Archive for the 'hate speech' Category

“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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Feeding the troll, part 2

July 17, 2010

this is what a feminist troll looks likeMy old friend Butterflywings – whose attempts at internet trolling I wrote about here – has submitted a couple of comments to my previous post. They have absolutely no relevance to that piece, of course, although in their own little way they’re really quite priceless, so I thought I’d share them here instead: transphobic hate speech of this calibre needs to put into the public domain so everyone can see it.

I’m not going to bother applying the pink sparklehammer of deconstruction to them; they speak for themselves. It is worth noting, though, that these are the words of a cis woman feminist. This, as they say, is what a feminist looks like.

Author : Butterflywings
E-mail : youthinkimtellingyou@yahoo.com
URL :
Comment:
Fuck you, little child. Your attempts to smear me all over the Internet are hilariously pathetic. You’re the one that hangs out in little cliques of people who agree with you.
Accuse me of trolling? Now I am. No point having a debate with morons, after all.

Author : Butterflywings
E-mail : likeintellingyou@hotmail.com
URL :
Comment:
You think you’re so great, don’t you? You realise everyone is laughing at you? I could demolish your pathetic attempt to argue against my arguments if I could be bothered, but frankly, posting links that agree with you…isn’t argument. Trannies are a bit thick, aren’t they.

It’s like waking up to find small piles of very smelly cat poo dotted around the place.

Time for some music, I think.

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Kyrgyzstan: “No penis, no passport”

July 6, 2010

It’s nearly two years since I wrote about the complete erasure of Kyrgyz trans women by Human Rights Watch in their report These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan (direct link to 48-page PDF). I emailed the Advocacy Director of HRW’s LGBT Rights Program querying why there was no mention of trans women and was told that:

[HRW] relied on information and contacts, provided by our colleagues from the Kyrgyz LGBT organization Labrys. They could not find trans women who were willing to give testimony.

And yet, if we assume the NHS estimate that 1 in 4,000 people is receiving medical help for gender dysphoria is both reasonably accurate and generally representative (yeah, I know, big assumptions), then for a country with a population of some 5.4 million people (via Wikipedia) it doesn’t take a lot of prodding at a calculator to come up with a guesstimate that there may be around 1350 trans people in the Kyrgyz Republic today.

In addition, we know from the HRW report that there are Kyrgyz trans men and, again drawing on the NHS estimates, the ratio of trans women to trans men is reported to be 5:1. Another quick jab at the calculator would suggest therefore, that there could be around 1125 trans women in Kyrgyzstan.

So where are they? Why don’t they show up in NGO and governmental reports and statistics? Why are Kyrgyz trans women so completely invisible to the world at large?

Perhaps this article at eurasianet offers some clues. As the writer, Dalton Bennett (a freelance journalist based in Bishkek), points out, there are real obstacles to transitioning:

Though, legally, Kyrgyz citizens have the right to change their sexual identification, “there are no mechanisms for implementation of this law. The lack of relevant documents that define this process is a barrier to exercise this right,” says Erik Iriskulbekov, a lawyer at the Adilet Legal Clinic in Bishkek and member of the Ministry of Health’s working group.

Under existing legislation, transgender individuals are required to submit a medical form to their local civil registry certifying them as “transsexuals” in order to change their documents. But the form in question does not exist, activists complain. The process thus leaves their gender ambiguous.

This was confirmed by Anna Kirey, Senior Adviser at Labrys Kyrgyzstan during a telephone interview with HRW researchers in 2007:

Ministry of Health policy allows transgender people in Kyrgyzstan in principle to undergo sex reassignment surgery (SRS), and afterward they may legally change their gender in official identity papers. However, SRS is not now performed in the medical system in Kyrgyzstan—and complete SRS is a condition for legal identity change. A Ministry of Health representative told Labrys in May 2007 that it recognized the need for improved procedures for legal identity change and that it was developing a more streamlined process. In the meantime, transgender men (and women) experience tremendous hardship as a result of having a legal identity in limbo.

And this quote from the eurasianet article only emphasises the seemingly Kafkaesque nature of obtaining parity between one’s core sex identity and legal status:

“One person denied the right to change his documents was told in court, ‘No penis, No passport,’ and the judge struck his gavel. They said this in court!” exclaims Akram Kubanychbek, a member of the Ministry of Health’s working group. Kubanychbek is a transgender man who changed his passport’s gender marker with the help of an inexperienced yet compassionate bureaucrat.

