Archive for September, 2009

Easy money

September 29, 2009

Turkish flagIn January I wrote (link here) about the trial for the 1997 murder of Robyn Browne by a cis man for a fee of £500, a depressingly small value to place on the life of any human being, trans or cis. Unfortunately, time and a global recession seem to have reduced the tariff even further, if a report by CNN Turkey (link here) is accurate.

“One time I was in a hairdresser and they got me out and took to the police station. They fined me for disturbing the society as 35€ according to the Misdemeanor Law. Another time, I had bought meat and bread and was walking, they fined me again. At some occasions, they even fined me twice in a day. I did not sign some of the fines and signed some. They terrified me. They use violence and threaten to inform our families about our situation. Now we are afraid of getting out. We do not disturb the people, on the contrary, the police do.”

(At the time of writing 35€ is worth approximately £32 here in Britain; or a little over $50 in the U.S.)

It seems that for the last couple of months trans women are routinely fined if they so much as even step outside their front doors: leaving the bakery, while grocery shopping, at the hairdresser’s, you name it. If you’re a trans woman in Istanbul then you’re a target. The harassment is justified under the 37th article of the Misdemeanour Act, a Turkish criminal law which cites “disturbing others in the streets for selling goods or services” as an offence. In this case, its use seems to play on the transphobic trope that all trans women are sex workers.

According to the LGBTT Association, this ramping up of the ongoing campaign of harassment has only happened since the new Chief of Police, Huseyin Çapkin, was appointed (link here). At the time, many trans rights activists, as well as women’s and gay rights groups, welcomed the news of the departure of Chief Çapkin’s predecessor (Celalettin Cerrah), but it seems to be a case of ‘here comes the new boss, same as the old boss’.

Apparently there is a new system of incentives in place within the police department, whereby officers earn points for each fine they issue – which effectively translates into bonuses in their pay packets. Given the recent history of the undeclared war against trans women in Turkey it’s a surprise that the police need any further incentive. They were already carrying out a concerted campaign of transphobic violence with considerable enthusiasm anyway, as I’ve written on many previous occasions (see below for links to my previous posts).

The CNN Turkey report tells us that Chief Çapkin was on record (in his previous position as Chief of Police of Izmir) as being sworn to clear “this pile of shit” (trans people) from Izmir. And the purpose of this suppression, apart from increasing the social acceptance of transphobic bigotry and violence?

The aim is to isolate trans women from the rest of the people and make their lives miserable. To exile them from the daily life… We surely know this type of brutality shown against the minorities from the past and current wild Fascist regimes.


ETA: Further information received suggests that the situation on the ground may be worse than previously thought. Eye witness reports are filtering through from Istanbul in which the following actions have been, and continue to be, carried out:

  • Trans people held without charge in police stations for hours at a time before being fined 60€ (£55 in Britain; about $90 in the U.S.) for traffic violations
  • Trans people detained under unofficial house arrest
  • Trans people evicted and made homeless

LGBTT Association members have begun regular demonstrations against these actions by the police, and plan to continue their protest until the state sanctioned violence is ended.


Previous related posts:

  • Human rights violations against LGBT individuals in Turkey in 2008 (August 9, 2009)
  • Turkey: trials in connection with the murders of two trans women now under way (July 9, 2009)
  • Unsafe haven: LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey (July 8, 2009)
  • Turkey – new Chief of Police for Istanbul. Will this bring an end to the “undeclared war” against trans women? (June 15, 2009)
  • Turkish policemen on trial for attack on trans woman (May 29, 2009)
  • Turkey: another trans woman stabbed to death – UPDATE (May 29, 2009)
  • Turkey: another trans woman stabbed to death (May 25, 2009)
  • Turkish parliament questioned on trans safety (May 12, 2009)
  • Lambda Istanbul granted permission to continue operating (May 7, 2009)
  • Suspected murderer of trans rights activist arrested in Turkey (April 21, 2009)
  • Every 15 days, another trans person is murdered in Turkey (April 14, 2009)
  • The undeclared war against LGBTT people in Turkey continues (March 29, 2009)
  • Another trans woman murdered in Turkey (March 14, 2009)
  • Trans woman stabbed to death in Istanbul (March 12, 2009)
  • Lambda Istanbul wins appeal against closure (January 28, 2009)
  • Trans rights abuses in Turkey (November 29, 2008)
  • —————

    Curtsey to Justus on the TGEU listserv for the heads up

    Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that.

