Human Rights

Gender Prison: Lest we forget

I do not forget that as a college professor, I'm probably better off socially and financially than 99% of other transpeople. But I don't let being in the 1% fill me with complacency.

ASTT(e)Q is Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec. They are speaking up and speaking out on the problem of transgender and transsexual women accessing shelters in Montreal. And while it would be nice to think that this problem is restricted to a local problem, the situation in Montreal is rather the norm across our own country.

Even in freezing temperatures homeless transwomen are being turned away from homeless shelters in Montreal. And the reason given for the refusal to accept the transwomen is simply that they are transgender.

While such refusals are frequently justified by administrative regulations, members of ASTT(e)Q believe that these exclusive practices are rooted in discriminatory attitudes towards trans people.

The majority of women's shelters in Quebec require transwomen to have undergone gender confirmation surgery and/or to have changed their legal sex.



Boy Scouts May Lift Ban on Gays

            The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is over 100 years old. Literally, millions and millions of young boys have participated in the Scouts. The last year for which figures are available is 2011. In 2011, more than 2.7 million boys and over 1 million adults were in the Scouts. That's an impressive number; however, it is down more than 20% since 1999. There are a lot of reasons that could account for the steep decline in membership over the last decade.



Defending our existence

Andrea Ayres at policym1c has an essay up entitled Transgender Rights: Why they matter to everyone.

In the wake of Sweden declaring a 1972 that forced transgender people to be sterilized prior to legal gender change, there apparently is renewed interest in the unequal treatment of transgender people.

While the U.S. does not require sterilization prior to a gender reassignment surgery, some states do require that the individual be labeled as having Gender Identity Disorder (GID). At least until July of 2012. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V) replaced the term Gender Identity Disorder with Gender Dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria refers to emotional distress that may occur from "a marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender." Now the change does not eliminate all gender disorders. An individual may still be identified as suffering from Transvestic Fetishism or Transvestic Autogynephilia. The first refers to someone who becomes more sexually active when wearing the clothing incongruent with the sex they were assigned at birth. The second, championed by an evil man (Ray Blanchard), refers to a person (usually a man, in Blanchard's opinion) whose sexual impulse is connected with the thought of themselves as a member of "the opposite sex" (i.e. as a woman). That is, roughly speaking, Blanchard believes transwomen who masturbate are autogynephiles.

The reason why this highlights continuing discrimination against trans individuals is because cisgendered individuals are allowed to behave in these matters without having their intentions questions. A cisgendered person is someone who self-identifies with the gender they were both with. We would not think to question a cisgendered women's desire to wear clothes, make-up etc, because she is acting in congruency with her societal role.



Obama Issues 23 Executive Orders on Gun Safety

            Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which 26 people were murdered, President Obama said, "We can't tolerate this anymore."  The massacre of 20 children started a real conversation on gun regulation.  For the first time in my memory, politicians and pundits were both discussing the need for gun regulation.  Speaking at a vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, Obama said, "These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change.”  As most Americans, the President was visibly disturbed by the Sandy Hook tragedy.  During his speech, he brought up the



Sweden eliminates forced sterilization of transgender people

As I have written about previously, one of Europe's most progressive nations has had one of Europe's most repressive policies towards transgender people. Sweden has required all transgender people to be sterilized in exchange for legal change of their sex.

On December 19 the Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal overturned that law, declaring it to be unconstitutional. The appeal period ended January 10, so the old law, enacted in 1972, is now invalid.

Sweden’s 1970s-era statutes on sexual identity mandated that any person who legally wanted to change their sex must be sterile. Transgender Swedes had to go through gender reassignment surgery to have their legal documents updated, and to comply with the law, they were also sterilized, whether or not they wanted to be.



Local skirmishes for equality

Nomi Michaels Devereaux had walked from the Jewel Osco grocery store in Lakeview, IL with her boyfriend. They stopped and she waited while he went into a friend's home to pick up a game system. While she was waiting, and holding six bags of groceries, she was approached by police who removed the groceries and handcuffed her. Then they took her to a police station, where she was forced to remove her bra in front of men…who then mocked her.

Later she learned she had been arrested for solicitation.

She responded in a way that few transwomen do. She reported the incident. That report eventually resulted in a new general order for Chicago police. The order, among other things, says that transpeople should not be subjected to searches any more frequently…or more invasively…than nontransgender people. It also insists that transgender identity is not by itself evidence that a crime is occurring.