Recent UNHRC recommendations have been accepted by the Kyrgyz government. As yet, they haven’t been implemented; nevertheless Anna Kirey hopes this acceptance will eventually lead to a much greater understanding of the rights of trans and GLB issues:

“It’s unusual for a Central Asian country to accept any [recommended approaches] to sexual orientation,” Kirey says. “I feel the new government is going to give us a lot more space for bringing LGBT issues into a more mainstream human rights agenda.”

I hope that the human rights of the hundreds of invisible trans women will be included in this process of change and that serious efforts will be made to reach out to them; although I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that the much-needed changes in Kyrgyzstan are going to happen overnight. A profound shift is needed in the attitudes of the general population too, and that is going to take time. The question is whether Kyrgyz trans women are able to survive the wait.

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Curtsey to Richard for the heads-up

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Seattle: cis man pleads not guilty to hate crime following violent street harassment

June 18, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a cis man’s violent street harassment of a woman who was waiting at a Seattle bus stop, minding her own business. Now, via KOMO News I see the case has reached the courts (minor edits for clarity):

A man charged with a hate crime for the bus stop beating of a transgender woman pleaded not guilty to the charge on Thursday.

Daniel Patrick Woodward is charged with malicious harassment in connection with the incident at the bus stop at NW Market St. and 15th Ave. NW on May 30.

According to charging documents, Woodward approached the victim, who was dressed as a woman and identifies as one, punched and kicked [her], called [her] a derogatory term for homosexual and said, “You ought to die and go to hell!”

A witness also heard disparaging comments related to the victim’s gender or sexual orientation and told police it was clear Woodward was attacking the victim because she was transgender, charging documents say.

Woodward appeared intoxicated at the time of arrest, according to police. He currently is being held on $250,000 bail at the King County Jail.

At the time of his arrest, Woodward had a no-bail felony warrant for escape. He has had numerous prior convictions, including for malicious harassment, assault, and reckless endangerment.

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

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Malawi: Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga split up

June 8, 2010

In a sad postscript to all their recent troubles, according to The Daily Nation (and others), Steven Monjeza has broken off his engagement to Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

The media’s petty-minded misgendering of Tiwonge continues, although this time I’ve chosen to edit the quoted text to reflect her womanhood.

In a dramatic twist of events […] Mr Steven Monjeza, has renounced his love for […] Tiwonge Chimbalanga and opted to marry a woman Ms Dorothy Gulo barely 10 days after being pardoned.

Mr Monjeza said he was no longer interested to be associated in what he called ‘gay trash’ accusing ‘hidden hands’ of engineering their marriage. He could not mention the names behind their engagement.

He said on the day of their engagement, he was drunk and he could not know what was going on claiming that he was offered to be taken outside the country as a token for the engagement.

“I have turned down an asylum offer, I would rather stay in Malawi with Dorothy,” he said. On the other hand Dorothy said she was in love with Mr Monjeza but said she was afraid of how [Tiwonge] Chimbalanga would react to the news.

[Tiwonge] Chimbalanga, from a secret location, said [she] was not disappointed saying there were many [men] in Malawi and outside who would marry [her].

I can only admire Tiwonge’s strength and dignity and hope she will soon be able to find her soulmate and put this whole traumatic six months behind her.

Tiwonge and Steven

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Seattle: cis man charged with hate crime following violent street harassment

June 4, 2010

Via Seattle PI and King5:

A man was charged Thursday with malicious harassment — the state’s hate crime statute — after police said he yelled a derogatory slur at a transgender woman and assaulted her.

[…]

Court documents allege the suspect, 51-year-old Daniel Patrick Woodward, told the victim she “ought to die and go to hell” after yelling the slur. [Via Seattle PI]

“The victim was waiting minding her own business when the suspect approached her and without provocation began assaulting her,” said Renee Witt, Seattle Police spokesperson. “Apparently he punched her in the face a number of times, threw her to the ground and kicked her.” [Via King5]

The Ballard victim told police she was fearful for her life and wanted to have medical attention for face and neck pain. She was taken to Ballard Swedish Hospital.

[…]

A witness who reported seeing Woodward yelling at the victim after the assault followed the suspect as he walked into a nearby store. He later pointed out the suspect to officers.

