Archive for December, 2008

Ohz noez! Not *another* 2008 roundup…

December 31, 2008

Bird of Paradox logoBeen a funny old year, one way or another. The online trans community is, by definition, not only global, but also far-flung to the point of attenuation. As such it’s an almost impossible task to pick out the traditional 10 best posts, so I’ll totally cop out of that and instead, point you in the direction of my blogroll and suggest you go straight to the source(s).

Having decided to break with the ’10 best posts’ tradition, I thought it might be interesting (for me, at least) to browse through some of the comprehensive collection of facts’n’ figures in the BoP blog stats vaults. I’ve been quite pleasantly surprised – and you know how much I like to share!

19012ETA, 10.30pm: My usually irritating attention to detail meant that I couldn’t log out of BoP for the night without one last obsessive glance at the stats page… And… ZOMFGWTFLULZ!!!1!!!1!! In the last hours of the last day of the year, BoP has passed the 19,000 hits mark! How amazing is that – 19,012 unique views! Yay all my bloggy visitors and yay Bird of Paradox!


Where was I? Oh yes: so, without further ado, BoP loudly presents the first and final blog stats update for 2008…


  • Total views: 19,012
  • Busiest month: November – 5,085 views
  • Busiest day: Friday, 3 October – 717 views
  • Views per day (overall average) – 78 views

Top Posts for all days ending 2008-12-31 (Summarized)

Search Terms for all days ending 2008-12-31 (Summarized)

  • bird of paradox – 84 views
  • kellie telesford – 37 views
  • angie zapata – 25 views
  • pregnant man – 18 views
  • julie bindel – 16 views
  • transgender day of remembrance 2008 – 16 views
  • lgbtory – 15 views
  • angie zapata murder – 14 views
  • thomas beatie – 13 views
  • ken zucker – 11 views

tg_black-on_pink_100x107My favourite search terms would have to be transsexual neck, wizard medical and smultron female – but I think I like this one the best: ordinary middle aged transgender women… Yep, I know that feeling!

A big hand for the spam monster: “Akismet has protected your site from 936 spam comments already, but there’s nothing in your spam queue at the moment”. Just as well, really, I still take it unnecessarily personally when some idiot spambot decides I need to remortgage my p3n15. “Too late!”, I rage futilely at the screen…

20081225-240x389And, last but not least, a big thank you for all the support and encouragement I’ve had from the huge number of people who’ve visited the site. Friends, bloggers, friendly bloggers, everyone – and no, I’m not naming names, you know who you are :)

When I took this blog out of cold storage in May and started to post more regularly, I didn’t for one minute imagine it would ever be as well-supported as it has been, so to have received nearly 19,000 views in such a short time is as confidence-boosting as it’s humbling.

May the coming year bring you everything you wish for yourselves.


Bring me coffee or tea

December 31, 2008

For Jen

Lawyers of Lawrence King’s alleged killer denied access to files

December 30, 2008

An update on the Lawrence King murder trial: according to the Ventura County Star, the lawyers of Brandon McInerney (accused of the murder of 15-year old Lawrence King in February 2008) have been refused permission to see documents showing how prosecutors decide when juvenile offenders will be tried in adult court.

The defendant, 14-year old Brandon McInerney, is being tried as an adult.

McInerney’s lawyers, Scott Wippert of United Defense Group of Studio City and Robyn Bramson of North Hollywood, recently filed the discovery motion, seeking notes, communications, correspondence, internal memos and other documents they say will give them insight in to how prosecutors made the decision.

Wippert said prosecutors never looked into such things as McInerney’s school or family situations.

Wippert argued in court that the District Attorney’s Office didn’t use discretion, failing to look at such things as the circumstances surrounding the case or McInerney’s school or home life. That violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process, he said.

He said he doesn’t understand why prosecutors refuse to give defense lawyers information about the decision-making process.

“It’s a scary world to think that a DA has unfettered discretion to do whatever they want,” Wippert said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox said defense attorneys, by law, aren’t entitled to what the lawyers were requesting, including discussions that prosecutors had in making the decision.

“Guess what? They aren’t entitled to know what is mulling around in the DA’s mind,” Fox said. “They have zero, no, legal basis for getting this material.”

McInerney, of Oxnard, is charged with murder and a hate crime in connection with the classroom shooting.

