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.

NC HB2 – and How NC Protects Children

Yes, you actually read this right.

North Carolina has been in the news lately, due to an absurd law aimed at stigmatizing trans people (see a previous post, http://crimeagainstnature.org/2016/03/24/north-carolina-cant-even-do-the-wrong-thing-right/).  Basically, the law, which includes no penalty for non-compliance, requires government to designate multi-stall bathrooms for use by only one gender as indicated on birth certificates. It also prevents cities and counties from passing non-discrimination ordinances for pretty much anything, including to require bathroom access be properly allowed. Obviously, this is problematic.

The stated reason for these laws is to protect young boys and girls from sexual predators, who, apparently, will enter a bathroom of a gender different than their birth certificate and expose themselves and/or watch the children for sexual gratification.

Note that the law doesn’t make it illegal to enter a bathroom based on your birth certificate (you may be committing trespass however, if the property owner does not approve, if your birth certificate isn’t what the state thinks it should be).

That said, it is a felony (and has been for some time) for an adult (anyone 16 or older) take indecent liberties (which includes exposing the adult’s genitals) with a child (NC § 14-202.1) – if someone is 5 years older (or more) than the child, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire. There’s a similar law in NC § 14-202.2 that applies to children committing this against another child. One difference between the adult and child versions is that someone 16+ years old needs to be 5 years older than the victim under 16, while a child committing the similar child crime needs to only be three years older. Thus, it’s indecent liberties with a child if a 15 year old exposes themself to a 12 year old, but not if a 16 year old exposes themself to a 12 year old. Maybe that would be worth fixing if the state wasn’t so fixated on keeping transwomen out of bathrooms.  Importantly it doesn’t matter what sex the victim or the perpetrator are – same or different sex, the law still applies. And there is no exception for bathrooms or locker rooms.

So I decided to investigate a few things.  Particularly, how does North Carolina protect children and others from sexual and other acts, other than just indecent liberties.

North Carolina wisely disallows children under 14 from marrying, even if pregnant.  But if there is a pregnancy, there can be a marriage of a child to another person.  The fetus doesn’t need to actually be born, since abortion is legal in NC.

NC § 14-12.7 prohibits masks on public roads and sidewalks – intended to make some KKK activities illegal, no doubt. Fortunately NC § 14-12.11 protects the traditional Halloween costume, masquerade balls, labor union meetings (sometimes), and anyone that has the permission of the town’s board.  There is no exception for my tinted motorcycle helmet however.

NC does regulate sexual activity, perhaps to protect children along with, apparently, others, like gay men.  For instance, § 14-177 makes “crime against nature” illegal – basically any penetration (however slight) other than a penis into a vagina between two people (or any sex with an animal), consensual or not.  See here for some more details (note the link includes discussion of child sex abuse). Of course much of the activity technically illegal under state law was determined to be legal under Lawrence v. Texas, but for some inexplicable reason, NC’s legislature doesn’t want to repeal this law – they want all you straight people having oral sex to know you shouldn’t do that.

NC § 14-184 makes fornication & adultery illegal.  Basically, it’s fornication if a straight couple has sex where both are unmarried, and it’s adultery if one or both are married to someone else – but NC goes a bit further and makes all cohabitation or “bedding” together illegal if it is done “lewdly and lasciviously” – you get to figure out what that means. However, if the two people are the same sex, it’s okay under this law (I don’t think they got around to making this law gender neutral even after their homosexual sex law became invalidated).  Too bad North Carolina doesn’t have an anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation! But because they don’t, straight people don’t have the protections gays have, at least as far as fornicating together in bed. Oh, it’s also illegal if the fornicating/adulterating (?) couple checks into a hotel and claims to be married (NC § 14-186).

NC’s sexual obscenity statute (NC § 14-190.1) defines sexual conduct as to include the portrayal of someone naked or in undergarments being tortured. I don’t know if the Catholic Church and others who depict Christ crucified realize the sexual undertones of their portrayals – but fortunately there’s an out in the reasonableness standard, at least until there are enough people offended by that depiction to declare it obscene.

Apparently unknown to state legislators, NC § 14-190.9 makes it illegal for an adult – same sex or opposite sex – to, in a public place (which is places the public can go – most business and government bathrooms, for instance) expose their genitals to a child under 16 for “arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”  Even better than HB2 because it actually addresses the concern raised by legislators and others in passing HB2, this protects kids from all adults, and is actually targeted at the problem that legislators didn’t realize they already solved years ago.

