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Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The LGBTQ community has faced violence for hundreds of years and the transgender community has sadly faced the brunt of these heinous acts. Every year, hundreds of trans folks around the world are murdered, purely for being trans. For many reasons, the majority of these murders are either not reported, or not classified as a hate crime against a trans person. Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is a day set aside to honor those that we do know were killed due to their identity and/or gender expression.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Americans are desensitized to violence – on any news station on any day, there are multiple reports of accidents and attacks. When trans murders are reported, they are but a minor blip on the radar, often forgotten by the public by the next day. These reports often misgender the victim, and erase their identity. GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) provides a resource kit for journalists, especially tailored for TDoR. These simple changes in language have a major impact in how the individual is respected, validated, and honored. The report becomes less sensationalized and more personal and grounded.

History Repeats Itself

TDoR is a fairly new event considering the number of years these tragedies have been occurring. It started in November 1999 to honor the still unsolved murder of transwoman Rita Hester on November 28, 1998. Each year there is a list of names from November of the prior to current year of trans folks that were murdered. As of October 14, 2017, there are a total of 87 reported murders worldwide caused by transphobia. Again, it is important to note that this number is incredibly low, and inaccurate. Most trans murders go unreported, or are misclassified. These names are confirmed through news sources, and have been reported specifically as hate crimes towards trans folks. Brazil had the most murders at 65, while there were 24 in the United States, the most being in Maryland and Texas.

Vulnerability Factors

Being trans in and of itself is dangerous, and trans folks face violence of all types on a regular basis. Transgender women of color sadly face the worst of it.

For the last five years NCAVP has documented a consistent and steadily rising number of reports of homicides of transgender women of color, which continued into 2017. In August of 2017, NCAVP has already collected information on 19 hate-violence related homicides of transgender and gender nonconforming people this year, compared to 19 reports for the entire year of 2016. 16 of these homicides were of transgender women of color.

For an indepth study and database about the murders of transwomen, click here.

How to Host a TDoR Event

Here are the guiding principles of Transgender Day of Remembrance:

  • All who die due to anti-transgender violence are to be remembered.
  • It is up to us to remember these people, as their killers, law enforcement, and the media often seek to erase their existence.
  • Transgender lives are affirmed to have value.
  • We can make a difference by being visible and speaking out about anti-transgender violence.

Options are infinite of what one could do during this event. Some ideas include (but are not limited to):

  • Candlelight Vigils / Marches
  • Roundtable Discussions
  • Performance Actions
  • Political Rallies
  • Read-Ins
  • Art / Photography Displays

What is most important is that every name on whatever list you choose to use, is read aloud. On this day, we remember each person that was murdered, and give them our attention and respect.

A great way to end the event is to distribute printed material with follow-up actions. Where can people who are moved go to help? How can they pass the message on to others? TDoR is not just a day of memoriam, but also a call to action.

Events near You

The following is far from a complete list of TDoR events being held this year, but is certainly a good place to start looking for ways you can participate. TDoR is November 20, which lands on a Monday this year, so many events are being held on the weekends.

United States

California

San Francisco LGBT Community Center

1800 Market Street

San Francisco, CA 94102

Monday, November 20, 2017

5:30 PM – 8:00 PM PST

 

Illinois

Center on Halsted

3656 N Halsted

Chicago, IL 60613

Monday, November 20, 2017

5:30 PM – 9:30 PM CST

 

Brave Space Alliance

1434 W 51st St.

Chicago, IL 60609

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2 PM – 6 PM CST

 

Washington, D.C.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, DC (MCCDC)

474 Ridge St. NW

Washington, District of Columbia 20001

Monday, November 20, 2017

5:30 PM – 8 PM EST

 

Massachusetts

First Parish UU Church of Chelmsford

2 Westford St. (on the Chelmsford Common)

Chelmsford, MA

Saturday, November 18, 2017

6 PM – 9 PM EST

 

Cathedral Church of St. Paul

138 Tremont St.

Boston, MA 02111

Sunday, November 19, 2017

6 PM – 8 PM EST

 

Harwich Community Center

100 Oak St.

Harwich, MA

Friday, November 17, 2017

A light dinner will be offered starting at 5:30 PM EST

The program will begin at 6:15 EST

 

North Carolina

Fayetteville, NC

Saturday, November 18, 2017

4 PM – 6 PM EST

 

Indiana

First Presbyterian Church

512 7th St.