King, an eighth-grader from Oxnard, dressed in a feminine manner and told friends he was gay.

McInerney faces a sentence of 51 years to life if convicted of all the charges. He is in custody, with bail set at $770,000.

Earlier in the hearing Monday, the judge denied a motion by Wippert to dismiss the criminal case against McInerney on grounds that prosecutors abused their discretion.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Riley said case law, cited by prosecutors, supports the district attorney’s position.

She said defense lawyers made no showing of “specific evidence” that there had been abuse of discretion by prosecutors.

Wippert disagreed and told the judge that his law firm plans to petition the Court of Appeal.

Fox described Wippert’s legal argument to get the documents as “really strange” with no legal foundation.

The law, she told the judge, says that the district attorney “has total discretion to do, basically, the right thing.” Fox described the killing of King as “brutal and premeditated” and “execution style.”

In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 21, which widened prosecutors’ authority to charge a juvenile 14 years of age and older as an adult without having to go to a judge.

Bramson said Proposition 21 was written for hard-core juvenile criminals, especially gang members.

“That process, clearly, is not being undertaken by the District Attorney’s Office in this county,” she said.

Fox said California Youth Authority experts told her if McInerney were a model inmate in the juvenile justice system and got all his “rewards” and “every single possible” good-time credit, he could serve little time for a murder conviction, a minimum of three years and eight months, she said. The baseline in the juvenile justice system for murder is seven years, according to Fox.

Wippert said that would be possible only if McInerney goes to a Youth Authority facility and authorities determine that he has been rehabilitated.

“Otherwise, he would serve the complete amount of time”


Previous related posts:


(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

Hear no evil, see no evil, talking bollocks

December 27, 2008

hear-no-evil-see-no-evilIn an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the government’s Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has said that Internet sites could be given cinema-style age ratings as part of a crackdown on offensive and harmful online activity to be launched in the New Year.

Apparently, Mr Burnham believes that new “standards of decency” need to be applied to the Web.

He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites.

The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services.

Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”


His plans to rein in the internet, and censor some websites, are likely to trigger a major row with online advocates who ferociously guard the freedom of the world wide web.

Damn right it’ll trigger a row. It seems as if Mr Burnham hasn’t really thought this through; he uses a lot of very vague and generalised words and phrases – almost as if he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. And, as a trans woman, I have major, major concerns about any threat of online censorship, wherever it originates.

First, the technical stuff. It’s not that hard to follow: the Internet is not the World Wide Web. They are not synonymous. From Wikipedia, “the World Wide Web (commonly shortened to the Web) is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet”. A gross oversimplification is to consider the Web as the train and the Internet the railway system. And as someone who has worked in IT support for several years, I’m also familiar with the idea that networks will generally do their best to allow data to move from point A to point B; that’s their function. To continue the train analogy, a problem at Crewe station won’t necessarily stop your train from London reaching its destination in Manchester – although you may find yourself getting there by a somewhat roundabout route.

And as for this:

However, Mr Burnham said: “If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.

Is he really that ignorant about the origins of the Internet? It began in the Cold War days of the 1960s as an R&D project between the military, scientific academia and the government to investigate how data, documents and information could be exchanged electronically.

Ultimately, from a technical standpoint, I don’t see how censorship will work, whoever’s imposing it – government, ISP or even the individual end-user – because the Internet ‘sees’ censorship as damage and routes around it. That’s the whole point of networks, it’s what they’re supposed to do. The Golden Shield Project – the so-called Great Firewall of China – exemplifies this principle quite well; it’s proving to be less successful and more porous than planned, for exactly this reason.

So, for starters, I’d like to know how he thinks his proposal is going to be practically enforced, or policed.

Second, and for me, the real issue: content censorship. Mr Burnham uses phrases like “standards of decency” and “accessing appropriate stuff”, but he doesn’t seem to define them in any meaningful way. What, exactly, is “unacceptable” material – who defines it? Me? You? Our ISPs? Or the government? No, don’t tell me, let me guess.

Given the systemic oppression, marginalisation and transphobia that trans people are routinely subjected to, on and offline, I find this quote distinctly worrying:

There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.

Genital reaffirmation surgery has been referred to more than once as mutilation of a healthy body. So should the website of my surgeon be censored, for facilitating “harm to other people”?

