The Pseudoephedrine-Method of Gun Control

Pseudoephedrine Limits in the USA

The USA has laws limiting how much “over-the-counter” pseudoephedrine-containing decongestant people can buy. There are all sorts of problems with this law – non-drug-dealer grandmas being treated like drug dealers, limits that prevent families with children or disabled family members from buying enough pseudoephedrine for the whole family (in many states, you have to be 18 to purchase pseudoephedrine – and you can buy slightly more than the maximum allowable single-adult dose), and privacy concerns as people are put on national databases (run by commercial companies to exempt them from many of the privacy laws that apply to government search) to track their purchases.

The FDA hastily approved a substitute that simply doesn’t work.  While pseudoephedrine shows a clear difference from a placebo, the drug we’re supposed to be using instead of pseudoephedrine – phenylephrine – is basically indistinguishable from a sugar pill for treating congestion. That said, it’s a sugar pill with a ton of side-effects, including increasing blood pressure. As you may know, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the USA, so a non-effective pill that causes increased blood pressure simply shouldn’t be on the market.

In most places in the USA, the following laws apply (some states are stricter):

  • No more than 9.0g of pseudoephedrine (PSE) may be contained in products purchased by a single person in a 30 day period
  • No more than 3.6g of PSE contained in products may be purchased by a single person in a 24 hour period
  • Must present government-issued picture ID
  • Must consent to have information recorded and available to government and other third parties
  • Must be 18 or older

This is done for one reason: To make illegal methamphetime less available.

What does this have to do with gun control?

On Sunday, one of the worst mass shootings in recent history occurred in Florida, when a person decided to target members of the LGBT community.  At least 49 people died, and we may hear more died soon.  At least another 50 people was wounded physically in the shooting.  The psychological toll is surely much higher than that.

Of course one thing that is off-the-table to our authoritarian-minded government officials: gun control.  We can regulate the bedroom – Michigan lawmakers proposed a change to their sodomy law that would modify much of the language but keep oral and anal sex illegal – a felony offense. Yes, Michigan lawmakers don’t want to remove a law that allows for life in prison for a consensual blow job from the books (fortunately the law is considered unconstitutional by the courts, and, thus, can’t be used for much beyond harassment of consensual adults).

There is no place we see the authoritarian beliefs of our leaders more clearly than in combatting drug abuse. To protect people from themselves, we have gone to extraordinary measures and imposing restrictions on lawful users of legal products for the war on drugs. In fact, there is just one thing we’re unwilling to do: address the role of the gun in drug crime.

While we might have authoritarian leanings with drugs, guns are off-limits.  With guns, we’re told that guns are important – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – according to the Second Amendment.  If we limit handguns, semi-automatics, assault rifles, large capacity magazines, certain types of bullets, or even advocate for technology that prevents a gun-owner’s gun from being used against him by someone else, we’re told that’s a slippery slope towards taking everyone’s guns away.

Well, I have a solution.  The pseudoephedrine regulations definitely impact people’s health – something arguably more important than, say, shooting beer bottles with your new gun.

Only Criminals will have Guns

One of the most common arguments against gun control is that criminals would own guns while law-abiding folk wouldn’t.  That’s one reason I don’t advocate gun control, but bullet control.  That aside, the meth problem that continues in our country shows that making something less available doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be less available.

While the number of meth users seems to have declined since these laws have been passed (in 2012, the levels were estimated to be about 2/3rds what they were in 2006), the number of drug-related deaths continues to rise.  Not only did we not eliminate 2/3rds of the drug deaths, but we may have shifted drug users to other drugs (such as opioids).  Using the National Survey on Drug Use and Abuse, and ignoring the strange statistical spike in 2006 (roughly 350,000 estimated users in 2006 compared to 140,000 in 2005 and 160,000 in 2007 – the 2006 year’s numbers are thus highly suspect and are probably closer to 150,000 in reality), we see that heroin use was somewhat flat through 2007, when it suddenly took off.  That’s roughly the time the pseudoephedrine laws took effect.  Unfortunately, opioids appear even more deadly than meth.

