Update – 21 September 2013

September 21, 2013

Bird of Paradox logoSome little while ago, the server on which birdofparadox.net was hosted suffered a massive hardware failure; in addition the domain registration has expired.

The most recent version of the BoPnet blog can be found at the Wayback Machine but I have no immediate plans to try and resurrect it. Neither do I have any plans to continue blogging here.

At the time of writing, I’m still contributing to The F-Word and have recently been diversifying into writing music reviews for a couple of other blogs; if you’re interested, I’m archiving copies of the various posts over at stresswitch.

Many thanks to all my friends and supporters over the years; BoP (in both its guises) was a huge part of my life for over 5 years, but now it’s time for me to move on.

Helen xx


Bird of Paradox has moved to www.birdofparadox.net/blog/

August 4, 2010

Bird of Paradox logoSo I’ve had this new blog site for a couple of weeks now and have been trying to get it looking presentable before announcing it.

Well, it’s pretty much functional now, although I’m still sorting out the blogroll and there’s other stuff I need to do on the archive posts, but it’s there and I think it’s time to make the move – I’ve been cross-posting between there and here for a few days and that’s just plain silly.

The new site is at www.birdofparadox.net/blog/

The RSS feed for posts is feed://www.birdofparadox.net/blog/?feed=rss2

And the RSS feed for comments is feed://www.birdofparadox.net/blog/?feed=comments-rss2

This will be the last post here although I’ll leave the place open (comments closed) for archival purposes even though the entire contents are duplicated at the new blog

So come on over and say hello! (I have cookies!)

Image totally ganked from Natalie Dee's brilliant website at http://www.nataliedee.com/051707/shitty-party.jpg


“Not even a beast would do such things” – one woman’s experience of transphobic violence in Kyrgyzstan

August 3, 2010

Screen grab from "Violence against transgender people in Kyrgyzstan", 2008It’s nearly a month since I last wrote about the injustices and danger faced by trans women in Kyrgyzstan and in the meantime, Anna Kirey, Senior Advisor and Board Member at Labrys Kyrgyzstan and I have exchanged a few emails. Although I don’t want to go into too much detail in this public forum, I will say that it’s been a very instructive exchange for me, and I hope we are able to continue it and that I can write further about it soon.

In the meantime, in her latest email, Anna sent a link to a 4-minute long YouTube video (made by Labrys in collaboration with the Global Fund For Women) which I’m posting here. It records one woman’s experience of transphobic violence in Kyrgyzstan.

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Trigger warning: The video and its subtitles contain graphic descriptions – including of rape and violence – of the experiences of a trans woman, and her subsequent mistreatment by the authorities when she and a representative of Labrys tried to report the attack.

If you feel this might be triggering for you, please do not play the video.

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(Direct link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtVTgFuB79Y)

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Previous related posts:


Some are more equal than others

August 2, 2010

Zöe has a must-read post called simply Equality? over at her blog, in which she takes a look at the changes the Equality Act 2010 (direct link to PDF) will bring and concludes that:

It means that there is one “protected” class where protection is explicitly removed, not granted. It means that a gender recognition certificate is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Rather than being a recognition that they are of the target gender, it’s a nullity, as the law states that they’re not, not really. [...]

[...] any legally sex-segregated area can now legally exclude anyone who’s trans from either being employed there, or as customers.

Regardless of whether they have a GRC or not.

All the proprietors have to prove is that it’s genuinely possible some of their clientele might be lost should they allow a “transsexual person” to be present on the premises.

Note also that the converse does not apply: it is illegal sex-discrimination to require counsellors for trans people to be trans themselves.

[...]

[The Equality Act 2010] effectively repeals large sections of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 – to wit, in all areas of provision of legally sex-segregated services. Things like toilets for example.

Note that it does not apply to transgendered people who are not transsexual persons. Only those who have started or completed the process of transition. Crossdressers good, transsexuals bad.