For me, one of the key elements of my ‘support network’ through my transition has been the Web. It’s enabled me to find crucial information on the medical condition of gender dysphoria as well as the legal and social aspects of transitioning; I’ve bought meds online and, as I’ve begun to come to terms with the politics of being a trans woman, it’s been an invaluable source of reference, of ideas, of documentation – and an organisational tool without equal. Trans people, by virtue of our fewness in number, are often about as geographically distant as it’s possible to be, but the Web eliminates that distance at the proverbial click of a mouse and makes education, socialising and friendships possible.

Then there are the activist aspects. The recent protests at the RSM and the Stonewall awards wouldn’t have happened without the Web, it really is as simple as that.

Communication: that’s what the Web is about. The exchange of ideas and information, nothing more, nothing less.

And if Mr Burnham thinks he can deny me such a key part of my life through censorship, then he has, as the saying goes, another think coming.

Anyway, I’ve been wondering, more out of idle curiosity than any burning desire to censor myself, what age category BoP would fall under – if it had to be categorised at all. According to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), there are the following classification categories:

  • Uc/U – ‘Universal’: should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over, set within a positive moral framework and should offer reassuring counterbalances to any violence, threat or horror.
  • PG – ‘Parental Guidance’: general viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children. Unaccompanied children of any age may watch. A ‘PG’ film should not disturb a child aged around eight or older.
  • 12A/12 – Suitable for 12 years and over. No-one younger than 12 may see a ’12A’ film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult. No-one younger than 12 may rent or buy a ’12’ rated video or DVD. Responsibility for allowing under-12s to view lies with the accompanying or supervising adult.
  • 15 – Suitable only for 15 years and over; no-one younger than 15 may see a ’15’ film in a cinema. No-one younger than 15 may rent or buy a ’15’ rated video or DVD.
  • 18 Suitable only for adults. No-one younger than 18 may see an ’18’ film in a cinema. No-one younger than 18 may rent or buy an ’18’ rated video.
  • R18 – To be shown only in specially licensed cinemas, or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults of not less than 18 years. The ‘R18’ category is a special and legally restricted classification primarily for explicit works of consenting sex between adults.

Which all seems relatively simple at first sight. However, not only are the categories are based on age, but also a moral code which appears to derive from existing legislation (Licensing Act, Video Recordings Act, etc), none of which seems particularly relevant to the content of this site.

Although, interestingly, there’s also an unofficial ‘E’ category which appears on video packaging and indicates that “the distributor believes the work to be exempt from classification. Under the Video Recordings Act 1984, a video is an exempted work if is designed to inform, educate or instruct; is concerned with sport, religion or music; or is a video game.”

So there you go, Mr Burnham: I hereby declare BoP to be exempt from your ludicrous and not even half-baked proposal. Now, please, run along and pick on somebody your own size. Kthxbai.

Another trans woman shot in Memphis

December 26, 2008

tgsymbol-116x100Another Memphis trans woman, Leeneshia Edwards, has been shot and is in a Memphis hospital in critical condition. This is the fourth hate-based shooting in less than three years (Duanna Johnson [November 2008], Ebony Whitaker [July 2008], Tiffany Berry [February 2006]) and Memphis is evidently now a very dangerous place for trans people.

Via My Eyewitness News, Out & About and others:

Memphis, TN- A transgender woman shot in the face is in critical condition.

Police say the shooting happened sometime around 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, December 23, 2008 in the 3100 block of Boxtown Road in south Memphis near T.O. Fuller State Park. Leeneshia Edwards was last seen about an hour earlier at the “C.K.’s Coffee Shop” on Union Avenue in midtown Memphis.

Edwards, is now in critical condition at “The Med”. Her cousin tells us Edwards was shot in the jaw, side and back and is undergoing multiple surgeries.

“The detective said it looked like she was turning to get out of the car and the dude shot her at close range. I just hope when she wakes up she can remember who it was,” says Nicole Holliwell.

Apparently there were no witnesses.

Both the news reports I’ve linked are keen to point out that Ms Edwards apparently “worked as a prostitute”: this is troubling as it very conveniently sets up the victim-blaming trans panic defence (see also) for any attacker subsequently caught and charged.

Whatever Leeneshia Edwards did or didn’t do for a living is entirely irrelevant to this: any trans woman, regardless of occupation, does not deserve to be violently attacked for being either a sex worker or a trans woman. Living with intersectionalities is hard enough as it is, without having to factor in these additional risks.