In addition, NC § 14-196 protects us all – adult and children – from phone sex, which is illegal in NC (also computer sex, if done using a computer modem – I personally think that would hurt, but obviously I don’t have the mind of a legislator in North Carolina).

So, certainly, North Carolina seems to have found all sorts of strange ways to protect us from gay sex, wearing the wrong motorcycle helmet, marrying at 14 (unless pregnant or making pregnant!), telling hotel clerks you’re married when you aren’t, and phone sex.

Perhaps they would be better off trying to make bathrooms actually safe. You know, safe not just from imagined predators, but safe for trans people – including trans kids. You start that process by not giving state approval to bigotry.

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.

Kansas License to Discriminate…Against Women Drivers

Kansas Representative Charles Macheers (R), Right-wing Extremist

Kansas Representative Charles Macheers (R), Right-wing Extremist

The Kansas House of Representatives just passed Rep. Charles Macheer’s HB 2453 on Tuesday, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. This bill, as has been widely reported, is basically an attempt to allow discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as long as the person doing the discrimination feels it their religious duty to be an ass. Secular discrimination would remain illegal. Seriously. So the lesson here is, if you want to be an ass, it’s best to be a religious ass. Rep. Charles Macheers – and in fact the Kansas House of Representatives – has your back. But that’s not all. Like the State of Oklahoma, Kansas can’t even do the wrong thing right. In 2010, one house of the Oklahoma legislature, in attempting to prevent hate-crime laws from being applied in cases of LGBT victims screwed up – they passed a bill that left gays protected, but stripped rights from victims of religiously and racially motivated hate crimes. Kansas, meanwhile, apparently means explicitly legalize religiously motivated hate, albeit not in the context of violent crime (as the hate crime law applied), but “just” in things like employment and government services. Jesus is pleased, I’m sure. For instance, HB 2453 reads, in part:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;

(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or

(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

While parts (b) and (c) are pretty awful, (a) is astonishing. Let me make this a bit more clear, because (a) has the clarity we have grown to expect from the anti-LGBT lobby.  Here’s what (a) allows, at least when there isn’t a Federal law that would trump it:

  • A DMV worker who feels that their religion doesn’t allow women to drive (like some in Saudi Arabia) could refuse to help the 50% of DMV “customers” who enter the local DMV.  In small towns, this person might be the only one on-staff at times. Besides lightening their own workload, the person would receive protection from the State taking any personnel action against them.
  • A woman showing up at a male doctor’s office could be refused care by the male doctor if a woman doctor is available or if she isn’t accompanied by the appropriate male relative. After all, again, some in Saudi Arabia believe this for religious reasons. All it takes is a sincere belief…
  • A Christian who believes “women should always be under the authority of a man” could refuse to hire women into any supervisory role.

It’s a lot broader than these examples but that should be sufficient. Note that I don’t believe all Muslims or Christians are anti-woman, but, sadly, some are. Others are decent human beings. Sadly the decent human beings don’t seem to be making the laws in Kansas.

Of course one could also believe that the anti-woman provisions of this law just might not be an accident. After all, the religious right (by all accounts the true sponsor of this law) doesn’t just think homosexuality is wrong or that transgender people are “living in sin,” but they also believe something very interesting:

Every child needs a mom and a dad” (warning: that link contains a lot of B.S., but demonstrates the view of those who use this argument in opposing marriage equality).

What exactly does “every child needs a mom and a dad” mean if it doesn’t mean that there are some things which are either only done, or only should be done, by one sex or the other? I suspect dad is to be the leader, while mom is to be homemaker. This proposed Kansas law would help accomplish that.

 

Remember Stonewall, Police Abuse, and Presumption of Guilt

NYCD Police Department Patch

NYCD Police Department Patch

In the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, in NYC, it is commonly known that the NYC gay community stood up and said, “This is not okay.” They stood up to both the police department, who used humiliating and abusive tactics, and also against the laws of the time which were designed to punish homosexuality.

What isn’t as commonly known is that this may have been less about gay rights than about trans rights. While it was true that gay men (and sometimes women) were arrested for pursuing relationships, it was just as often – if not more often – about the gender expectations, specifically clothing, worn. It was easier to arrest someone for cross-dressing.