Columbus, IN 47201

Saturday, November 4, 2017

7 PM – 8 PM EST

 

Missouri

Courtyard by Marriott St. Louis St. Peters

4341 Veterans Memorial Parkway

Saint Peters, Missouri 63376

Monday, November 20, 2017

7 PM CST

 

Europe

France

Cinema the Variety

37 rue Vincent Scotto

13001 Marseille, France

Monday, November 20, 2017

7 PM – 8 PM UTC +01

 

United Kingdom

ARC Stockton Arts Centre

Dovecot St.

TS18 1LL Stockton-on-Tees, United Kingdom

Monday, November 20, 2017

6 PM – 9:30 PM UTC

 

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” – Santayana

Originally posted 2017-10-24 14:35:28.

Sara Whittington is a genderqueer artist raised in Central Louisiana, but currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. They have had the good fortune to be able to travel across the country, as well as abroad. Some of their favorite trips thus far have been adventuring across Iceland, spending summers on Lake Michigan, and a family celebration in Mundesley, England. In their spare time, Sara enjoys writing letters to loved ones.

Fashion

Amazon is selling a pro-anorexia hoodie during Mental Illness Awareness Week

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It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, folks, a time for sharing stories, knowledge, and coming together to talk about the importance of respecting mental illness.

Apparently, Amazon UK did not get the memo because they are selling hoodies making a mockery of anorexia, which is a serious mental health issue. The hoodie, in hot pink font, says “Anorexia: like Bulimia except with self-control.”

 

This is, of course, is disgusting and troubling, not only because it trivializes anorexia and bulimia, both of which are serious and life-ending illnesses, but because this isn’t the first time that people have disregarded eating disorders. Most of our culture treats eating disorders like a hollow punch line. In recent years, celebrities like Meghan Trainor said that she “wasn’t strong enough to have an eating disorder,” the late Carrie Fisher called herself a “failed anorexic,” and who could forget the infamous Kate Moss quote “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”?

People are understandably upset about this hoodie, calling for Amazon to ban the sale of the hoodie which is sold by a 3rd party for $25.88. People, many of whom have suffered for years or have lost loved ones to the illness, have spoken out about their disgust for this shirt.

However, other people have commented saying that this shirt is “no big deal” and people need to stop being so “politically correct” and some even find it “funny.”

So why is this shirt a big deal?

Because anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness and causes 12 times more deaths than any other illness among girls ages 15-24, to whom this hoodie is targeted. According to the National Eating Disorder Association 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders at some point in their lives and 1 in 5 people with an eating disorder will die prematurely as a result.  

This isn’t a question of political correctness, or not being able to take a “joke.” These are human lives, humans who are dying over an illness that is constantly not treated or undertreated because of the horrible stigma. Because of horrible stereotypes that end lives. I personally never felt stronger, or felt that I had self-control because of my eating disorder. I don’t feel pride in my anorexia, but I will not be ashamed of my struggles and I will always speak out against toxic things such as this. Shirts like these, thoughts like these, are part of the problem. Speaking out is part of the solution.

So maybe I’m being too sensitive, but I think things are too loud to stay silent.

Originally posted 2017-10-07 18:16:23.

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Supreme Court Sides With Baker, Ignores Civil Rights

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I have no problem with people practicing their religion. In fact, freedom of religion is literally the first thing in the US Constitution. What I do have a problem with is people using their religion to discriminate against people. Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, sided with a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple because his religion does not allow him to acknowledge same-sex marriage.