The phenomenon of police wrongly assuming that transwomen are engaged in sex work is known as walking while trans.



For he has met the enemy…and it is us

Subtitle:  Be afraid!  Be very afraid!

On the one hand, I'd like to be somewhat respectful of the man, even though he never has displayed any respect towards us. But it's hard to win a war of words and concepts while being disrespectful.

On the other hand, this guy just really ticks me off.

Pope Benny is at it again. Having in the past identified transpeople as a larger danger than deforestation of the planet, he apparently decided he should be more specific. So this year's Christmas address was dedicated to transphobia and homophobia. Catholic online interpreted the speech as transphobically as they could manage. It reminded us of the Christmas speech of 2008.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being - of what being human really means - is being called into question.

And guess who is at the center of calling "what it means to be human" into question? If you picked transpeople, you win a cookie. By the way, it is also the case that simultaneously, we are no longer individual people, but rather a movement (see the icon that Catholic Online has been so kind to create for us.

Bernheim, by the way, was only speaking out against same-sex marriage, which is currently being addressed in France. But the Pope found hidden messages in his words apparently. There must be a secret decoder ring that comes with the smock and the funny hat.



If the right to life right is not respected, the others lack meaning.

is usually the case, I was searching for stories to cover for my columns. I stumbled across an editorial in the Washington Blade, entitled We must protect rights of transgender people. Well I'm all for that. That is the theme about which I write most…especially so over the past week.

I do have to acknowledge some disappointment over the reception those stories have received. In my world, human rights have priority #1. Everything else comes tumbling after.

The Blade editorial focuses on two reports released earlier this month which "paint a disturbing picture of the global status of trans communities – a portrait of human rights violations, violence and marginalization."

Well, duh. If you haven't gotten that much out of what I have been blogging about since 2005, then apparently we have been miscommunicating.

I'm going to cover one of those documents. I guess I'll save the other for a rainy day.

Let me note up front that the report covers life to the south of our own country, which concerns me because that usually means nobody will be interested. But there is no reason to embrace American exceptionalism on this issue. The United States suffers some of the identical problems as our Latin American neighbors when it comes to the treatment of transpeople. Indeed some of them do much better than our country.

Yet these reports show how trans people are subject to especially extreme abuse, from many angles. Lest anyone use these stories as reason to rejoice for not living in one of “those barbaric countries” it’s worth noting that the U.S. racks up one of the higher murder rates of trans people worldwide. Routine police mistreatment and abuse of trans women in one neighborhood of New York City was recently documented – with stories remarkably similar to those told in Bogota, Johannesburg or New Dehli.

It is also important to note that much of the political agenda advanced in the name of LGBT rights – whether same-sex marriage or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – have little relevance to these communities. A marriage license won’t stop a bullet. As noted in a statement put out on Dec. 17 by 50 organizations, the LGBT rights movement needs to better address issues of criminalization of trans people.

--Washington Blade editorial



Terror, Horror and Human Rights Redux

As many of you may know, I have agreed to write on a schedule for two different blogs. I call those efforts "columns." I write what is loosely called Friday Philosophy, which publishes at 6pm Eastern on Fridays at Docudharma and Gender Prison, which publishes at 6:30pm Eastern at Voices on the Square on Tuesdays. I also republish those submissions to Daily Kos, etc. Readership of my efforts is rarely large at the first two blogs.

This effort tonight then can be thought of an edition of Gender Prison, since it is Tuesday. The gist of tonight's effort was originally published for Friday evening. Actually it was posted on Thursday night for publishing on Friday evening. But when one writes a timed column, one has to be aware that events can occur to render it nearly invisible. Such was the case with this piece on Friday. While I was away from my computer proctoring a final exam in my College Algebra and Trigonometry class, all Hell broke loose at Sandy Hook elementary School in Newtown, CT.

I considered unpublishing the diary at the time, but then I got busy and it published without my intervention.

I felt at the time it was important, as it concerns human rights and all. So I'm going to give it a bit of a rewrite and another shot. One change will be to the order of the material, so the more gruesome, possibly triggering material has been moved to the end.

Eight days ago, on December 10, was Human Rights Day internationally. We don't celebrate it much in the United States because it is a United Nations thing. And you know, our country is something exceptionally separate from the planet on which we live. Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.




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