So apparently, even though I have a full GRC, and all my other documentation shows my gender correctly, I will no longer legally be a woman when this Act comes into force in October; I’ll be a “transsexual person” and that means I can forget it if I think I can count on UK law for any protection of my civil and human rights.

I’m already seeing a groundswell of outrage and anger amongst some of my trans sisters online; I think it’s entirely understandable, even justifiable. Because, when you get right down to it, cis society is transphobic, by default and to its core; there is precious little respite for trans people and, like most humans, repeatedly backing us into a corner isn’t going to put us in the best of humours.

But anti-trans prejudice is so deeply embedded in cis society that all the legislation in the world is never going to change anything for the better, least of all the attitudes of cis people. There’s no logic, no acceptance and certainly no justice. There never really was – all this legislation will do is formalise a state of affairs which already exists.

Cis people may, rightly, feel aggrieved about the low proportion of reported rapes that end in a successful prosecution – but has anyone ever seen statistics for reported rapes of trans people? Has anyone ever heard of even one trans person who’s seen a successful prosecution? And there may well be too few rape crisis centres available to cis women – but how many of them will even let a trans woman through the door, let alone offer help and support?

The fact is that the law – like many other aspects of society which the majority of cis people take for granted – is simply not accessible to us. Trans people are routinely dehumanised and demonised, excluded and harassed, attacked and even murdered with impunity by cis people from across the entire class spectrum – and, be honest, would you trust a system in which nearly everyone you meet treats you as less than human?

As the old joke goes: it doesn’t matter which way you vote, the government still gets in. And as far as I’m concerned, with this legislation, the government looks set to do a far better job of morally mandating people like me out of existence than Janice Raymond could ever dream of.

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Cross-posted at The F-Word


Yes, I’m trans. Why is that such a problem for you?

July 31, 2010

This is not a trans womanI begin to wonder if the increase in cis people’s awareness of TS/TG people has a downside, in that they’re finally beginning to see us everywhere. Kind of like when someone says, “Ooh, there are loads of red cars on the roads these days” and suddenly you start noticing that, yes there are a lot of red cars around. That doesn’t necessarily mean there are more red cars all of a sudden (although I suppose it might), just that you’re suddenly noticing them more because someone’s put the thought, the awareness, in your head.

As far as the increasing visibility of TS/TG people goes, this wouldn’t be so bad if so many cis people didn’t have this obsessive need to point it out, like they’re playing some twisted game of I Spy. But I don’t know if I’m becoming more aware of people doing it to me, or whether they really are doing it more.

I’ve just got back from doing a weekly grocery shop in my local supermarket where two cis men construction workers decided to mention it. The number one favourite phrase: “It’s a tranny”. “It“. Fucksake. “Tranny” is bad enough; “it” just drives the point home that I’m not a member of the human race, that I’m an object with no sense or feeling. And paradoxically it’s always said in an exaggerated stage whisper, deliberately loud enough for me to overhear.

It’s harassment. It’s transphobic. It’s the third time it’s happened to me (that I’m aware of) in the past couple of weeks. And you know what? It’s happened to me so often that it’s gone beyond being just upsetting. It fucking hurts. It hurts like hell. It makes me want to lock myself in the house and never leave it again. It makes me wish I lived somewhere I never had to interact with another cis person ever again. Increasingly it feeds my gathering depression and yes, I’ll say it: it makes me wish I was dead.

What I really don’t understand, though, is why cis men (it seems it’s always cis men, although I’ve no reason to believe cis women don’t do it too) think it’s okay to behave like that. What do they gain from it? Is it some sort of shoring up of their own insecurities, that by pointing out someone who they’ve been brainwashed to think isn’t “normal”, to the point of letting me know I’m some kind of freak with no feelings, they make themselves feel better about their blinkered little lives? Well let me tell you something, guys, if we have to use such divisive language, I have to say that I don’t think it’s me who’s the abnormal freak.

