a husband, I hope my wife always knows I like how she looks!
  • She is showing a lot of trust in the person. She’s basically saying, “I know you are a good man.” She’s expressing vulnerability and trust, that her man will understand ever. And she’s saying “not all men, not my man.” Isn’t it wonderful she’s found someone that restores her faith in men?
  • She wants to do something nice for her guy! She knows he gets pleasure seeing her. I personally think this is a wonderful gift, although the trust she expressed is even more wonderful. A real man will recognize this.
  • She wants to express her sexuality. It’s okay for a woman to want sex. Besides, I hope most guys would want their partner to want sex! That doesn’t make someone a slut.

She feels sexy, looks sexy, knows you’ll see her as sexy, knows you are a good man who is trustworthy, and is communicating that she feels hot around you. Seriously, how could a man not like that?! Who wouldn’t want their partner to feel and be like that?

So, before you criticize someone as a slut for wanting to share pictures intimately with someone special, you might want to make sure you never want to be that someone special in anyone else’s life. Because pictures or not, being trusted and loved by a woman you love and who feels sexy and hot around you is pretty nice!

There are Bad People in the world, she should know that.

Dude, do you really think that there is any adult woman who doesn’t know there are bad men in the world?

She knows that there are people who:

  • Shame her for expressing her sexuality
  • Tell her it is her fault if someone she trusts and loves turns out to be an asshole
  • Think it’s okay to get sexual gratification without consent
  • Say that if you are too well known, it’s okay for people to violate your body

And you think she doesn’t know there are bad people?

They should have used good computer security practices.

Usually this argument gets drawn into computer security. It’s not computer security. Whether these woman use a password of “password” or one of “klsjkR#isvsz0dmNDwx95fsVDSe2s3!” doesn’t matter. The problems here are not password problems. The problem here is a misogynistic one. And securing passwords doesn’t solve the misogynistic one – it just changes how people express their misogyny.

It’s also pretty poor taste to say that a sex crime victim “had it coming.” If you want to talk about password security, more power to you. But what people are upset about is not that they don’t know how to secure their computer (besides, they probably aren’t as ignorant as you think). They are upset because this is a cyber equivalent of the real-space exploitation and objectification of women. They are upset that when they want to talk about that issue, people start lecturing them about what clothes to wear, what beverage to drink, what pictures to take, and what passwords to pick – but not the actual issue that concerns them the most: that no matter where they go, online or offline, some men seem to feel women exist solely for their sexual gratification. This translates not just to feeling icky around these men, but physical safety. Yet you want to talk about passwords. If you can’t see why this is upsetting, you probably are part of the problem.

Do you want to empower people to protect themselves against assholes? Fine, do that. But don’t do it by using victims as a platform you stand on to pontificate. You don’t do it by derailing a conversation. You don’t do it by telling the people you supposedly are empowering that the conversation they want to have is the wrong conversation.

You want to empower? Try listening.

A MESSAGE FOR MEN:

Do you want really awesome, really mind-blowing sex?

Sharing trust and intimacy makes it awesome.

Way more awesome than being an internet peeping tom / sex offender. Be someone that can be trusted.

Is Sex Reassignment Surgery a Right?

Just recently, the US First Circuit Appeals Court of appeals ruled that a prisoner’s rights were being violated because she was denied medically necessary sex reassignment surgery (SRS) [I use the term SRS rather than gender reassignment surgery because the surgery doesn’t impact gender identity or expression, but it changes things associated with biological sex, like breasts or genitals]. This violated the prisoner’s 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

This is one of the first federal cases in the United States that has recognized that SRS is medically necessary.  This is a major win for the trans community.  And the advocates of the community understand this.

We expect the bigotrs to hate this. They don’t believe surgery is needed for anyone, much less a prisoner. “Let her rot.” Actually, they’d say, “Let HIM rot.” They don’t believe trans people exist, after all. But that’s not what annoys me.