Lesbians and FTMs wearing “male” clothing (various ordinances required a certain number of supposedly gender-appropriate clothing) or males wearing women’s clothing were in violation of the law. Of course an officer would verify your sex matched your gender expression in exactly the way you would expect a non-enlightened officer to do so.

Stonewall was frequented by drag queens and transvestites among many others. So it isn’t surprising that when the raid began in the early morning of the June 28, 1969, with these clothing verifications taking place, people got upset. While this was hardly an unusual occurrence, people had finally had enough. And the drag queens were right out in front. As were the other groups. That’s probably one of the things that made Stonewall so significant: it wasn’t just one group of people who faced abuse (such as trans people). It was many, and involved intersectionality between gender, sexual orientation, and poverty.

So, you would think the home of Stonewall would have progressed, and that other departments would have policies and procedures that take this into account. And somewhat, they do. There are policies in most major police departments that call for the fair treatment of trans victims and suspects, albeit often not as progressive as we might want to see.

Earlier this year, the NYPD was accused of profiling trans people who happened to be carrying condoms – something perfectly legal and done by many law abiding citizens every day. Yet, this was seen as proof – because the person was trans or otherwise appeared to be a member of some group the police officer believed to be associated with prostitution (blacks, for instance) – that the person was out looking for someone to pay for sex. And when it came time to stop the city’s “Stop and Frisk” program (where people are frisked based on officer intuition and bias), which disproportionally affects innocent trans people and LGBT people of color, the mayor vetoed the change.

 

Of course NYC isn’t the only place that treats LGBT, and particularly T people, badly, although NYC of all places should have the resources to not only understand the profiling issues, but to go further and lead the nation in what positive policing should look like.

But let’s look at some of the other incidents in America. In California, a police officer is accused of raping a transwoman. While on duty. From the Gay Star News article,

According to the complaint, the officer pulled up to the victim and demanded to know what she was doing. He then ordered her to lean into the driver’s side window of his police car.

When she leaned forward, the officer groped her and asked if she was ‘a nasty shemale’.

After she responded that she was transsexual, the uniformed officer allegedly lead her to a secluded area and attacked her.

A condom which was reportedly used by the attacker was kept by the victim to use as evidence, and has been handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s not just rape (and the above case was not the only recent rape of a trans person by a police officer in the US).  It’s also how we treat people locked up.  From a story on trans immigration detainees in Women’s E-News:

“I don’t think it is difficult to gauge the level of risk for transgender detainees,” said Keren Zwick, the managing attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative and Adult Detention Project. “I have never met a transgender detainee who hasn’t experienced some kind of sexual harassment, at the very minimum, or being propositioned for sex or being called names. Never once.”

Now much of this is not committed by officers, although officers certainly should be watching detainees.  But the article cited above also talks about harassment and abuse by immigration officers, including threats of solitary confinement for continuing to take medication, retaliation for reporting abuse, and even being forced to drink semen by an officer.

Something’s not right here. This is happening too often.

The statistics back this up too – in the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ report on LGBT Hate Violence in 2012, they found that trans victims of violence were 3.32 times more likely to face violence from police than non-trans (but LGB) people.  In Injustice at Every Turn, a survey of trans people, 22% of trans people reported harassment by police – that is, nearly 1 in 4 trans people say that police have harassed them. It’s more than 1 in 3 when trans people of color are surveyed.  6% reported physical assault by police and 2% reported sexual assault.  As a result, 46% said they feel uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Imagine that.

After all, who wants to be laughed at when they report a crime? Who wants to be the subject of officer chit-chat about what weird freak the officer had to deal with that way? Even more significant, different is often seen as dangerous to an officer – and the police response may be quite disproportionate to the need – multiple officers with backup, for instance, when a victim is reporting a crime (and there is no evidence of active violence). Why do the officers need backup when they don’t for other situations? Simply because the person is trans. Thus they must be dangerous – at least in some officers’ heads.

We need to expect more from our professional police.  Does your department have good policies? Will it treat trans people with respect, and take their complaints seriously? It’s worth finding out.

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.

We’re Having the Wrong Conversation

Lots of people have insecurities about public toilets and locker rooms.  If you combine that with a lack of understanding of trans people, they may be afraid of using a bathroom with someone who is trans.