 

How it started

Same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Masterpiece Cakeshop to design and bake a cake for their upcoming wedding in 2012. However, the owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips refused to bake the cake because baking it would be a violation of his religious beliefs, saying that they can deny service to anyone who intends to purchase baked goods from Masterpiece Cakeshop with the intent that they will be used to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

 

Why this was wrong

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act that “prohibits discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry.” By refusing to bake the cake for Craig and Mullins, Jack Phillips discriminated against them because of their sexual orientation. Clear-cut, obvious violation of this act, no? The Colorado Civil Rights Commission agrees, as, on May 30, 2014, they found that Masterpiece Cakeshop had committed discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation which is, as mentioned before, a violation of Colorado law. Victory! Or maybe not…

 

A difference of values

Ever-persistent, Jack Phillips was unhappy with the Commission’s verdict and appealed to Colorado’s Supreme Court in 2015. When his case was denied, he went to the SCOTUS to settle the matter once and for all. I and many others were hoping that the DoJ would side with Craig and Mullins, seeing as how Jack Phillips broke the anti-discrimination law in place in Colorado. However, on September 7, 2017, the Supreme Court stated that Phillips baking a cake for a same-sex wedding infringes on his first amendment right as it goes against his deeply-held religious beliefs. Phillips claimed that Colorado was violating his right to free speech and his right to practice his religion. These claims do not hold water as the SCOTUS found that one’s religious beliefs do not excuse them from “compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate.” So basically, Phillips’ claim that his first amendment right was being infringed upon is not true and that him using that as an excuse to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would not normally be considered valid. So why did the SCOTUS reach the verdict that they did?

 

A much deeper issue

It is no secret that over the years, the LGBTQ community has had to fight an uphill battle in this country. LGBTQ people have existed since humans first started to populate the Earth, but only recently have they received the same rights as heterosexuals with the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2016 that decriminalized same-sex marriage across the United States. However, that was just the first step in fighting the arduous battle for equal rights. In many states, a person can be fired for being gay or transgender and over one hundred anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in 2017. There is a very obvious anti-LGBTQ pattern here, showing that we still have a long way to go to have equal rights. Back to the bakery case, the DoJ claimed the cake baking is a highly expressive act and, as such, is protected under the first amendment. The problem with this logic is that Phillips outwardly refused to bake the cake because of his personal objection to a customer’s identity, which by all accounts is discrimination. It would make sense if Phillips refused to bake a cake that included hateful symbols and/or words because of the moral implications. However, this was not the case. Phillips literally refused service to people because of their unchanging identity. This is analogous to a restaurant owner refusing to serve food to a person of color because the owner has some sort of objection towards any non-white individual. What’s more is that the Supreme Court never held the belief that any for-profit business has the right to discriminate by claiming free speech.

Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, believed that the government should not make businesses associate themselves with certain people. However, this argument was never adopted, but, unfortunately, there is one exception to civil rights law that allows discrimination against same-sex couples because most opposition to same-sex relationships are rooted in deeply held religious or philosophical beliefs. This is how Phillips got away with clearly discriminating against people: homophobia is perfectly acceptable because of someone’s religious beliefs. However, the Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation is “immutable” like race. So, if it is illegal to refuse service to someone based on the color of their skin, why is it acceptable to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation? Logically, under the current laws in the US, the government cannot give civil rights protection to one group and deny another group the same rights. Clearly, this is not an issue of religious freedom, but one of deep-seated and long-lasting bigotry and homophobia.

Originally posted 2017-10-05 07:19:44.


Also published on Medium.

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Intersex Inclusion?

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If the queer community is know for one thing, it’s our ever-changing acronym. LGBTQIAP – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Agender, and Pansexual. If you look closely you can see that one of these things is not like the other: intersex.

What is intersex?

To be intersex, one must have intersex traits which the Organization Intersex International defines as

“chromosomes, genitals, hormones and/or gonads that do not fit typical definitions of male or female.”

These can result in variations of secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breast development and hip to waist ratio and structure. Just as there are infinite variations of being trans (as shown through gender expression and identity), intersex is also not cut and dry. There may be subtle variations including individuals that fit societal gender norms for how men and women present themselves.