And as Monica says over at TransGriot:

When the 110th Congress opens for business, as soon as an ENDA bill is filed, we need to demand that it not only include transgender people, but it be passed without delay.

(Curtsey to queenemily for the heads up)

ETA, 27 December: The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has issued the following press release:

Another Transgender Woman Shot in Memphis

On Christmas Eve, a Memphis television station reported the shooting of Leeneshia Edwards in Memphis. She becomes the third transgender woman shot in Memphis in just six months. At last report, Leeneshia is in critical condition. We extend our hopes and prayers to Leenashia for a speedy recovery.

We also ask for anyone with any information about this latest crime to call Memphis Crimes Stoppers at (901)528-CASH.

The shooting of Leeneshia Edwards helps shed light on a disturbing trend in Memphis. Transgender women who work in the sex industry in order to survive are now being targeted by a pervasive culture of violence.

The indifferent attitude of law enforcement towards the February 16, 2006, murder of Tiffany Berry, and the February 12, 2008, beating of Duanna Johnson by Memphis Police Department officers, has sent a message that the lives of transgender people are not important. This has fed the culture of violence that has permeated the second half of 2008, and is exemplified by the July 1 murder of Ebony Whitaker, the July 28 murder of Dre-Ona Blake, a two year old girl who was killed by the man who had previously been charged with the murder of Tiffany Berry, but was allowed to walk free for two and a half years, the November 9 murder of Duanna Johnson, and now the shooting of Leeneshia Edwards.

This open season on transgender people in Memphis and elsewhere, regardless of whether or not they engage in sex work, must come to an end right now.

We call on business people who refuse to hire transgender people to open their doors immediately to transgender workers so there are alternatives to working on the streets.

We call on shelters that routinely turn away transgender people who are seeking help, to open their doors so that transgender people do not have to live on the streets.

We call on religious leaders who preach intolerance towards crossdressers and transsexuals from the pulpit to cease immediately and begin preaching messages of love and acceptance of diversity.

We call on political leaders of all parties to stop campaigning against transgender people and start supporting fully inclusive employment non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation to show that the lives of transgender people have value.

Marisa Richmond

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact:

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
(615)353-1834 fax

Pope to save humanity *and* the rainforest. What a great guy!

December 23, 2008

Via BBC News:

Nobody expects the Spanish InquisitionPope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

He explained that defending God’s creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also protecting man from self-destruction.


Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the “self-destruction” of the human race

So much FAIL in one man.

But pray tell us, Your Holiness, how, exactly, acknowledging that gender is a spectrum (not a binary) – how is that going to bring about the self-destruction of humanity? Because you seem a bit unclear about the practicalities. And – this is just a wild guess, mind – but your upholding of the gender binary will exempt you from that destruction, amirite? Yep, thought so.

Ach, you know what? I really can’t be bothered with you. You’re talking through your tiara. Now go, run along, I think there are some gay and lesbian Catholics would like a word with you. (Via AP)

…*sighs, shakes head*…

Special flouncy curtsey to the lovely Kate Bornstein for being more patient than I, well maybe not really – link here – and I’m sure others also have some interesting things to say.

And now for something completely different:

Ten Signs of Transphobia in Our Culture

December 22, 2008

tgsymbol-116x100A review of a new book, Transpeople: Repudiation, Trauma, Healing by Christopher A. Shelley at the Tyee Books website (link here) contains the following list:

Ten Signs of Transphobia in Our Culture

  1. Denial that the problem exists in the first place.
  2. Inability to distinguish between categories such as queer, lesbian,
    and trans.
  3. Lack of meaningful discussion in educational and workplace settings.
  4. Anxiety over not being able to tell if a person is male or female.
  5. Crude jokes directed at trans people or with trans-related content.
  6. Refusal to accept trans people as one’s own teacher, doctor, politician, dentist, etc.
  7. Thinking that being trans is OK but also dismissing the idea of ever dating a transperson.
  8. Reducing trans to being merely and solely a psychiatric category.
  9. Trivialization and media spectacles centred on trans-ness as an object of ‘fascination.’
  10. Refusing the fundamental claims of transpeople as being genuinely mis-sexed.

It’s not so much the list itself that bothers me, as much as the fact that I’ve encountered all of the signs so many times I seem to be becoming almost desensitized to them.