The fear comes from lots of places.  A lot of it is simple ignorance.  Most of us were taught:

  • Men have penises, women have vaginas (Thanks, Kindergarten Cop!)
  • XX Chromosomes = Female, XY Chromosomes = Male
  • Male = man, Female = woman – that is, sex and gender are 1 to 1 associations (see Terminology to learn the difference)
  • Determining the sex and gender of a person is simple.  Look at their parts or examine their chromosomes.

None of these are true, unfortunately.  But a lot of people truly don’t know that.  It’s ignorance.  There is no shame in not knowing something.  Nor is it evil or bad to not know something.

The solution to ignorance is education.  It’s pretty easy to spot whether someone was merely ignorant (I.E. not morally bad or evil) or if they may also hold prejudice and ego – which can be negative moral positions.  A lot of people, when educated, respond out of anger that they were corrected – this is often ego.  People don’t like being wrong, unfortunately.  Maybe they’ll get over that, and it’s one reason education should, when possible, be done gently without moral judgement (at least until the person shows that it’s not simple lack of exposure to the topic at fault).  Of course that’s a lot easier if you’re not the trans person who is being invalidated by these defensive reactions – hence the need for us allies.  Others are prejudiced or “willfully ignorant.”  They don’t want to listen to alternative evidence, this is “common sense” to them.  These people can’t be educated until they get past their refusal to participate in education.

This brings us back to bathrooms (this is a North-Americanism – elsewhere the word would be toilet).  There are a few more assumptions people have regarding bathroom users:

  • Women are at risk of attack in spaces shared with men
  • Women are particularly vulnerable in a bathroom
  • Transwomen are really men because they have a penis and/or XY chromosomes

We talked about the third bullet.  I’m not going to explain why that is false, but it is.  You can Google it yourself easily enough.

The first bullet point is based on a truth, but isn’t itself true.  Most sex crime victims are women and most perpetrators are men.  But it’s not shared spaces – it’s private spaces.  And, generally, it’s not random men.  It’s known men, not strangers, doing it (now I’m not saying that women don’t get assaulted by strangers – that clearly happens too, but it’s not as common).

There’s no actual crime evidence that women are more at risk in a bathroom, but I can understand that many people feel vulnerable when in the bathroom – you’re not likely to be as able to easily fight people off while sitting on a toilet with your pants down!  Plus, bathrooms are typically relatively quiet, secluded places – so people might not know you’re being attacked in there (one could argue that making one bathroom instead of two – and thus increasing traffic in it – would make many bathrooms safer because most criminals wouldn’t want to commit crime with witnesses or potential defenders around).  It’s important to recognize however that this is a feeling, however, not necessarily supported by evidence (for rape and sex crimes, statistics show that a private residence is far more dangerous than a bathroom).

There simply isn’t any evidence for thinking transwomen in a women’s room is dangerous.  But these views persist.  What else might be keeping women from seeing transwomen as safe?  There’s a few things:

  • They might believe being trans is a choice
  • They might believe transwomen to be immoral
  • They might associate trans with mental illness
  • They might associate mental illness with dangerous people
  • They might associate poverty with dangerous people
  • Unfamiliarity is felt as danger in humans

The first two bullets are related – some people, despite medical evidence clearly to the contrary, insist that trans people are choosing to be trans.  Further, this group is typically the same group that believes making this “choice” is immoral.  If you believe someone is going against God’s laws in one area, you might fear them in another.  I think this is why some people associate gay men with pedophiles – it’s not based on facts, but based on moral beliefs (for what it’s worth, most pedophiles are married to an opposite-sex spouse and even pedophiles that molest boys are, similar to non-pedophiles, mostly heterosexual with similar percentages identifying as gay in both the pedophile and non-pedophile groups [source]).