However, what’s the response from the trans community as a whole? Basically the same as 2012, when she won a different case.  You can find comments online like, “I for one am infuriated by this. The inmate is a murderer serving life… Normal people can’t get this covered yet I can go kill some one and then someone will pay for my SRS? Ugh…..”

Or, “Although, I completely agree on a person’s need for GRS/SRS. I do not believe this person is entitled anything from the state. This person committed MURDER and they will now be rewarded with free medical anything from honest TAX PAYERS.”

These arguments are – pardon this language – bull shit.

First, the 8th Amendment, just like the 1st or the 2nd, is still in force. It is illegal to have cruel and unusual punishment. Even for someone sentenced to life. Even for a murderer. The US constitution is supposed to put us above abuse of prisoners. Even when the prisoners are bad people. Especially when we think the prisoners are bad people.

But, beyond that, we don’t have this standard for other treatments. We don’t say, “Oh, no defibrillator for you, no ambulance ride to the hospital. Die of the heart attack. You’re a prisoner. We don’t want to pay for you.”

We don’t say, “You can’t get cancer treatment. You’re a bad person. Too bad. We don’t want to pay for you.”

Yet, with SRS, apparently the standard from many members of the transgender community is two-fold: First, it’s not actually a right, it’s just a right for non-prisoners. Second, no prisoners get rights before get my rights. And even more critically, “This isn’t really medically necessary.

Well, rights don’t work that way. The prisoner is not keeping you from getting SRS. Maybe society is, and quite possibly your rights are being violated! That doesn’t change whether or not the prisoner gets SRS. Either way, your rights being violated don’t mean that someone else’s rights weren’t violated. Seriously, this is a basic concept! Once you bring your own rights into a discussion about someone else’s rights, that’s a problem. Let’s talk about your rights, and make sure you get what you need – and, yes, health care is a human right, and you should be getting it, even if some in our political system disagree. And it’s going to help you when a court recognizes it as a right. Really.

Second, SRS is a life-saving medical procedure for many. This prisoner was sentenced to life in prison. LIFE in prison, not death in prison! Yes, it sucks that sometimes prisoners get better medical care than non-prisoners. Perhaps the solution of that problem isn’t to take away the prisoner’s health care and violate their rights, but to make sure the rest of us also get medical care. Taking away their medical care won’t help those of us outside of prison have medical care!

It sickens me to hear the same arguments used against gay marriage to express disagreement that someone has a right to SRS. The gay marriage opponents’ argument is, essentially, “If someone else has a right, that hurts me.” That’s not cool. No, gay marriage doesn’t hurt straight people. It just helps gays. You can help someone without hurting someone else. The same goes for SRS for prisoners – you can help a prisoner, and live up to our constitutional obligations – even when that prisoner is a bad person – without hurting someone who isn’t a prisoner.

Yes, we need to fight for peoples’ rights to have SRS. That means we need to fight for prisoners to have that right. And for people who aren’t prisoners. It’s a human right, not just a non-incarcerated right. People are sorely mistaken if they believe throwing some trans people under the bus and saying they don’t have a right to SRS will help those who aren’t in that group. You’re just proving the point of the bigots: that SRS is not actually medically necessary. Yes, it is medically necessary for those who need it. And these people for whom it is necessary – like anyone else – may even be in prison. THAT is what needs to be fought for. Not the right for some people to have SRS, as that will only prove that SRS isn’t truly needed. Medical care is a human right. Let’s not forget that.

So You Misgendered Someone…

Recently, the Ontario Association for Chiefs of Police released a document on how police departments can respect LGBTQ people. Overall, it’s a good document, although it has the same minefield that a lot of documents have when it comes to pronoun usage.

As a general rule, use the gender pronoun that matches the way a person is dressed and other  cues of gender expression (hairstyle, makeup, shoes, name, etc.), even if their presentation does not match the sex designation on their identification documents.