Safety first

December 22, 2008

ecplh_454x480Caroline at Better Burn That Dress, Sister has written some eloquent and impassioned words about the proposals to criminalise sex work. The proposals are not only unenforceable but also likely to seriously endanger sex workers in England and Wales.

Via The Guardian:

What the new powers would provide

  • A new criminal offence of paying for sex with a prostitute ‘controlled for another person’s gain’.
  • Kerb crawlers to be liable for prosecution after their first offence.
  • The possible expansion of a scheme in Lambeth, south London, which has impressed ministers, in which offenders are routinely named in local press.
  • A stricter licensing regime to make it harder for lap-dancing clubs to open in residential areas.

Anyone with any investment in the feminist ideal of equality for all must surely agree that the proposals do not advance that aim in any way at all; in fact, it would seem more equitable to decriminalise and unionise sex work.

Caroline has written several posts on the subject; please click over and read what she says:

In addition, Harpymarx has written this post, and the English Collective of Prostitutes has organised an online petition to decriminalise sex work and prioritise safety here.

The new feminists: lipstick and pageants

December 21, 2008

Although it seems to be addressing cis women, not trans women, there’s a nevertheless interesting piece in the Life & Style/Women section of the Sunday Times today, The new feminists: lipstick and pageants. The journalist, Gemma Soames, seems to be arguing that the recent Miss University London beauty pageant is a microcosmic example of a change in the focus of feminist activism by cis women away from a ‘retro’ (and, by implication, outmoded and irrelevant) feminism:

Take heart, sisters, for there is a new breed of feminist out there that is reinventing the ideology. Subscribing to the original feminist theories of equality (equal pay, equal rights and the importance of a right to choose), they pick the fights that mean something to them, ignoring the elements of feminist politics they find irrelevant.

My reading of the piece is that the “elements of feminist politics they find irrelevant” derive generally from the more problematic areas of second wave feminism and particularly, in this context, the protest against the 1968 Miss America Pageant. Instead, Ms Soames seems to be describing a sort of post-feminism.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with feminism and I make no secret that I’m still very much a n00b to gender theory and politics so, dipping into Wikipedia while writing this, it’s been interesting to learn a little more about the concepts of gender feminism and equity feminism within post-feminism. I’m by no means convinced that post-feminism offers the ideal home for my still-developing ‘politics of being trans’, but superficially at least, it seems a little more open-minded than certain other feminisms it’s been my misfortune to have been slapped about the face with.

At first glance, equity feminism – “an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality” – certainly seems to offer a solid foundation from which I might be able to start a reconciliation with feminism; although I’d need to know more about the ‘target equality’ – as I said in my earlier post, “I’m really not comfortable with an equality which takes cis men’s point of view as its benchmark“. It occurs to me, and I don’t suppose this is a new or original thought, that the pursuit of equality for all must surely also imply an end to oppression – especially in the context of living openly as a trans woman – but I see no mention of anti-oppression work in the Wikipedia piece. And that subject – ending oppression as a means to achieving equality for all – may well, I think, open up an avenue of exploration all of its own. (Note to self: See also Michelle O’Brien’s essays Whose ally?, Gender Skirmishes on the Edges and Trans Liberation and Feminism)

Gender feminism, on the other hand, is immediately problematic for me. Apparently, the term was first coined by Christina Hoff Sommers in her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? to describe a feminism which criticizes contemporary gender roles and aims to eliminate them altogether. And it is that aim of eliminating gender roles that I don’t understand. Why would you want to eliminate them? Could you eliminate them? What would you replace them with – a form of androgynous gender neutrality for all? How would you enforce that? And why is it more preferable to abolish gender roles rather than allowing people to find the gender roles that are right for them, that chime harmoniously with their own sense of gender identity?

…le sigh…

I begin to wonder if I’ll ever find a solution that works for me; a solution that the world and her sister don’t feel threatened by (and hostile towards).


Previous related posts:

Call for Trans Women’s Quotes & Anecdotes

December 17, 2008

via Julia Serano:

I am currently working on a web article that I hope will raise awareness about the ways in which trans women are often “hyper-sexualized” in our culture. And I am soliciting quotes, anecdotes and insights from the trans feminine/MTF community in order to help convey the impact that this sexualization has on our lives.

Full details over at Julia’s LJ – link here