So, what is different about guns?  Why won’t criminals just find another source?  There are two reasons for this:

  1. Unlike drugs, guns are not able to be manufactured and distributed in quantity from Latin America into the USA. Much of the meth now in use in the USA is from south of the border.  However, we’re the supplier of arms to Latin America.  Guns pose a much more significant challenge due to their bulk, complex and difficult manufacturing process, and the relative ease at which they can be detected, unlike highly concentrated drugs.  In fact, one of the reasons drug cartels send their drugs to the USA is to get guns in return – we likely would make a bigger dent in the drug war by dealing with guns than with drugs.
  2. There’s not a viable substitute weapon to a gun.  While a meth user might take up opioids if meth becomes hard to find, a criminal that turns to swords is a lot less of a threat to people than a criminal with a gun.

 

Guns Don’t Kill, People Do

Likewise, pseudoephedrine doesn’t kill, people who take too much meth are the ones that are dying.

Yet, because someone else might take meth, and we’ve decided that is a bad thing, worth protecting the person against, we make the precursor chemicals – which have legal and non-drug-abuse uses – difficult to procure.  We do this even when it has public health impact.

It is pretty much impossible to determine how many people in the USA die of meth overdoses – that data simply doesn’t appear to be collected or computed.  But we do know that approximately 47,000 people died in 2013 through all uses of drugs, both legal and illegal.  Many of these were surely suicide, accidental overdose, or unexpected drug interaction by non-recreational users.  When we look at drug use rates, what we can find for death rates, etc, we can expect that, at the upper end, several thousand people die from meth overdose per year in the USA.  It may be significantly less than that.

Yet we know approximately 20,000 people kill themselves with a gun and 10,000 people (same source) are victims of homicide via a gun.  Even if all 20,000 of the suicide victims would have found other mechanisms, many of the 10,000 homicide victims would be with us if guns were not available to the shooter.  Either way, that’s significantly more lives saved than we can hope to save through any war on meth, even if somehow we managed to eliminate all meth and all meth users simply gave up meth and all other illegal drugs.

If it’s important to stop drug deaths, why is it unimportant to stop gun deaths?

A Potential Solution

It’s simple: regulate bullets like decongestant.

  • 9.0 grams of gunpowder-type propellent per 30 days per adult.  Assuming a 5 grain load for a typical 9mm round, that’s 324mg of propellent per round.  Thus, an average gun owner could purchase 27 rounds per month.
  • Because buying large quantities at once is associated with danger of illicit use, no more than 3.6 grams in a 24 hour period. That is roughly 11 rounds. Of course you still can’t exceed the 27 rounds per month.
  • Purchasers must be 18
  • Purchasers must present government-issued ID
  • Purchasers must sign a statement that they will not use the rounds for undesirable purposes
  • Purchase history is stored in a private national database accessible to the federal and state government

It’s simple. I suspect this would, at the least, make mass shootings much more difficult, and impose on many legitimate gun owners the same type of one-size-fits-all approach that decongestants have now.

Or, perhaps, you could look at Australia’s model.

Disclaimer: I own guns. My first gun was given to me by my parent’s when I was in elementary school after I proved I could pass a gun safety course.  It was a Marlin Model 60 semi-automatic .22LR – one of the 18 round capacity models that is hard to find these days (due to capacity restrictions).  I’ve probably shot 50,000 rounds through that barrel, and who knows how many through the barrel of other guns. So please don’t pretend that I’m someone who has never fired a gun.

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.

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.

In Remembrance…September 2013

In September, we lost at least 5 people through murder.

I hate writing about this.

I’m not going to editorialize this time, although I could talk about how people are referred to (again) after their death, and how even LGB news services don’t always respect names and genders of dead trans people.

Instead I’m going to ask that you take a minute and reflect that the following people had their lives taken. Reflect on what we need to do to make change and to stop the violence.

The links below will go to third party news sites that don’t always respect the identity of the victim.

Sometime before September 1, 2013, in Savannah, TX, USA, Konyale Williams was killed. No additional details are known.

On September 9, 2013, in Baldwin Park, CA, USA, Melony Smith was murdered. Melony was forced to leave home at age 16 because her parents did not accept her gender identity. While living in hotels, she completed her high school education and was working to save up for further education at the time of her death.

On September 12, 2013, in Baton Rouge, LA, USA, Shaun Hartley was murdered. Hartley was to be the key witness in a murder trial.

On September 19, 2013, in Sakaew, Thailand, Kornsirinya was brutally murdered.