The third and forth bullets are also related.  While there is a diagnosis for gender identity disorder, and clearly the mind plays an important part in determining who we are, there is an assumption behind the scenes: “trans people are mentally ill in a way others are not.”  Nobody would dream of telling a depressed woman (depression is clearly a significant and life-altering mental illness) that she shouldn’t use the bathroom.  In fact, according to the NIMH, 46% of the US adult population will experience a mental illness during our lifetime.  Nearly 1 of 2.  Someone in your family, in other words.  Someone you love.  Someone you hang out with.  In a given year, 26% of the US adult population experience a mental illness.  Of that, 6% of the US adult population will experience a severe mental illness, which it turns out to be pretty hard to define.  You’re using the bathroom with some of these people, trust me

Further, mentally ill people are not more likely to attack you.  They are more likely to be victims.  They are even more vulnerable than the typical women or child in general.  I’ve written about this regarding autism in particular, but it applies to gender identity disorder and other illnesses as well.  There’s a lot of bias against mental illness.  So, linking this back up to choice, you can see yet one more reason why nobody is “choosing” to be trans – in our society, that’s linked to mental illness and mental illness is linked to moral failure and danger.

Now we get to the meat of the issue – the issue of poverty.  It’s combined with other things, like crime, drug use, and prostitution.  But the root of the issue is poverty.  People who aren’t poor are scared of the poor.  They don’t associate with the poor.  They don’t like being in the same neighborhood.  Watch what happens when a public housing agency tries to build affordable housing in a typical suburban neighborhood – beyond the rhetoric about property values (which is essentially “Well, everyone else is biased”) is fear of the poor.  Few look at the links between crime and poverty – why do people turn to prostitution or drug abuse?  But it should be noted that the poor – even poor, prostitute, drug-users – aren’t walking into random bathrooms to rape women.  In general, the rapist (over 90% of the time) is someone the woman knows, probably from her own social class.  Rapists don’t know class boundaries.  And plenty of “respectable,” non-mentally ill, non-poor, non-drug-using men are raping women.  And that problem isn’t going to get solved while we focus on the risk that isn’t there (transwomen who are raping non-trans women in the bathroom).

Of course, if you are concerned about poverty, you would probably support a bill that would reduce poverty.  Like ENDA.  Which will never pass so long as the Republican party has breath left.  Of course fear of the poor doesn’t actually translate into concrete action to deal with the problem of poverty faced by too many trans people.

That’s where we get to the last bullet: unfamiliarity.  You probably do know someone who doesn’t hold a traditional gender view for their sex.  They might not be expressing it, out of fear.  It turns out that when others see unfamiliar things, and it challenges their way of viewing the world (or, worse, their view of themself), some people get violent.  Not the unfamiliar person, but others.  Yet, for some reason, the unfamiliar person is seen as a risk!

When we look at bathroom attacks, I know of none that involved someone taking advantage of non-discrimination laws.  Yes, some women have been assulted in bathrooms.  Here’s a the first few reports I found of women being assaulted in the bathroom (I have nothing but sympathy and sadness for the victims and anger and a desire of justice to be served for the attacker):

In no case was the man presenting as a woman.  That’s important.

NYC has a good non-discrimination law that applies to a bathroom.  Yet a man was still caught and held accountable.  He doesn’t get a free pass to assault someone because of a non-discrimination law.

Lack of a non-discrimination law or policy applying to trans people at UNC and Taylor did not stop a man from entering the bathrooms to do wrong.  After all, sexual assault is a far worse crime than being in the wrong bathroom (which is probably not against the law anywhere in the USA unless you are committing other crimes).

Again, none of the perps were presenting as women.  It’s not the trans person you need to fear.

Yet, we can see horrible attacks against trans people using the bathroom.  Search for “bathroom”, “trans”, and “attack”.  Here’s two of them:

Both these attacks were particularly violent, even compared to the attacks against women by men I mentioned previously.  If you can stomach it (the attacks were both very violent, which is the norm for attacks against trans people – it doesn’t seem like trans people get “sort of attacked” – it’s usually a rage-fueled attack that goes well beyond a mere assault), read a bit about the above.  “IT” was literally carved into the man in the first one, for his crime of using the men’s room.  No doubt someone who looked like a man wouldn’t have been treated better in the women’s room – and this shows that the attacks against trans people aren’t based on safety – clearly the transman was no threat to the attacker.  In the second case, a transwoman was violently beaten – by women, not men – after using a bathroom in a McDonalds.  Workers and customers not only watched – some filmed it.  You can watch the video. Watch it and note how only few tried to stop it (an elderly woman did try – probably the least physically capable person of stopping the attack actually tried, while everyone else watched).  If she was a non-trans woman or a child, do you think they would laugh at a non-trans woman or child getting beaten so badly (you can hear that on the video)?