Mostly though, I’d just like to know what kind of cheap thrill you get from telling me I’m trans – Oh really? Well gosh. Thanks for letting me know. Y’know, I’d have had no idea if you hadn’t pointed it out. What kind of sick pleasure do you get from tormenting me – Yes, I’m human too. Why do you do it? What does it achieve? Do you do it to other people too, or is it just “trannies” like me that you pick on?

Cis people, can you tell me why you do it? I’d really like to know.

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Other posts in the category Street harassment


Destiny Lauren murder trial: update, 30 July 2010

July 30, 2010

Camden New Journal carries an update on the trial of the cis man Leon Fyle, accused of the murder of Destiny Lauren. I’ll just record the relevant parts of the report for now; they speak for themselves and I don’t think I can add anything meaningful at this time.

TECHNICIANS pieced together phone records of a man accused of murder from memory cards that had been broken into pieces, a court has heard.

[...]

Prosecutors told a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court this week that Mr Fyle’s movements had been partly mapped by his use of a mobile phone.

Text messages he sent to women he met through sex websites in the days before Ms Lauren’s death were read to the court on Tuesday morning and exchanges with his former girlfriend were also shared with the jury.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny said Mr Fyle was Ms Lauren’s last customer. It is alleged he killed her before fleeing with a collection of her possessions which later turned up at his home in Lewisham, south London.

After the killing, the prosecution claims Mr Fyle went to a brothel in King’s Cross and spent £250 on sex with two women.

Mr Penny read a series of sexually explicit text messages that Mr Fyle had sent. In one, he said: “Well, I’m a happy go lucky bloke, calm and laid back, looking to have some fun, willing to try anything once.”

After the woman he texted replied, he added: “Yes. I’m feeling horny too. I’m turned on by almost anything at all.”

The phone records also revealed messages between Mr Fyle and his then girlfriend Gemma Hadleigh, the court was told.

Mr Penny said the messages showed Ms Hadleigh had told Mr Fyle that he was an unreliable partner and had berated him for failing to respond to her.

He told the court that she had “alerted” him that police appeared to be watching his home.

One message read: “As I went out there were five men in a black Astra. They knew I clocked them. We all stood outside and made it clear we knew they were there.”

Messages were retrieved by police technicians from SIM cards – the memory cards used in phones – that had been used by Mr Fyle and Ms Lauren.

Both cards “were found in two pieces having been apparently snapped and put in the bin in the kitchen”, Mr Penny said.

Mr Fyle denies murder. The case continues.

RIP Destiny Lauren.

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Previous related posts:


Indonesia: Fatwa against SRS announced

July 29, 2010

A number of fatwas has recently been issued by the Indonesian Ulemas Forum (MUI) on a range of subjects, from the ‘correct’ praying direction [via CNN], civet coffee [via AFP], TV gossip shows [via AFP] – and, at a meeting of the MUI on Tuesday, sex reaffirmation surgery for trans people [via Spero News].

The Jakarta Globe quotes Ma’ruf Amin, head of the MUI’s fatwa body, as saying that enacting legislation based on Islamic values would address the “degradation of morality among Indonesia’s students”, even though he neglected to provide any evidence of any decline in morality in schools.

As the New York Times points out, the aim of this shift towards formalising fundamentalist views seems to be to provide a right wing minority with the figurative ammunition needed to attack anyone who attracts their ire:

While the council’s edicts are usually ignored, they can be cited by religious hard-liners to justify vigilante-style crackdowns on “un-Islamic” activities. It has recently issued a steady stream of edicts including bans on interfaith marriages, smoking and yoga.

In the light of my earlier post about attacks by members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) on transgender human rights workshops and HIV/AIDS seminars in West Java, this all seems to indicate, at best a muddying of the waters and at worst a worrying deterioration in the situation for transsexual people in Indonesia.