    September 26, 2009

    Trans-misogyny? There's an app for that.It’s always hurtful when cis people make trans-misogynistic attacks on trans women’s gender expression, and I doubt I shall ever understand why they think they are entitled to do so. The barbs are bad enough when they’re aimed specifically at me as an individual, but when they target my entire community they inevitably seem only to add insult to injury.

    I’ve just seen an example of this mindless hatred emanating from Apple computers; a company which makes products of which I’ve been a long-time fan – indeed, I’m writing this on my much-loved PowerBook and I’m soundtracking my blogging with music played on my iPod. So to then view the cheap shot that is their latest commercial is a huge disappointment, to say the least.

    GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has already formally requested Apple Inc to withdraw the advert (you can read the details here) which they describe as follows:

    The ad features model Gisele Bundchen, who is supposed to be the embodiment of a home movie made using iMovie. After the Mac presents Gisele, the PC presents a person wearing a dress identical to Gisele’s, in a wig, with no breasts, a five o’clock shadow and an abundance of exposed chest hair.

    The ad ends with the line:

    “Work in progress?”

    For me, perhaps the worst thing about this is the perpetuation of a stereotype founded on pure ignorance. The point that so few cis people ever seem to understand is that transsexual women like me transition as a way of managing the intense morphic dissonance we experience. Do you not think that if we simply wanted to be cross-dressing caricatures as depicted in the Apple ad, then we would? Does it not occur to you that we turn our lives upside down, we lose families, friends, loved ones, jobs, houses, cars – everything – because that is what we need to do to survive? Do you really believe we “choose” to be transsexual, that transitioning is nothing more than a “lifestyle choice” that we could freely reverse if only we would see things your way?

    And really, the idea that every transsexual woman wants to look like some fictitious ideal of a femme-y woman is as much of a stereotype as the “bloke in a frock” image on which it’s founded – and I say that both stereotypes are wrong. Transsexual women’s gender expression is every bit as varied as cis women’s; a fact conveniently ignored by the oh-so-cool hipsters in the marketing department in Cupertino, CA.

    There’s a very pertinent quote in “Crossing: A Memoir” by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey (link here), when she was asked why trans women learn stereotypical feminine gestures.

    She said: “It’s to keep from getting murdered, dear”.

    And, certainly for me, that’s the main reason I wear skirts and dresses. Camouflage. Self-preservation. It’s not the perfect match for my gender identity – but it’s damned close, close enough for comfort. My comfort. To blend in; to merge with the background; to be just another face in the crowd. I do it so I can get from A to B without winding up in A&E. I don’t do it to meet some dumb-ass enforced criteria of how I should look. I’ve spent my life doing just that, from one side or other of the binary divide. And I’m sick of cis people imposing on me their unreasonable preconceptions of how I should look – and then attacking me for failing to meet their frankly ludicrous standards; standards which they never seem to apply to themselves. Funny, that.

    Like all of us, cis or trans, I am who I am and I let my presentation reflect that. But apparently this is such a huge big deal to the advertising staff at Apple Inc that the only way they can deal with the existence of transsexual women is by ridiculing us in this hateful, hurtful way.

    I say it’s time to stop the trans-misogyny once and for all. Like my PowerBook, it’s old and tired; and like Apple’s advert, it’s not even vaguely amusing.

    Call for action in solidarity with migrants in Calais

    September 25, 2009

    No Borders logoNo Borders London is calling for supporters to join a demonstration to protest the clearance of the Calais migrants’ camp. The protest is scheduled to take place at 5.30pm, on Tuesday 29th September 2009, outside the French Embassy, 58 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7JT. (StreetMap)

    Via No Borders London:

    On the morning of Tuesday 22nd September, French police bulldozed the area known as the ‘jungle’ in Calais where migrants were living, destroying their homes and possessions and detaining around 300 people, including 132 children. Other migrants left before they could be detained, and have been driven to sleep rough on the streets of Calais, Paris and elsewhere.