Many members of the intersex community acknowledge that “male and female bodies” are not trans inclusive, and terminology needs to be changed. It is important to remember that being intersex, for most folks, is a purely biological and bodily experience, not related to orientation or identity. Phrases like “male and female bodies” show the need for the scientific community to make a change in their vocabulary, and does not reflect on the intersex community.

Should intersex fall under the LGBTQ umbrella?

Just like any issue, there are pros and cons to both sides.

Pros:

  • Similarities in queer and trans medical history

Intersex bodies are pathologized and erased in a way that is similar to how homosexuality has historically been treated within psychiatry.  From this point of view, intersex is just another sexual minority that is pathologized and treated as “abnormal.”¹

Counterpoint: Many other things are treated as ‘abnormal’, such as wisdom teeth coming in sideways. Being incorrectly labeled as ‘abnormal’ doesn’t mean it makes sense to categorize intersex under the LGBTQ umbrella.

  • Similarities in being directly affected by homophobia and transphobia.

Another reason that surgical treatment for intersex conditions is heavily encouraged is caused by homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. Western medicine defines “functional” male and female genitalia in terms of its ability to participate in heterosexual intercourse.²

Counterpoint: Homophobia and transphobia are dangerous, and associating intersex folks with the LGBTQ community could increase the probability that homophobic and transphobic parents would allow and encourage cosmetic infant genitoplasty. For the sake of intersex children, not including the “I” with LGBTQ would be wise. Homophobia and transphobia are two issues that need to be addressed, and would be best addressed separately from the invasive medical procedures intersex folks have been through.

Cons

  • Affected directly by homophobia and transphobia

Association with the LGBT community could drive away homophobic and transphobic parents of intersex children who would otherwise seek out information and resources about intersex conditions. Worse, the misperception might push parents to demand more surgeries to ease their concern about the child’s future sexuality or gender identity.³

Again, homophobia and transphobia are horrific and dangerous. So much so that they could influence a parent’s decision to allow irreversible cosmetic surgery on their newborn. These mindsets need to be addressed, but it might be better to discuss them on LGBTQ forums, rather than ones focused purely on intersex.

  • Lack of intersex resources

Being combined with LGBT might prevent intersex from getting its own visibility, or make it hard for intersex people to find intersex-specific resources. If you were to search “LGTBQI”  most of the results will revolve around LGBTQ issues, making including the “I” seemingly pointless and actually unhelpful. Adding the “I” would make it appear as if intersex people need the same thing that LGBT people need. For example, adding intersex to a hate crime law is completely insufficient to address the human rights issues faced by intersex people, AND it gives the false impression that intersex people’s rights are protected.*

  • Incompatible organizing methods

People with intersex conditions generally do not organize around the “identity” or “pride” of being intersex; “intersex” is a useful word to address political and human rights issues. In other words, adding the “I” does not necessarily make the organization appear more welcoming to intersex people. For many people, “intersex” is just a condition, or history, or site of a horrifying violation that they do not wish to revisit.**

Being intersex is often compared to the percentage of people who have red hair, where intersex folks make up 1.7% of the population, and redheads make up 1%-2%. This is a similar analogy used in the LGBTQ community to show the prevalence of LGBTQ folks and how our orientation/identity isn’t a choice. A common goal intersex activists and organizations have is advocating for body autonomy rights for infants, children and youth, condemning irreversible cosmetic infant genitoplasty. These do not correlate with the LGBTQ community, thus creating more confusion and potential harm for intersex individuals.

To include or not include, that is the question

According to Intersex Initiative “If adding the ‘I’ will help you become a better resource for people with intersex conditions, then do it. Adding ‘intersex’ to an LGBT group must mean a commitment to take concrete actions to address the specific needs of intersex people; anything less is tokenism, or a mere fashion statement, which will not benefit the intersex movement.”

As a community, we do not need to add the “I” to be allies and activists for the intersex community. We don’t need to pat ourselves on the back by adding another letter to our ever changing acronym when we choose to stand up for a group of individuals that are often violated and abused. Now is the time to be active allies, without expecting a gold star in return.


¹ http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

² http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

³ http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

* http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

** http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

Originally posted 2017-10-02 18:55:25.


Also published on Medium.

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