On September 24, 2013, in New Brunswick, NJ, USA, Eyricka Morgan was murdered in her home.

I apologize and will make corrections if I misgendered or misnamed any of the people above.  I did my best to find their preferred names and pronouns, but I can make mistakes. I do not desire to dishonor the dead.

Think on the names above, the locations where these crimes occurred, and realize that trans people are sadly not safe anywhere. Also think on those I didn’t name, but lost their lives just as tragically – those who were victims of suicide, having left the world to escape the pain. Think about what we can do to change that.

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.

On Pronouns

The actress Laverne Cox said, in response to misgendering of a trans murder victim during a vigil remembering her life, “I know as a trans woman, and I think so many trans women in the audience understand, that when we’re misgendered, that is an act of violence for us,” she said. “It’s a part of the violence that lead to Islan’s death.”

It’s a part of the violence that lead to Islan’s death.

Exactly.

It’s a part of the violence that lead to Islan’s death.

This is not rocket science.  It’s not hard to refer to a woman as a woman.  And before you object that “well, you can’t always tell,” (hint: that’s a pretty horrible thing to say to a trans person) or “it takes me a while to get used to someone’s new gender” (another hint: it’s not their new gender, it’s their gender period), let me say I’m not talking about a one-time slip that you learn about.  And before you say that was the problem at Islan Nettle’s vigil, let me mention that someone speaking at the funeral of a trans person, particularly someone representing an LGBT group, is expected to at least read some random Trans 101 – I even have one targeted towards people who want to be allies on this site.

Islan NettlesToo often, it’s that people simply can’t be bothered (or don’t want) to recognize someone’s gender.  I’ve seen parents 15 years after their child disclosed their gender who still use the wrong pronouns and names for their child.  Are you really telling me that you can’t love someone enough to change after 15 years?  Now, I’m talking about supposedly supportive parents – that is, people who consider themselves supportive of their child’s identity.  I’m not talking about the other group of parents, the group that refuses to recognize their child’s gender out of some sort of misguided idea that this was a bad ethical choice.

I’ve seen other people who don’t change and say, “I’ve known him for a long time, so it’s hard to see him as a girl” or similar nonsense.  No, it’s not.  It might be some work on your part, but if you truly care you’ll do it.  If you say a person is your friend, that you would go out of your way for this person, then fricking go out of your way and respect them.  It’s a lot easier than helping them move to a new apartment, after all (something you probably wouldn’t hesitate to do for a friend).

I truly think part of this is how wonderfully willing most trans people are to give people who seem even slightly supportive some space and time when they first come out.  They know there are patterns of speech that might take a bit.  But sometimes people take advantage of this, and just use it as an excuse not to change.  And it’s hard to tighten the reigns.  That’s why so many parents of trans people refer to their son or daughter with the wrong pronouns, while their child is right next to them!  The (likely adult) child doesn’t want to lose the relationship completely over this, but at the same time, the parents are doing this incredibly hurtful – even violent – thing.

I’ll tell you a secret about most of the trans people I know: most don’t want to live their whole life as a “trans” person.  They want to be respected and accepted in their gender.  They don’t want to be different.  They want to be the same as all of us.

So it is an act of violence.  It reinforces the idea that trans people aren’t really the gender they say they are, that there is something weird going on, that the person isn’t quite who they identify as.  And that’s the excuse people who use physical violence do.

Now, I can hear the objection: using the wrong pronoun isn’t like a physical attack.  No, it’s different.  That doesn’t mean it’s more or less violent though.  You can be emotionally or psychologically violent – not just physically violent.

And for the next objection, heard from the person using the wrong pronouns: “I wasn’t intending to hurt.”  Maybe, maybe not (someone who was trying to reinforce the idea that someone’s gender wasn’t as they said would likely say this very same thing).  But even if you weren’t, you did.  And if you did so after correction (yes, a mistake here or there is okay), and it’s not intentional, it’s just not caring.  There’s this thing that is really, deeply important: who the person is, and the wrong pronouns deny that person’s existence, erase it, trample on it.  You don’t need to mean to do it – you can do great harm by just not caring.