    UK Home Secretary expressed his ‘delight’ at this devestating move by the French authorities, as it aims to stop migrants reaching the UK. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas falsely claimed that ‘genuine’ refugees would claim asylum at the first EU country they came to, regardless of whether they had familiy in other countries – and ignoring the fact that many migrants had not had the chance to claim asylum had they wanted to. European countries which migrants commonly travel through to reach France and the UK do not adhere to the UNHCR guidelines on hosting refugees. In Greece, fewer than 1% of asylum claims were accepted last year, while in Italy thousands were intercepted and turned away without even having their claims looked at.

    We believe people should have freedom to move and live where they choose. We believe that adults and children should not be detained against their will, having committed no crime. In solidarity with migrants in Calais and everywhere, we demand that the French authorities release the 300 people that are being detained!

    For regular updates on the situation in Calais, visit

    Clearance of Calais camp

    (Image via BBC News)

    Uruguay to enact legal changes in gender recognition

    September 24, 2009

    Flag of the Republic of UruguayThe Boston EDGE (link here) picks up a report posted on the “anti-gay religious Web site LifeSiteNews” that Uruguay is to enact legislation which will allow everyone “the right to the free development of his personality regarding his own gender identity, independently of his biological, genetic, anatomic, morphologic, hormonal, assigned, or other sex.”

    Apparently the bill also contains guidelines for those wishing to be “legally recognized as the gender opposite that of their anatomy” which include what seems to be a two-year RLE requirement (with the approval of an interdisciplinary committee of specialists) for applicants who do not undergo SRS. This requirement seems likely to be waived in cases where applicants have undergone SRS. Interestingly, the legislation will also allow applicants to revert to their original legally assigned gender after five years.

    Additionally, even once the legal change has been made, marriages to others of “the same biological gender” will not be permitted; and applicants must also be at least 18 years of age.

    What is unclear is how this change in the law will play out in other areas. Will successful applicants also be able to change the markers on their birth certificates and passports, for example? Will they be protected under anti-discrimination legislation? Because it seems to me that for this law to be effective, it must be fully integrated with the other aspects of one’s documented existence. In the UK, my experience was that, whilst my Deed Poll document enabled me to change my status with the tax office, my employer and so on, I could only change my passport with a supporting letter from my gender doctor – and nothing less than a full GRC would permit me to change my birth certificate. And in the US the problems and distress caused to trans people when run into the infamous social security “no match” are widely recorded.

    In recent times, Uruguay has made good progress in advancing the cause of GLB people, and it would be a crying shame if this potentially important and enlightened legislation aimed at trans people should prove to be ineffective in its everyday application. I hope my fears are unfounded, and that this does not turn out to be a token gesture which exists in isolation.

    “Tell me about transgender”

    September 24, 2009

    Hey Lord, don't ask me questions (ain't no answers in me)A phrase sure to sink the stoutest of hearts. “Tell me about transgender”. It’s not that I don’t want to reach out to cis people, to help them find answers to their many questions: it’s that it can be such a tiring, emotionally draining and sometimes frustrating process.

    And although I don’t think it’s necessarily the place of a minority (transsexual women) to educate their oppressors (mainstream cis society), I also recognise that if we don’t do it, cis people may be unlikely to learn, or their understanding may be incomplete or incorrect. So I’m willing to do what I can to help those cis people who are genuinely interested to increase their knowledge of the various issues that are of concern to people like me.

    But there’s a “But”…

    It would be really helpful if, before they ask that burning question, cis people could at least try to find the answer themselves. Apart from looking in the obvious places like Google and even Wikipedia, many bloggers keep comprehensive blogrolls which may also be helpful to the enquiring cis mind.

    The Web is an information source the like of which the world has never seen; lots of people have done lots of work to make it what it is and it often takes only a couple of clicks to find answers to even the most difficult questions.

    Happy second unbirthday to me

    September 20, 2009

    Happy second unbirthday to meToday, 20 September, is my second unbirthday; it’s two years ago today that I underwent SRS in Thailand.

    I know that some who’ve walked a similar path consider that their surgery marked the completion of their transition, the day when they left behind the adjective transsexual, when they stopped referring to themselves as transsexual women, opting instead to describe themselves as just women. This is, of course, their prerogative and that’s fine, I’m not here to judge other people’s self-identification – but it’s not how I see it. Even though I, too, identify as a woman, I am also transsexual and a transsexual woman. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this; it’s simply who I am. These are some of the intersectionalities in my life, they play out in many ways and I will not deny them.