Police say Woodward was found near Northwest 54th Street and 14th Avenue Northwest and arrested for investigation of assault.

“The suspect appeared intoxicated and had a strong odor of intoxicants,” Officer Trung Nguyen wrote in an incident report. “He would not respond to my questions of whether he understood his rights.”

The victim was ashamed that someone would assault her based on gender, according to police. Nguyen photographed the victim’s injuries as evidence, and a witness said she did not fight back. [Via Seattle PI]

There’s also coverage in The Seattle Times but the misgendering by the writer, staff reporter Susan Kelleher, is pretty close to hate speech of itself, in my opinion. I realise that the police report also misgenders the victim, but I’m not convinced that is reason enough to use the kind of language that Ms Kelleher does – especially when “a police spokeswoman clarified that the victim identifies herself as a woman” [Via].

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Curtsey to Stefani for the heads-up

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

McDonald’s refuses to hire woman because she’s transgender

December 7, 2009

Via the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund website:

On July 10, 2009, 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy applied online for a position as a Shift Manager or Crew Leader at a McDonald’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida. On July 28, after managers at McDonald’s learned that Zikerria is transgender, she received the following voicemail message from one of the managers:

Transcript:

You went to [indistinguishable] McDonald’s today.
It doesn’t matter how many times you go down there.
You will not get hired.
We do not hire faggots.
You lied to me.
You told me you was a woman.
And then you lied to me.
You told me you were seventeen.
I can’t believe you.
You’re a lying brother [indistinguishable].
How could you ever lie to me?
We will never… [message ends]

It’s a bingo card all of its own, that: transphobia, racism, homophobia, cissexism, trans-misogyny, hate speech.

Needless to say, Zikerria didn’t even get a job interview – McDonald’s simply refused to hire her. Although whether you’d actually want to work alongside world class bigots and hatemongers like that manager is another matter.

TLDEF has now filed a Complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against McDonald’s for refusing to hire 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy because she is transgender.

More information over at the TLDEF website

Reclaim The Night: policing the borders of cis feminism

November 25, 2009

Previously, on more than one occasion, I’ve made it clear that my anger at the members of the London Feminist Network who organise the annual Reclaim The Night march here in London arises from their continuing refusal to make any public clarification of their position on trans women attending the event. For a transsexual woman like me, their use of the phrase “women only” is contentious because it carries with it the baggage of nearly half a century of our exclusion from cis women’s spaces.

That such blatant and toxic cissexism is applied to trans women is, frankly, unforgivable in this day and age, but reading the latest post on the Feminist Fightback blog (link here) makes me realise just how dangerous the march organisers’ attitudes are when applied to other cis women too.

As self-identified women committed to fighting gender-based violence, members of Feminist Fightback attended last Saturday’s march in solidarity with sex workers fighting for the right to self-organise against exploitation in their industry.

From the blog post, it seems that not only were they subjected to physical harassment and verbal abuse from other marchers, but were approached and interrogated by the police, apparently at the request of one of the stewards.

[…] we were extremely surprised to find that one of the basic principles of feminism (and all social justice movements) was forgotten in this instance – namely, that we never resort to using police aggression to silence and intimidate members of our own movement, no matter how much we may disagree with them.

And that is the crux of the matter. Feminism isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about a minority of privileged cis women using strongarm tactics against other, far more vulnerable women simply to prop up their distorted and outmoded worldviews. Might is most definitely not right, and the actions of those self-appointed guardians of a fictitious ‘true feminism’ have revealed the extent of the moral bankruptcy at the core of the London Feminist Network. They should be ashamed of themselves and if they had a shred of conscience, all those concerned would have stepped down by now.

It’s no surprise that the organisers of the Reclaim The Night march have made no public statement about this incident and their silence serves only to underline their desperation to hold on to their positions of power without accountability. But listen well, my sisters: the day is coming when you will be called to justify your appalling treatment of all those women against whom you have consistently used your privilege to discriminate, when the right and proper thing to do would have been to support and assist them in their struggle against a common enemy.

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Ungendering and the fine art of inflicting papercuts

November 25, 2009

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pointed out how trans women are ungendered as a way of Othering us and denying our identities. I’ve talked about how it happens as a very common form of street harassment (link here) and it feels like I’ve talked about it just about every time I’ve quoted the mass media in their reporting of trans issues.