And, finally, the last objection: you might have a friend/brother/sister/parent/etc that doesn’t mind when you use pronouns that don’t match their identity.  Let me let you in on a secret: most trans people who identify as a man want to be identified as a man.  And most trans people who identify as a woman want to be identified as a man.  A failure to lash out at someone who is inconsiderate and hurtful is not the same as being happy about it – nor is it proof it isn’t hurtful.  Too many trans people have few relationships with others, so the ones they have, even if they are hurtful, may be better than absolute loneliness.  It’s better than the alternative.  That said, it’s a sick person who doesn’t care enough about their friend to worry about whether “well, this relationship is better than suicide or loneliness.”  We should be better than that.  We should be someone who affirms our friends and family members, who affirm the core of their being.  So even if your friend/brother/sister/parent/etc doesn’t seem to mind when you use the wrong pronouns, you’re an ass if you don’t find a way to use the right ones.

And you know what?  You already know this.  Want me to prove it?  Quick: What do you think the reaction would be if you told the jock in High School that he “looked like a girl out there on the athletic field?”  Depending on how much the jock liked peace, you might end up with a black eye or bloody nose.  So you already know this.  What is the insult hurled after women who succeed in their career?  “She’s more of a man than most men!”  So you already know this.  Yes, these examples are also very misogynistic (and I’m certainly not defending them), which is equally bad, but it is clear that most people want to be referred to as they are.  You know that.

In summary, what pronouns should you use?  The non-violent ones.  That is, the ones that the person themself would have you use of them, whether that’s pronouns like “he” or pronouns like “she” or pronouns like “ze.”  Once you know, you have a choice to make: take the little bit of effort to use the right words *or* be an ass.  The choice is yours.

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.

A bad month. Again.

Trans people – particularly transwomen who are disabled and non-white – are at high risk of attack and death – despite being a fraction of the LGBT population, they are by far the most likely to be attacked or killed.

In fact, most murders of LGBT people are murders of T people.  In Hate Violence in 2012, the NCAVP found that, in the USA:

  • 73% of murder victims were people of color.  Of these, most were black.
  • 50% of murder victims were transwomen
  • 60% of victims (not of homocide but other violence) reported having a disability
  • Trans people experienced police violence at 3.3 times the rate of non-trans people

Other findings are equally sobering.  We are not a country that treats trans people decently.  Or people of color.  Or disabled people.  And we’re really awful to people that are in more than one category.  If you add HIV status to the mix, those with HIV are even more likely to be victims.  So we’re not even through treating people with HIV like shit in this country.

Then, survivors of violence face violence from those we pay to protect us.  They face violence at a substantially higher rate from police.

That is the context of every month.

(note that for the below, I attempted to get names and genders correct – unfortunately much reporting relies on birth names and incorrect genders, so please let me know if you have information about someone’s gender or name that is incorrect below – I do not intend to insult violence survivors or the deceased)

This month, like other months, saw reports of violence against trans people.  I’m sure I’m missing tons of reports.  What I know about:

  • On July 9, Dora Özer, a transwoman who lived in Turkey, was murdered.  She was stabbed to death.
  • On July 14, Diamond Williams, a black transwoman living in Philadelphia, PA, USA was murdered.  She was stabbed, dismembered with an axe, and dumped in a vacant lot.
  • On July 21, a disabled transman living in Knoxville, TN, USA, was physically assaulted while his house was vandalized.  His front door was spray painted with the words “Tranny Fucker.”   While being attacked, he was threatened with death if he did not move away.  He reported being laughed at by police when they arrived on scene.  This was the second time he was attacked.
  • On July 21, in St. James, Jamaica, a transgender 17 year old was stabbed, chopped up, and dumped in bushes along the side of a road.
  • On July 21, Amanda Blanchard in Spokane, WA, USA was murdered by her fiance, who set fire to her home and then killed himself.
  • On July 25, in Thailand, Jatupon Ratworabood was murdered by being shot in the head.  Her body was dumped on the side of a road.
  • On July 25, in Limoges, France, Myléne, a transwoman, was beaten to death with a hammer.
  • Sometime this week, Gaye, a transwoman from Istanbul, Turkey, was murdered.
  • On July 30, in Philadelphia, PA, USA, a transwoman was shot in the head in her apartment by an unknown man.  The last reports I’ve seen indicate that she is expected to survive.

This is just a sampling, based on what I’ve seen this month, of violence and murder of trans people.

I wish for and pray for justice for the families (whether biological or chosen) and survivors of these acts.

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.