Let’s say someone tells you their name is “Jo” or “Joe” (they tell you verbally, so you don’t know the spelling).  Let’s say this person looks to you as if they might have very small feminine breasts, although their baggy clothing makes it hard to tell. This person has short hair. This person has a tattoo on their arm, maybe evidence of a couple of hairs on their face. They are wearing jeans and a baggy T-shirt, but you can’t tell from the cut of the clothing if they are masculine or feminine cuts. There’s nothing overtly feminine in the clothing. It doesn’t look like the person is wearing make-up.

If you go by the general rule the chiefs use, it’s going to be difficult. Now, granted, most of us are a lot more obvious than this, but plenty of women dress in non-feminine ways, wear hair in non-feminine ways, and may not have prominent chests. That certainly doesn’t make them men, and it won’t be surprising if some of them react badly to being called “sir” – particularly if they are members of the lesbian or bisexual communities, where being told “you want to be a man” is an insult directed towards their sexual orientation.

On the other hand, if this person is a man, calling this person “Ms.” on the basis of possible breasts would also likely elicit a less-than-positive response.

I know what the police chiefs were trying to do – and it’s good.  If you see someone wearing a dress, carrying a purse, wearing long hair, going by a feminine name, etc, don’t call them “sir.” Even if you think they might be trans – they are clearly presenting as a woman.

They do get something right, though – a lot of time, people are told, “If you aren’t sure of the pronoun, just ask.” While that’s better than getting it wrong, it can still be hurtful and a reminder to someone that they don’t fit in the world, that they will never fully be just seen as who they are. They say:

For most people, questions about their gender can be distressing; therefore, questions about a person’s gender identity should be handled with great sensitivity and caution. Such questions should be asked only on a need-to-know basis (not because you are curious).

If it is necessary for the task at hand, you may try an indirect question, such as “Can I refer to you by your first name?” or “How would you prefer that I address you?” hoping they indicate a title (Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.) or a pronoun that gives you a cue on which you can act. While some people will be upset by a direct question, if you are gentle and non-confrontational, most will understand that you are doing your best to be sensitive and respectful.

Certainly, when you know someone’s preferred name, just use that if you aren’t sure, unless you really have a good reason to know their gender – they get it right when they say curiosity isn’t sufficient reason to humiliate someone. But if you do need to know, as the Chiefs recommend, instead of “Should I call you Mr. or Ms.?” you may want to ask, “How would you like us to address you?” If done respectfully, it can preserve the dignity of the person (whether or not they are trans).

But let me make one thing clear – what isn’t directly mentioned above is the most important thing: if someone tells you they are a man or they tell you they are a woman, it’s disrespectful to do anything other than respect that statement. We’re all human, and humans come in tons of diversity, without always following clear-cut lines (nor necessarily even two genders). So, when someone tells you who they are, listen – and chances are you’ll be able to move past embarrassment.  Here’s a few things not to do:

  • Don’t say, “Well, it’s hard to tell.”  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But that’s not at issue. What is at issue is that you got it wrong. YOU got it wrong. Not them. So don’t tell them that it was hard to tell. Say, “I’m sorry,” and move on using the proper gender terms.
  • Don’t say, “This would happen less if you <wore a dress/wore makeup/cut your hair/wore a wig/talked differently/etc>.” Again, it’s not them that misgendered themself. It’s YOU that did the misgendering. They don’t need dressing, makeup, hair, or voice lessons from you.
  • Don’t try to correct it by telling them how brave they are, how much they really do pass, or how beautiful/handsome they are. Existing isn’t brave. And they might be beautiful or handsome, but they are not feeling it right now after being misgendered – and telling them they are right now will just feel like a lie. I’ll give a couple hints on telling someone they look nice: first, it should be appropriate to the situation. If you wouldn’t tell someone who wasn’t trans or misgendered that they look nice in that situation, it’s probably not an appropriate situation. Second, it needs to come in a genuine way, not as an apology.  Just fix your terms you use for them and move on.
  • Don’t disagree with them. Yes, I’ve seen trans and non-trans people both told, “You’re not a woman! You’re a man!” and then the person insists on sticking to that. NO, don’t do that. They told you who they are when they corrected you. LISTEN.
  • Don’t avoid gendered pronouns and terms. If someone says, “Uh, it’s sir, not ma’am,” don’t then just use their name or refer to them as “this person.” Refer to them as “sir!” If you refuse to use gendered terms after they tell you they a member of a particular gender, you are saying, “I can’t bring myself to call you by terms that match your identity.” In other words, you don’t respect their identity. It won’t go unnoticed.
  • Don’t explain why you misgendered them. It doesn’t matter. You did, and that’s all that matters. Apologize and move on.
  • Finally, don’t expect a blunt statement. Expect something subtle. They are trying to let you save face and avoid humiliating you by giving a you really blunt response. Don’t make them give that blunt response (and if you do make them give that blunt response, it’s your fault, not theirs, and, no, they weren’t rude).