So it’s interesting to read on the Reuters blog (link here) some readers’ reactions to the organisation’s ungendering of Brenda, the trans woman recently murdered as part of an attempted cover-up of a political scandal in Italy (links here and here).

The wrong pronoun?

Transsexual in Italian political scandal murdered

ROME (Reuters) – A Brazilian transsexual caught up in a scandal which prompted the resignation of a senior Italian politician — the center-left governor of Lazio region, which includes Rome — was found burned to death in his home Friday.

As well as the deliberate misuse of a male pronoun in the original post quoted above, I’m uncomfortable with the use of the word transsexual as a noun – but I realise also that opinion on this is divided. So I simply point it out without further comment.

And the quoted responses? Hmm. Well, at least they’re speaking out on behalf of trans women – and yes, I am grateful for that – although I’m sorry to say that I have issues with the terminology used by the first of the three commenters, Nicole:

I find it shocking that in this day and age, you still refer to a male-to-female transsexual as a “he”. I find this both old fashioned and disrespectful to the person you are reporting about.

Whether she was a prostitute or not, she was presenting herself as a female – likely because that’s what she felt she was. Most publications in the US honor this nowadays. You should, too!

“Male-to-female” is a problematic term as it assumes transsexual women like me once were male and that – presumably by transitioning – we somehow became female. I understand the constructivist argument at the back of it, but on a personal level? I don’t think I ever considered myself male. Cis society may have (else why was I male assigned at birth?) – but as far as I’m concerned, it’s simply the case that my brain was expecting a differently-configured body.

I’ve mentioned above my discomfort with the use of the word transsexual as a noun, not an adjective, but for clarity: I think it’s cissexist. The subtext is that our self-identification as women is unacceptable because our genders don’t correlate with the sex we were assigned at birth; therefore the speaker feels entitled not to use the noun woman about us. The fact is that I am a woman, I am transsexual, and I am a transsexual woman.

The second and third comments by Chancellor and Liz respectively really hit the nail on the head:

I honestly expected better from Reuters as a major news organization.

I’m astonished that Reuters of all organizations could do this.

An editor responded with this:

A number of readers objected to our choice of pronouns. In the past we have used “she” to describe her, and we will do so in future stories

Apart from being left wondering who decided to switch to incorrect pronoun use (and why) it remains the case that despite the reputation of any news organisation, despite its size, despite its market share or its demographic, its reports are only as trustworthy as the journalists who produce them. And as long as those journalists choose to ignore even their employer’s own style guide (which is, admittedly, a long way from perfect), then these cissexist slurs will continue to be repeated, with no regard to the effect they have on those of us who don’t have the advantage of cis privilege to shield us. On their own, these may seem like minor points to some, I know that; but the cumulative effect is another matter. As a friend of mine says, “Every day brings a thousand papercuts” – and from where I sit, that pretty much sums it up.

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TDOR 2009 – Bring it on home (RTN London remix)

November 23, 2009

Outside it’s a cold, rainy morning and my mood today matches the weather: bleak with seemingly little chance of sunshine any time soon. I write these random but related thoughts on the Monday following the International Transgender Day Of Remembrance last Friday (link here), and Saturday’s memorial event in London (link here) primarily for the purpose of trying to process my personal thoughts and feelings rather than making some brave statement of activist intent. Last Friday’s 11th International Transgender Day Of Remembrance (link here) hit me much harder than ever before, and I’m still not sure why that is.

The wave of transphobic violence affecting trans people across the world continues to spiral out of control and it’s hard not to think that the only folk who give a damn about it are trans people ourselves. Last week I wrote about the statistics published in the recent TGEU report (link here) and the global average murder rate of three trans people per week is lodged firmly in my mind. The equality/diversity campaigner Christine Burns posted a quick calculation on Twitter to emphasise the scale of the impact of this murder rate on my community:

If trans ppl are (say) 1 in 10K of the population then 200 trans murders equivalent to 2 million in wider population (link here)

She added:

If 2 million people across Europe were murdered in 18 months then I’m guessing that would have some media interest (link here)

That last point is particularly cogent in light of the fact that the TDOR seems to receive no mass media coverage at all, whilst the murder last week of the Italian trans woman known as Brenda (link here) has received what I can only describe as salacious attention as a result of its reported connection with a so-called “political sex scandal” (link here). In the process, Brenda’s humanity – her identity – has been appropriated and devalued to promote the trope that all trans women are sex workers (subtext: and therefore deserve everything that happens to us, up to and including murder).