I’ll note that in the McDonalds incident, it was women, not men, doing the assault.  Trans people are at risk both from men and women.

You want to tell me about the safety of women?  Go watch that video of two women attempting to kill Ms. Pollis while others watch and laugh.  Don’t you dare fucking lecture people about safety until you actually give a shit about women like Ms. Pollis.

And before you lecture me for saying “fuck”, I hope you are at least just as angry that we have a society where trans people can have “IT” carved into them and attempted murder is filmed rather than stopped, if the victim is trans.  If not, your priorities are quite fucked.

Did I mention that a few weeks prior to that attempted murder, a bill failed in the Maryland legislature that would have recognized transgender people as facing prejudice, and provided them similar protection as is provided to gays?  It failed this year too.  It should be noted that even in 2011 (it had failed at least 4 times previous), there was no provision for applying protections to trans people in public accommodations (that was an attempt to compromise and pass the bill – the previous attempts had that language).  More proof that compromise is not something everyone is capable of doing.  Of course why did people think removing that language would help?  Because of the bathroom issue.  Whenever public accommodation protections come up, so do bathrooms.  And thus when these laws are debated, people start talking bathrooms.  Could that have influenced the attackers in Maryland?  Quite possibly, yes.

So, yes, we need to have the conversation about safety.

But that’s not the conversation we’re having.  We’re talking not about making bathrooms safe for everyone, but instead about how to pander to people’s bigotry, bias, and ignorance.  That’s how much society seems to hate trans people: rather than discussing how to stop attacks like the USC-LB and Maryland attacks, we’re talking about discriminating against the people who are getting attacked so that ignorance, bias, and bigotry can continue unchallenged.

Balancing on the Edge of the Toilet Bowl

We need to balance the rights of everyone.  Uh, sure.  But not that way.

We hear this statement – we need to balance everyone’s rights – when someone’s rights are being denied.

Ancient Roman latrines / latrinae, Ostia Antica.  There is considerable scholarly debate as to whether these roman latrines were gender-segregated.

Ancient Roman latrines / latrinae, Ostia Antica. There is considerable scholarly debate as to whether these roman latrines were gender-segregated.  Toilets are a controversial subject!

In Colorado, we have a pretty awesome Division of Civil Rights.  They recently ruled (PDF via Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund) that Coy Mathis, now a second grader, has the right to use a bathroom that matches her gender identity (she is a trans girl).  While Coy has left the discriminatory district and is planning to attend school in another city (a wise decision, as retaliation if subtle can be hard to prove), this decision will help many other people in a very practical way – the right to go to the bathroom.

One of the arguments we heard during the debate from the discriminatory district was that this was a “complicated situation” (that means “I don’t really want to discuss this publicly or have it questioned – it’s too complicated for simple public discourse, after all…”) and that the district couldn’t extend special rights to one student (or a small number of students) at the expense of the majority.  Of course the special rights tactic isn’t new, particularly from that area of Colorado, as it gained great prominence in the Colorado Amendment 2 battle (the formal title of Amendment 2 was “Colorado No Protected Status for Sexual Orientation Amendment, Initiative 2”).  There were three reasons given to the general public at large for the need to pass Amendment 2:

  • Passage will provide for the safety and well-being of children (that is, allowing non-discrimination ordinances to exist would be bad for children because then they’ll hear that gays are equal and are supposed to be treated well, which, apparently, will make more kids gay).
  • Gays are making a lifestyle choice, which shouldn’t be protected in the same way things that are not choices should be protected.  We shouldn’t “protect sin.”
  • Gays are a very small minority, so nothing is wrong when a majority of people believe something is wrong and vote to codify their moral beliefs in law, even if it affects that minority.  They are outnumbered.  Special rights for gays that YOU don’t get.

Of course most people know that being gay isn’t a lifestyle choice.  So I’m not even going to dignify that with an argument.

As for harm to Children, that was prominent part of the Amendment 2 TV advertising.  For example, one anti-gay ad (click to watch) used the following voice-over, “School kids are taught this lifestyle is healthy and normal.  By law.  Do we want to protect our children?  Yes we do!  Vote yes on 2!”  The implication is that children will be infected by gay, I guess.  There is of course children on the other side of the issue – as Judge Kennedy wrote, when striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, anti-gay laws serve to “[humiliate] tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”  So that leaves us with the third point.  I’ll address this along with the next argument.