I do applaud the Ontario Police Chiefs for working towards respectful policing – something that is absolutely necessary – and I think they get tons of things right (including, for the most part, pronouns). But it is a minefield if you aren’t willing to politely and respectfully take correction when you make the mistake of misgendering someone.

Reflections on My Hate…and that of Ole Miss

 

In 1998, when I was a student at the University of Wyoming, a gay college student – Matthew Shepard – was brutally murdered in an anti-gay hate crime.

candleMatthew did nothing to provoke the attack, as police reports and trial evidence makes clear.

At the time, I was opposed to “legalizing the gay lifestyle” and believed I was right – because “God” told me so.

I am ashamed of that part of my life.

So I’ve thought a lot about Matthew Shepard’s death. Even when I was an anti-gay college student, I could recognize that Matthew shouldn’t have died. I had a lot of things wrong in my belief, but I understood that he was human and should have lived.

Matthew was killed as a result of people who couldn’t accept a world with a gay person in it. They took matters into their own hands, causing an unimaginable amount of pain – and the death – of someone just trying to live an authentic life.

That brings me to the present: on Tuesday, the theater department at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) put on a production of The Laramie Project, a play about the community and the response to Matthew Shepard’s death. It is very well written and accurate.

Now, this play has been performed thousands of times in many different venues. What happened at Ole Miss was different.

Students not only disrespected the performance, but actually shouted anti-gay slurs at the performers (among other things), apparently encouraged by some football players.

The next few days will tell us not only about the football players and other students, but about whether or not the administration will accept this behavior or use this as a teaching moment. I thought we learned something from the Matthew Shepard murder as a society. Apparently not everyone has learned it. And for that reason, I am glad that The Laramie Project is playing at Ole Miss. It’s message clearly needs to be heard on that campus.

I will say that people can change their views. I did. I’m ashamed of what my views were when Matthew died. But people can grow and learn – if they listen. And, right now, a few Ole Miss students need to listen.

Another Bad Month

candleAugust was another bad month for trans people.

When I recount the violence I know about, remember that many crimes against trans people go unreported, don’t get media attention, or are treated as ordinary violence in media reports.  Sadly, the majority of crime against trans people falls into this unreported and ignored category.

Even so, what is reported is horrifying and shows us, again, that we need to continue to fight for trans people.  Not for marriage.  Not for employment.  Not for bathroom access.  Just for the right for trans people to exist.  Just to exist.

As always, I strive to respect who people are.  Unfortunately, the preferred gender identities, names, and pronouns of victims are not always evident from reports.  In addition, some cultures have different views among trans people of who they are – all the world doesn’t view gender as western society does.  I’ve tried to be respectful of people, and am sorry that not everything linked here goes to that same trouble.  I also know I may get it wrong, as I am forced in most cases to rely on media reports.  I welcome correction and will update this post accordingly.  I’ve also tried to be respectful in what I link, but at the same time, some of the only reporting is often horrifying or degrading.  Please keep this in mind when clicking links.