Closer to home, Saturday’s TDOR vigil here in London left me emotionally in tatters. Having spent most of Friday on the verge of tears for my murdered siblings, the event itself, so simple and so powerful, was unutterably sad. It was hard not to think especially of Destiny Lauren – a resident of the same London borough in which the TDOR event was held – who was strangled and her flat set on fire exactly two weeks before TDOR (link here). Despite his obvious distress, Destiny’s brother attended and gave a short speech before lighting a candle to her memory. At moments like that, when you see firsthand the human cost of the murders of my sisters on those who loved them, it is almost impossible to feel any empathy for those who see us as disposable objects, targets for their own transphobic self-loathing. The realisation that we are truly alone in a world which is intrinsically hostile to our existence is one of the biggest metaphorical slaps in the face you could receive.

The awareness of this sense of isolation was reinforced by the words of a representative of Press For Change, quoting from their recent report, Transphobic Hate Crime in the European Union (direct link to PDF).

Types of harassment by country

[…] British/UK respondents reported the highest levels of verbal abuse (25%); […] English respondents reported the highest levels of physical abuse (7%) […]

As the man said: “In Britain, if they come after you, they mean to kill you”. I hope I never hear more chilling words than that and they were much on my mind as I headed for home before the cis feminists’ Reclaim The Night march took to the streets. And when I did reach home and logged into my computer, I was bombarded by emails and Tweets from those cis women feminists who had attended the evening’s trans exclusive march to highlight the risk of street violence faced by cis women in London. In the light of the overwhelming sense of sadness and loss that I was feeling after TDOR, the sense of self-congratulatory complacency was almost too much to bear. It did, however, make me think again about my earlier suggestion (link here) that the trans community in London might wish to consider holding our own, trans centred, march – although I also accept that, realistically, it’s unlikely ever to happen, for a number of reasons.

My weekend hit rock bottom in the early hours of Sunday following a couple of “robust exchanges” online with cis women feminists. Their ciscentric apologism for other of their sisters’ transphobic bigotry improved neither my mood nor my belief that too many cis women feminists still have far too much work to do before this transsexual woman can really begin to believe the all-too-frequent assertion that:

“Not all of us cis woman feminisits are transphobic, promise!” (link here)

As much as I’d like to believe it, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support this claim. For example, how many of these self-appointed allies attended the TDOR memorial event on Saturday? (The event finished at about 4.30pm, a good hour in advance of the start of the RTN march; the timing couldn’t have been better). How many have bothered to contact the organisers of the march to ask if they would make the much-requested public confirmation (on the website and associated publicity materials) that the march is trans inclusive?

“Trans inclusion is not defined by the absence of ‘no’, it is the presence a clearly stated ‘yes'” (link here)

Because, really, telling me that…

“the event had trans women in attendance and pro-trans women rhetoric on the stage.” (link here)

completely misses the point. As Aunty Sarah so eloquently says over on her LJ (link here):

“The point is not that women like me would probably be OK on an RTN march, the point is that we don’t feel safe.”

The irony, of course – as many trans women have pointed out, many times before – is that we have just as much right to be in these “women only spaces” as cis women. The reason we’re not there is because those spaces have been taken from us by cis women feminists, often by force and always without accountability. And that, I believe, is why so many cis women feminists are so contemptuous, so aggressively hostile, when trans women speak of our inclusion in “women only spaces” – attacking us and policing the borders of “their” feminism allows them to ignore their guilt about not accounting for their actions and those of their cis sisters for nearly half a century.

“Women only” = “Cis women only”. Remember Sandy Stone/Olivia Records, Rachel Padman/Germaine Greer, Michfest, VRR. And on, and on (link here)

And while cis women feminists continue to indulge their denial, and pat each other on the back for walking arm-in-arm along one of the major shopping streets in London at 6pm on a Saturday evening, out here my sisters are still dying alone, three a week, every week.

I maintain that any cis woman feminist who talks about “ending violence against women”, whilst simultaneously excluding trans women from that equation, is as much part of the problem as the patriarchal society which condones her abandonment of her trans sisters, whose loss to transphobic violence some of us mourned on Friday and Saturday.

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Note: The images used in this post are from onequeerone’s TDOR London photo set and are used in compliance with the Creative Commons License for non-commercial use.

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See also:

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