The third argument in favor of Amendment 2 was the argument that the majority trumps the minority has been used forever.  Essentially the majority will claim, “If we recognize rights for the minority, we’ll lose rights.  And it’s not right that the majority loses rights.”  It was special rights for gays.

(note that I’m not equating gays and trans people – but the issue is the same, just as the historical opposition to desegregation is similar to the opposition today against LGBT people).

And that’s where we are today.  The idea is that somehow the rights of the majority are violated when a trans child uses a bathroom aligned with the child’s gender identity.  Sometimes you’ll hear the same Amendment 2 style safety concern, or a slightly different one along the lines of “They are going to let perverts into your girl’s bathroom.”  The “special” right of being able to use a bathroom that matches your gender when you need to urinate doesn’t apply to trans people.  After all, we have to think of the right to be safe while using the bathroom.

That’s where the argument is today – there are two parts to the argument that allowing a 2nd grade transgirl to use the girl’s room is dangerous and thus a violation of more people’s rights than prohibiting her use of the bathroom would be:

  • Women, girls, and, to a lesser extent, boys have the right to be safe from others
  • Trans people are dangerous

Few people would disagree that people using the toilet have a right to be safe – just as during Amendment 2 in Colorado, few people were opposed to protecting children – the disagreement was whether or not being able to fire gay people in Boulder, CO for being gay had anything to do with protecting children.  Of course what is lost in this argument is that trans people also have the right to be safe – both psychologically and physically.

There are few if any (I know of none) incidents of a trans person using a bathroom and then assaulting a woman or child in that bathroom.  There sadly are many incidents of trans people being beaten, kicked, insulted, humiliated, and threatened for using a bathroom – and this is true no matter which bathroom they use.  But balancing the rights of Coy Mathis and the other students, in the eyes of some, means segregating Coy from other girls because Coy is the problem.  If she can use the bathroom, that would be the same as letting a man use the bathroom.  It would be dangerous.  Yet the evidence says otherwise.

The next response is, “Well, Coy is essentially third gendered.”  No, she’s not.  She’s a girl.  She doesn’t identify as “neither boy or girl.”  She identifies as girl.  There are people who don’t see themselves as either man or woman, but a different category – and this of course needs to be respected.  But in Coy’s case, she sees herself – as do her parents, doctors, and most of her teachers (but not district administration) – as a girl.  She’s not third gendered.  Using a staff bathroom (ironically they were single stalled, but still signed “men” or “women” – they were still gender segregated) would be stigmatizing to anyone.  Do you not think kids would notice and then tease someone who used a different bathroom?  Who was using a bathroom kids normally are prohibited from using?

Now, I believe in having private bathroom options for all people.  Certainly some trans people will use them.  So will some people that reject binary gender.  And so will plenty of non-trans people who need extra privacy for whatever reason.  But it must be a choice, not forced, to remain free from stigmatization.

The right of Coy should be considered.  She has the right to be a girl.  Colorado law, fortunately, recognizes this.  Someone else’s “right” to not feel uncomfortable does not trump Coy’s rights.  No matter how numerous the uncomfortable people may be.  Besides, there’s an easy solution for people who don’t feel comfortable sharing the bathroom with someone else: use the single-stall bathrooms!  Coy isn’t the problem (statistically, it’s clear she’s not likely to harm others).  Perhaps it’s a good time to think about bathroom safety for all, since too many children are assaulted in bathrooms (by people who are not trans).

We also have good law already for someone who will violate someone else in the restroom.  The gender of the attacker isn’t the critical issue.  The act itself is.  And the law does recognize that certain acts shouldn’t happen in the bathroom.  For example, despite Boulder, Colorado having laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, their porta-potty peeper was rightfully brought to justice.

There is no need to “balance” the rights of bigots with Coy.  The bigots are of course free to grumble and protest, but they aren’t free to discriminate, whether it’s Coy or a black student or a muslim student.  Their bigotry is not solved by discriminating against the object of their hate.

So, in summary, it is possible to balance the rights of the people who will be uncomfortable and the rights of Coy.  Let the people uncomfortable sharing bathrooms use private facilities.  Those of us who are fine with someone else urinating in another stall can then get on with our lives – and you don’t harm or segregate an innocent girl in the process.  She isn’t responsible for someone else’s bigotry or discomfort.

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?