During the beginning of the month, a trans woman was brutally attacked by a group of thugs in Russia.  The attackers even video taped themselves brutally attacking the woman.  Unfortunately, we don’t know if the woman’s physical wounds have healed or not, but it is clear that the attack will have lifelong consequences.  It’s hard to imagine that not only could someone do this to someone else, but they could actually make a graphic video about it.

On Aug 18, 2013, in Ankara, Turkey, a crowd violently attacked a group of trans people, beating them with bats, gassing them, and destroying their automobiles.  When the crime was reported to police, with license plate information, the police claimed that the license plates were false.  However, the victims report that they are concerned that the apathy of police will cause these attacks to continue.

In Dhobi Ghat, India, on Aug 19, a trans person was raped.  The rapist went on to rape severely ill person (who died, in large part due to the attack according to relatives) only a few hours later, followed by participating in a gang rape against a photojournalist two days later.

One day later, on Aug 20, in Fontana, CA, USA, Dominique Newburn was murdered in a violent struggle with her attacker.  Some of her belongings were stolen, and a manhunt continues for the suspected killer.

On August 22, in New York City, a Islan Nettles was brutally attacked, dying several days later having never regained consciousness from her injuries.  The murderer was a student at a local university who was apparently so enraged upon finding out that the woman he was hitting on (and who turned him down) and her friends were trans brutally attacked Islan in front of a New York City police station, leaving her unconscious.  Islan’s friends were also attacked, although with less significant injuries.  Meanwhile, the suspected killer’s mother, seems to have found another man to try to take the blame for the murder, to spare her son jail time.  Fortunately, police are still investigating Paris Wilson, the originally suspected killer.  It should be noted that others were also likely involved in attacking the trans women.

Of course, even in all of this, several of the victims of the crimes described above faced additional injustice when they reported the crimes to apathetic police, endured misgendering, were referred to as “drunk” or “prostitutes” by police and/or media, and even when their families used the wrong pronouns or names in talking about the victims.  The attack rarely stops when the physical violence ends.

This article puts it in perspective, speaking about July:

These findings were based on statistics released by the Organization of American States and included incidents from Canada, the United States, Central America and South America. The report found that in the month of July alone, 39 people were murdered: 23 transgender people and 16 gays and lesbians.

The article goes on to talk about that, while gays face more risk of violence than straight people, trans people, particularly trans women and non-white trans people, face violence at an incredibly increased rate compared to even gay people.

This has to stop.  When you see people devaluing the humanity of another, whether it’s a crass joke, intentional misgendering, laughing at someone’s gender presentation, or gossiping behind their back, you need to speak up.  These things are not violent attacks, but they lower the social status of trans people and make them less than fully human in some people’s eyes.  And they’re asshole things to do besides.

When is a Rape not a Rape? Or Hate not Hate?

This comes up way too frequently – for instance, we all heard about “legitimate rape” (Todd Akin, a US politician, implied that women who were “legitimately” raped would, somehow, only rarely get pregnant due to some sort of ovarian rape-detector or something) in the last election cycle.

Up until 1993, spousal rape (a person raping their spouse) was not illegal everywhere in the USA.  North Carolina was the last state to change their law which, prior to the change, included this in the rape statute: “a person may not be prosecuted under this article if the victim is the person’s legal spouse at the time of the commission of the alleged rape or sexual offense, unless the parties are living separate and apart.”  Before the 1970s, spousal rape was not a crime anywhere in the USA.

In a particularly horrifying example, in 2007, a Philadelphia judge, Teresa Carr Deni, decided that it wasn’t possible to rape a prostitute, even if you held a gun to her head to force her to have sex, if she had previously agreed to have sex.  In this case, the rape victim previously agreed to have sex with the rapist for an agreed sum of money.  Now you might have moral disagreements with that, but that wasn’t what was supposed to be on trial here.  What was on trial was whether or not she was raped.  When she met the rapist to receive money and perform the sex act (protected sex), the rapist decided he wasn’t going to pay her (no sex had occurred yet) and that he would use a gun to force her to perform unprotected sex with at least 3 other people.  Clearly, this was not consensual.