    The medical condition of transsexualism – with which I was formally diagnosed in October 2006 and which still impacts on my life today – is defined by the NHS here in Britain as “a life-long and extreme form of [gender dysphoria]“. Life-long: and my own experience bears that out. I knew, with absolute certainty, at the age of five years old that the body into which I had been born was not the body my brain was expecting. Transitioning – and I don’t view it as comprising only surgery; it has many other aspects: medical, social, legal, etc – is no more and no less than a way of managing that dissonance, of making my life bearable, of finding ways to function as a contributing member of society. I do not accept that any one particular change, or set of changes, offers a ‘cure’. I am not ‘ill’, therefore there is nothing to ‘cure’.

    One consequence of the medical profession’s pathologisation of gender dissonance is the resulting stigmatisation that I face as a transsexual woman: I do not consider that I have a ‘disorder’, or that I am ‘mentally ill’. But this mislabelling of my existence is applied to me by the medical profession, and mainstream society accepts that authority over my own narrative of my lived experiences. I may assert that I am ‘just a woman’, but ultimately society will decide if it accepts me as such. This is just one of many compromises that I must make, one of the chances I must take in my transition. The sweetener is that I am then allowed access by the state to palliative – but none the less essential – treatments like surgery, like HRT. And, in passing, let us remember that, as a result of surgery, I will need to apply estrogen patches twice a week until the day I die; try as I might I don’t see how that a procedure which requires long-term post-operative attention can be called a ‘cure’, something over and done with, which I can now forget about.

    Yes, surgery has improved my well-being immeasurably – and no, I have absolutely no regrets – but it cannot, to my mind, ‘cure’ a ‘life-long and extreme’ condition. I was born transsexual, and I will die transsexual. But that’s okay too, because had I not begun medically transitioning, I would not be here to write this today: I would have taken my own life on a quiet and sunny August afternoon in 2006. Instead, surgery has offered me one method of bringing my sense of self – my existence – to a place where I can today look back at the course of my path over the past three years, and think about where I would like it to take me in the years ahead.

    All of this is why I celebrate my anniversary of undergoing surgery. It’s why, as I woke up in that recovery room two years ago today, I didn’t think of it as another item ticked off a checklist, or the end of a particular phase, but as another milestone on the journey that is my transition, the path through my life as a transsexual woman.

    Now, if anyone would like a piece of unbirthday cake, you’d best get a wiggle on before the panda eats it all…

    a panda ate my cake

    Happy second unbirthday, Helen!


    Previously at Bird of Paradox:


    September 17, 2009

    A brain in a jar, yesterdayElsewhere on the web a somatically-male, self-styled artist and gender activist who identifies as a non-passing, non-transitioning, no-electrolysis transwoman makes a series of deliberately provocative statements; not the least of which is the eyebrow-raising assertion that SRS and HRT for transsexual women are merely forms of body modification of no greater significance than tattoos and piercings.

    Leaving aside this embarrassing display of a combination of ignorance and insensitivity, for some reason the phrase “body modification” reminded me of an idea developed by William Gibson in his science fiction short story Johnny Mnemonic. The story contained a description of what would surely be a more extreme form of body modification than anything the self-identified authentic woman could imagine in her wildest flights of fancy – more extreme than major abdominal surgery; more extreme, even, than getting your ears pierced.

    The concept involved the progenitor – a data trafficker – undergoing surgery to have a data storage system implanted in his head. A variation on the theme appeared in other works of fiction written by Mr Gibson, in which people have data ports implanted in the sides of their necks, wet-wired to their brains. The idea being that you would be able to plug in various hardware chips, each with a dedicated function – perhaps as a way of transferring large amounts of data, or maybe augmenting certain aspects of your knowledge for use in specific, short-term circumstances. So, for example, you would be able to plug in a chess grand master’s chip and you would know all the rules and moves of the game. Or a language chip to enable you to speak fluent Spanish, or French, or English. When you’re done, you take out the chip and the knowledge just fades away.