Ni’am Sholeh, deputy secretary of the MUI fatwa Commission, said that “Intentionally made changing of sex without proper scientific reason is morally not allowed. However, we recommended medical doctors to help people to make their genital more perfect We have issued this fatwa to implement sharia.” In Indonesia, shariah is not law and the fatwa is a religious ban, not a legal one. The Indonesian Supreme Court, in fact, allows sex changes. [via Asia News]

Ni’am Sholeh’s analysis fails in at least two ways: first, the implication that genital reconstruction surgery is carried out “without proper scientific reason” has no basis in any reality that I’m aware of. It wilfully ignores the existence of an internationally recognised body of medical evidence which long ago established the significance of these surgeries as part of a comprehensive process to help people minimise and manage their gender dissonance – as well as the fact that, in many countries the implementation of SRS is often governed, or at least guided, by WPATH’s Standards of Care. The second assertion, that the medical profession “help people to make their genital more perfect” is confusing. If your brain was expecting your genitalia to have an entirely different configuration, how would making what exists “more perfect” even be possible, much less desirable?

The worry is, of course, that religion is being used as a platform from which to marginalise and demonise transsexual people, in the process legitimising violent reactions to our existence as well as completely disregarding issues around our bodily autonomy and human rights.

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Previous posts about trans and intersex people in Indonesia:


Josie Romero: daughter, sister, trans child

July 25, 2010

The recent New York Times article, When to Out a Transgendered Dater?, written by a cis man posing as an ethicist, was notable more for its display of blatant cisupremacism and noxious subtext of anti trans sentiment than for answering its own question in any useful way. Thankfully, it’s been thoroughly and deservedly deconstructed in numerous responses (see Questioning Transphobia, The Bay Area Reporter, Feministing and Bilerico, to name but a few).

In the light of that unnecessary reminder that many cis people will always make it about them, it’s a real breath of fresh air to read about two cis parents, Venessia and Joseph Romero, who are as open, supportive and loving as any child could wish for. Four years ago they found that their elder daughter Josie is transgender and since then, according to the Arizona Daily Star (see also the site’s health blog), have worked hard to follow her lead.

And Josie is not only adamant that she’s a girl, but also that she’s transgender. She doesn’t want to hide who she is, and her family says they respect and support that. Telling her story validates her, her mother says.

“Josie is very proud of who she is,” Venessia says. “Why go through life with a secret? Where’s the health in that? There should be no shame.”

[...]

“Josie will change her mind on many issues in her life. Halfway through grad school she may switch her major,” Venessia says. “But her blood type will never change, and she’ll always be female. All through Josie’s life she has persistently and consistently identified as female. Josie is a girl, has always been a girl, and will grow up to become a woman. That is just part of who she is.”

Josie Romero (image via Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

Needless to say, the Romero family has received a lot of criticism, not least for being the focus of a significant amount of media attention.

A year ago, National Geographic contacted TransYouth Family Allies seeking a family with a transgender child, and the group contacted the Romeros. Venessia says the family gave it a lot of thought, including talking with Josie. Ultimately, they decided it would be a good idea and other media appearances soon followed.

“This world isn’t going to change on its own,” Venessia says as Josie and sister Jade, adopted from China when she was 2 and Josie was 3, ride their pink and purple bikes. “I don’t want her growing into a world that isn’t ready for her.”

Which, to me, is the heart of the matter. Articles like the NYT piece I mentioned above have only one purpose: to reinforce the ciscentric (and cissupremacist) values of a world which is transphobic by default. All anti trans rhetoric is fundamentally and intractably aimed at upholding the essentially (and essentialist) transphobic belief that trans people simply shouldn’t exist. As Alison Davison, coordinator of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance points out, in the debate about whether TS/TG people should be ‘out’:

Many transgender folks prefer to live what we call a ‘stealth’ existence.

If they are transsexual, they will go through the stages of transition and often do their best to quietly blend in. There are philosophical and political discussions about the importance of being ‘out.’