The judge, Teresa Carr Deni, a Philadelphia municipal judge, decided that it wasn’t possible to rape a prostitute, essentially, since she was offering services for a fee, and that this was just a case of robbery and theft of services.  Not rape.

Despite the Pennsylvania Bar publicly condemning her, she won re-election in Philadelphia shortly after the case for another 6 years in 2007.  Fortunately she’s on her last year as a judge and will not be back in 2014.

On July 14, 2013, Diamond Williams was brutally murdered with her body dismembered and dumped in a vacant lot.  The primary suspect – with significant evidence against him – is Charles Sargent.

Diamond, sadly, even after death, has three things going against her: she was trans, may have been a sex worker, and the judge who will be presiding over Charles Sargent’s murder case.  The judge is Teresa Carr Deni.

That Diamond was reported to be a sex worker should have nothing to do with this case.  She’s not supposed to be tried as a victim in her own murder case.  It’s not less wrong to kill a sex worker, and hopefully Judge Deni has learned that.  But we’ll have to wait and see.  Diamond’s human value and worth was the same as any of ours, and the law should reflect that all of us are created equal, that we all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.  Such as the right not to be murdered.

That she was trans may be relevant, as a hate crime.  Some media have reported that Charles Sargent killed Diamond when he found out she was trans.  If this is the case, it would seem to be clearly a crime motivated by bias against gender, which is against the law (I’ve written about hate crimes elsewhere and why treating people in this way is not an injustice but actual justice).  But of course it’s not going to be prosecuted that way.  No, it’s going to be prosecuted as random violence that could have happened to any of us.  Except, it seems, it wouldn’t have happened to any of us.

I pray and hope that justice will be served and that Diamond’s murderer will never see freedom again.  He took a person’s life, so it is reasonable that he should spend the rest of his behind bars.  I also want to say that while I never knew Diamond, I do share the grief of her family and friends and their loss.  I don’t have to have known her to know that she was special to many people and that someone was unjustly taken from all of the world.

Some Real Crime

This is why I started tis blog.  I’m sick of my brothers and sisters being killed, raped, and otherwise harmed.  And, yes, they are my brothers and sisters.  And like it or not, they are your brothers and sisters, too.  I might not be LGB or T, but that doesn’t mean I’m not human.  Or they aren’t.

I want to talk about Washington DC, the seat of my country’s government.  What place represents the USA more than DC?  Well, that representation has been shameful.

Every two days since the 21st there has been at least one attack in DC on a trans* person.

Another shooting, on June 22, involving a lesbian victim, also affected the LGBT community.

DC has a shameful history with regards to being a safe place for trans* people – there have been many, many murders over the last decade, making it an incredibly dangerous place for a trans person to live (particularly for black transwomen).

The solution isn’t just more police or enforcement of hate crime statutes (in fact, more police may be part of the problem in other ways). The solution consists of things like not writing off every transwoman victim as a prostitute (or implying that somehow prostitutes deserve or encouraged attacks) in reporting. Or because someone took $40 from the victim, saying it’s a robbery when the victim was stabbed nearly a dozen times after the criminal was called a fag by his buddies. And recognizing in law that a transwoman is a woman, not a man. And vise-versa, that a transman is a man, not a woman. Not half of the gender, not “well, except for A, B, or C they can be treated like a woman” as these things only reinforce “this person isn’t really a…” It’s when reporting on the controversy of trans kids transitioning including the research on adults (97% of people who have sexual reassignment surgery are glad they did it, which is higher than for instance operations to replace a lens in a nearly blind person’s eye) and statistics about what we know happens to trans kids when they *don’t* transition (at least 50% attempt or succeed at suicide).

A lot of it starts where we live. Could a transwoman teach your kids without problems? Could she work at your business, in the job you hold, without problems? Could she share a room in your community as a boarder without a problem? Could she use the women’s room in public without problem? Would a trans candidate’s trans status be a non-issue in a local election? If not, what are you doing to fix it?