    I always imagined the data port implant would look something like a USB port on a computer. And in the same way I can now plug in my USB memory stick and access my blog backup, or the latest post I’m working on, or my resumé, the wetware chip would plug into the port in the side of my neck, and (presumably) it would contain some sort of executable file. (I assume it would be a read-only (ROM) chip too, to avoid computer virus infections).

    Of course there are scary real world implications for this so-called cybernetic surgery – in addition to a covert means of unauthorised data exchange (as in Johnny Mnemonic), the potential for mind control really is disturbing (who would write the content of the ROM chips? How would you know a chip was what it claimed to be?) – But hey, this is cyberpunk science fiction, right?

    Hmm, maybe so. Or maybe a shiny new future of truly mind-blowing body modifications is nearer then even the most progressive gender activist in the whole of California could imagine:

    (Curtsey to Josie for tweeting the YT link)

    Ur instrucshuns r unnesussary

    September 16, 2009



    “I’ve had worse”

    September 15, 2009

    So then.

      what fucking community?

    • So this week I’ve still not felt much like blogging
      • because the trans related news stories and blog commentaries still seem overwhelmingly filled with (increasingly heated) speculation about the IAAF.
      • And really, what’s the point in getting that irate about still-unconfirmed rumours? Give it a week and the results and punishment will be public and maybe then there really will be something to be indignant about – but maybe y’all just have an unlimited capacity for anger.
    • I’ve also not felt much like blogging
      • because everywhere else I look in Blogdonia, it seems people are just laying into each other, dusk til dawn, 24/7. The ad hominem attacks continue, each one more noxious than the last. I see people I like and respect ripping the heads off other people I like and respect. I see this little gang savaging that little gang, and while they’re all busy chopping each other into dogmeat, another gang’s piling on to the first two. And so on.
      • And I despair. We have bigger enemies – shared enemies – but hey, let’s just beat each other up some more, shall we? Oy! What’re you looking at? Did you spill my beer? Are you breathing my air? And so on.
    • And I’ve not felt much like blogging
      • because I think my perspectives are changing. I still feel very low about the bust-up with my (ex-)family, I’m really struggling to deal with it; and then all the violence, hatred and fighting I mentioned up there – like watching a classroom full of sociopathic five-year-olds arguing over who gets to pull the wings off a butterfly – leaves me wondering why I stick around.
      • And I mean, really. Do you know what you look like? What you sound like? “Second toughest in the infants”, indeed.
    • And, despite Em and Lucy’s excellent ideas about cake-eating kittens,
      • well, I just don’t even have the energy to run a Google image search and fire up Potatoshop.
      • But this video is such a perfect microcosm of what everyone in Blogdonia seems to be doing to everyone else, so I hope it’ll be an acceptable substitute for the lack of cakey kittehs.

    Pfft. My spirit’s weary and I’m tired. I’m going to bed. Try and keep the shouting down, eh? – Oh, and for fuck’s sake mop up the blood and put the severed limbs in the bin when you’ve finished please.


    This week, I have mostly not been blogging about…

    September 12, 2009
    • …the International Association of Athletics Federations
      • because it has still officially to confirm the outcome of the sex and/or gender tests it ordered to be carried out on the athlete Caster Semenya, and the action it intends to take. Until then, all the acres of print and millions of pixels of digital media given over to the subject are nothing more or less than pointless speculation.
      • However the real issue remains not what may or may not being going on inside Caster Semenya’s underwear – but the IAAF’s discriminatory, heavy-handed and inappropriate gender policing.
    • …Jasper’s pontifications on TransGriot’s post (Stealth was a mistake) at Feministe
      • because I would rather remove my own appendix with a warm spoon than waste my time applying the pink sparklehammer of deconstruction to hir meaningless verbiage.
      • However it seems ze continues to be a pompous ass with an over-inflated sense of self-importance and the most fragile ego in California.
    • Anyone who thinks ze has the right to judge my self-identity
      • because ze doesn’t.
      • However I reserve the right to self-identify and define myself in any way I deem appropriate, without justifying my existence to anyone. And no, that doesn’t mean that I am erasing/invisibilising/marginalising/oppressing anyone else in the process – make your own labels – be your own god – build your own Stonehenge. I don’t care.
    • Cake
      • because I have none.
      • However I intend to rectify this situation without further delay.

    And now the news headlines where you live…