Personally, I think there is strength in being out and public. I think the rest of society needs to see faces and hear stories of transgender people so they can develop greater understanding and compassion.

Whilst I’m broadly in agreement with this, I doubt that any cis person can ever truly understand our experiences of being trans; however, it’s true that a little more acceptance wouldn’t go amiss. And a useful place to start for cis people who want to show solidarity with, and support for, our communities would be to actually listen to us with the same degree of care and attention as Venessia and Joseph Romero have shown for Josie. If we were able to feel safe enough around cis people that mentioning, or not, that we’re trans wouldn’t be putting our lives at risk whether we self-disclose, or not – then just maybe the world could take another small step towards being a better place for all of us.

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Edited to add: There are a couple of YouTube videos of Tyra Banks’ interview with Josie and her family, televised in January 2010. Despite the poor quality of sound and images, either is well worth taking 10 minutes to watch. Here are the links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB-L_HkW_eI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nQpaL9sPYA

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia


Destiny Lauren murder trial: update, 25 July 2010

July 25, 2010

The trial of the cis man Leon Fyle, accused of the murder of Destiny Lauren, began this week at Snaresbrook Crown Court. Mr Fyle is alleged to have murdered Ms Lauren in her own home in north London, in the early hours of 5th November 2010, exactly two weeks before the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny said: “The Crown’s case is that it was this defendant, Leon Fyle, who telephoned Destiny Lauren on the evening of November 4 2009; that it was he who travelled across London to visit her; that it was he who went to her premises for the purposes of a sexual encounter; [and] that it was he who killed her there by compressing her neck, most probably strangulation.” [Via Camden New Journal]

The prosecution said that, on leaving Ms Lauren’s flat after murdering her, Mr Fyle – apparently carrying Ms Lauren’s mobile phone (which was later found in his kitchen) as well as a watch and a ring which didn’t belong to him – took a bus to King’s Cross where he had sex with two other sex workers.

In his opening argument to the jury, Mr Penny said Mr Fyle’s phone records and CCTV proved he was Ms Lauren’s last customer. Images from a 214 bus, he added, showed the defendant’s movements.

[..]

In the filmed interview, recorded at the time of her death, [Lyndon Samuels, Ms Lauren's older brother] said: “I saw Destiny lying on the bed. She was naked. She had something on her arm. I phoned my brother and I phoned the ambulance.”

“I wish I ran outside to see who done it but the man on the [phone] was saying lie her on the floor, see if she’s still breathing.”

Mr Samuels had been waiting in the street outside while Ms Lauren worked, Mr Penny said, and described the man he saw entering her flat as having a “bad looking face”. [Via Camden New Journal]

Lyndon Samuels told jurors yesterday how he found Miss Lauren trussed up and only wearing a cardigan.

“You said that she had something on her wrist or she was holding something on her wrist or her arm,” said Fyle’s barrister Sally O’Neill QC.

“It was like a stocking or something,” said Lyndon [...]

Miss O’Neill read out statements from police constables Wayne Clarke and Shane McMahon who attended the scene in the early hours of November 5 last year.

The barrister said Lyndon told Pc Clarke: “She wanted some space, she told me to leave her alone for half-an-hour, so I went to the off-licence at the bottom of the street and bought some lager.”

“I drank some in the gardens before coming back and finding her.”

But Lyndon denied he told Pc Clarke that Miss Lauren had “wanted space” and said he left her Leighton Crescent flat to allow her to entertain her client.

“She didn’t want space, the man was coming up there to see her,” Lyndon told the court. [Via Belfast Telegraph]

The trial continues.

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Previous related posts:


we’ll be right back after this break…

July 24, 2010

Apologies for the lack of posts this last week, I’ve been a bit distracted. I hope to get back to regular blogging fairly soon, probably after the weekend.

In the meantime, Lisa has a post up over at QT which I can definitely recommend reading, if you haven’t already seen it:

A Hopefully Final Note on the Trolling/Harassment/Sockpuppeting


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