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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Related post:


Kenya: Call for legal recognition of intersex people

July 16, 2010

Flag of the Republic of KenyaAs if to highlight that it’s not only trans women in the UK who face difficulties in obtaining recognition of differences between their lived experience and legal status, Coastweek Kenya (and others) carries a report about an intersex man, awaiting a death sentence, who is pursuing an appeal to a Constitutional Court to create a law that will accommodate intersex people.

Richard Muasya – through his lawyer John Chingiti – has urged the court to enact appropriate legislation. Mr Chingiti said the court has jurisdiction to deal with the issue raised by his client’s claim that, as an intersex man, he does not receive any legal recognition.

He submitted that the law as it is, discriminates people of his gender especially when one is applying for documents such as birth certificates, an Identity card and a passport.

“This are vital documents and the petitioner is unable to achieve them because he is an intersex,” he argued.

Chingiti argued that since his clients condition is a divine event, the court should not sit and watch as he and others who have similar status being subjected to a lot of humiliation, torture, fear and mockery from people who do it deliberately or out of ignorance.

“We should protect the petitioner and the likes of the petitioner by recognizing them legally,” he added.

I’m not entirely sure that I agree with Mr Chingiti’s belief that intersex is “a divine event“; I think OII UK sums it up well enough in its FAQ:

An intersexed person is an individual whose internal and/or external sexual morphology has characteristics not specific to just one of the official sexes, but rather a combination of what is considered “normal” for “female” or “male”.

Be that as it may, I certainly can’t argue with this:

[…] the court should not sit and watch as [Mr Muasya] and others who have similar status being subjected to a lot of humiliation, torture, fear and mockery from people who do it deliberately or out of ignorance.

“We should protect the petitioner and the likes of the petitioner by recognizing them legally,” he added.

The question of the “legalization of a third gender” is often contentious – my view is that it Others by default: I’m not convinced that “male, female and intersex” is a particularly meaningful range of categories. I would say that it’s entirely possible to be male and intersex, or female and intersex – or even simply intersex without need of any binary gender markers.

However, the fundamental issue – as is so often the case – is that an intersex person is being denied the basic human rights which others take for granted. In this case, even though Mr Muasya is reported as being “born with both male and female genital organs, but goes about as a man” – and regardless of which intersex variation that might refer to – it is a breach of his human rights for him to have been subjected to discrimination, prejudice and harassment simply because he’s intersex.

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Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:


(Trans)Gender Equality?: A public conference on transgender rights hosted by the Greens/EFA, Brussels, 1 September 2010

July 15, 2010

The European Parliament has announced the details of (Trans)Gender Equality? a joint public conference on transgender rights, hosted jointly by the Greens and the European Free Alliance, to be held in Brussels on 1 September 2010.

The full programme is available here; and if you wish to attend you must register online by 26 August 2010.

(Click image for full-size PDF poster)


UK: Convicted woman could not be “kept safe in a prison environment”

July 14, 2010

Laura Voyce (Image via Manchester Evening News)Via various sources I learn that Laura Voyce, convicted of downloading child pornography, has been handed a nine-months custodial sentence suspended for a year with supervision and 100 hours unpaid work because Judge Lesley Newton, sitting at Manchester Crown Court, said prison would be an “appalling experience” in which Ms Voyce’s safety could not be guaranteed.

Sentencing, Judge Newton told Voyce: “Frankly, you deserve to go to prison, but I can’t bring myself to send you to prison, entirely because I think prison would be an appalling experience for you.”

“I do not see how you could be kept safe in a prison environment with the best will in the world on the part of those who run such establishments.” [Daily Telegraph]

Predictably the tabloids’ “baying mob” (© J. Bindel 2008) – including some of the commenters – has gone to town on the story, not only with its usual bigoted hate speech against trans people generally, but also in its clamour for some sort of vigilante justice to be implemented by demanding that Ms Voyce be sent to a prison anyway, even (especially?) if it’s inappropriate for her as a self-identified woman. And don’t even start me on the cissexism implicit in the assertion that she committed the crime because she’s “biologically male”.

For what it’s worth, I’m not comfortable with the decision either – there are established and severe penalties for anyone convicted of downloading child pornography, and the law applies to all, whether trans or cis. In my view it’s child abuse, no more and no less, and the seriousness of the offence cannot and should not be understated.

But I believe that both the judge and the more reactionary elements of mainstream cis society have failed to address the underlying questions of why there’s no appropriate accommodation for trans women who may be convicted of offences which carry a custodial sentence; and of why nothing has been done to resolve the well-known “no match” situation (in this case, Ms Voyce hasn’t transitioned surgically and therefore is not able to receive any of the protections afforded by possessing a Gender Recognition Certificate)

So now we have a situation where a trans woman has been outed to the general public, convicted of (what is, in my opinion) a particularly nasty offence and (presumably) sent back to the address she was living at before. In the circumstances, I don’t understand how that’s necessarily going to be any safer for her than being sent to prison. It would be very easy to say, “She should have thought of that before she downloaded child pornography”, but to me that is an obvious kneejerk reaction which adds nothing to the discussion. Because until or unless the legal status of trans people who aren’t eligible for recognition under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act is clarified, then cases like this will surely happen again.


Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

July 13, 2010

That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood
She’s got the hottest trike in town
That girl she holds her head up so high
I think I wanna be her best friend, yeah

Rebel girl, Rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, Rebel girl
I think I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes oh

When she talks, I hear the revolutions
In her hips, there’s revolutions
When she walks, the revolution’s coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution

Rebel girl, Rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, Rebel girl
I know I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes oh

That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood
I got news for you, she is!
They say she’s a dyke, but I know
She is my best friend, yeah

Rebel girl, Rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, Rebel girl
I know I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes

Love you like a sister always
Soul sister, Rebel girl
Come and be my best friend
Will you Rebel girl?
I really like you
I really wanna be your best friend
Be my Rebel girl


Germany: Green Party’s draft proposal for a new name/gender change law

July 13, 2010

Via Justus Eisfeld, co-director of GATE – Global Action for Trans* Equality, I learn that Volker Beck of the German Green party has recently introduced a proposal for a new name/gender change law to the German Bundestag (national parliament). Please remember that this is only a proposal; it’s possible that it will not become law as the Green party is a minority party in the German parliament, and not part of the current government coalition.

However, it makes interesting reading, not least because the focus is on the identity of the person and, as Justus says:

[…] no ‘proof’ of (gender) identity from outside sources is needed. It also does away with long court procedures and waiting times, and leaves open the possibility to change ‘back’ if needed.

Links to PDF copies of the complete proposal document can be found at the foot of this blog post, but the main points are as follows:

Part 1
Changing of Forenames

Section 1 – Application for a Change of Forename

(1) The forenames of a person shall, upon their application, be changed by the authorities responsible for civil status matters under Land law if

1. the said person declares that the forenames hitherto borne do not conform with their perception of their gender,

2. the said person

a) is German as defined by the Basic Law,
b) is a stateless person or a displaced foreign national with their habitual abode in Germany,
c) is a person entitled to asylum or a foreign refugee with their habitual abode in Germany, or
d) a foreign national from a country which has no provisions comparable to this Act in its national law, who
     aa) has a right of unlimited residence, or
     bb) has a residence permit which may be extended, and who is permanently and legally resident in Germany.

(2) For a person without legal capacity, the application shall be submitted by the legal representative. The legal representative shall require the permission of the Guardianship Court for this purpose.

(3) The application may be rejected only if it is manifestly abusive.

Section 2 – Prohibition of Disclosure

(1) Upon the entry into force of the decision by which the applicant’s forenames are changed, the forenames borne at the time of the decision may not be researched or disclosed without the applicant’s consent unless particular reasons of public interest so require or a legitimate interest is credibly asserted.

(2) The applicant may require that the new forenames be used in official documents and registers. Other gender-specific details, in particular the form of address, gender-specific job or professional titles, and references to kinship shall be adapted to the gender which corresponds to the changed forename if this does not affect the informational value and accuracy of the document content.

(3) For contracts under civil law, paragraph 2 shall apply mutatis mutandis.

(4) Official documents and certificates from previous employment relationships issued prior to the entry into force of the decision adopted pursuant to Section 1 shall be re-issued with the new forenames.

(5) An administrative offence shall be deemed to have been committed by anyone who persistently and purposely disregards the prohibitions and obligations set forth in paragraphs 1 to 4. The administrative offence may be punished with a fine of up to five hundred euros.

Part 2
Determination of Gender Identity

Section 3 – Application for the Determination of Gender Identity

(1) A person’s gender as stated in their registration of birth shall, upon their application, be amended by the authorities responsible for civil status matters under Land law, if

1. the said person declares that the gender stated in the registration of birth does not conform with their perception of their gender,
2. the provisions of Section 1, paragraph 1, no. 2 are fulfilled.

(2) For a person without legal capacity, the application shall be submitted by the legal representative. The legal representative shall require the permission of the Guardianship Court for this purpose.

(3) The application may be rejected only if it is manifestly abusive.

(4) An existing marriage or registered partnership shall remain unaffected by the amendment of the civil status. Upon the application of both spouses/registered partners, an existing marriage may be converted into a registered partnership or vice versa.

Section 4 – Effects of the Decision

(1) Upon the entry into force of the decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender, their gender-dependent rights and obligations shall conform to the new gender unless the law states otherwise.

(2) Section 2 shall apply mutatis mutandis. The prohibition of disclosure shall extend to the details concerning gender identity contained in the documents to be amended and to combinations of letters or numerals that are derived from gender; such details and combinations of letters or numerals shall also be amended.

Section 5 – Parent-Child Relationships

The decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender shall not affect the legal relationship between the applicant and their parents or the relationship between the applicant and their children. The same shall apply in relation to the descendants of these children.

Section 6 – Pensions and Comparable Recurrent Benefits

(1) Upon its entry into force, the decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender shall not affect existing entitlement to pensions and comparable recurrent benefits. Benefits which derive directly from the same legal relationship, to the extent that gender is relevant, shall continue to be assessed on the basis on which the said benefits were provided at the time the decision entered into force.

(2) The decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender shall not give rise to claims to benefits from the insurance or pensions of a former spouse.

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PDF copies of the proposal document in either the original German language version, or as translated into English by the parliamentary translation service of the German Bundestag, may be downloaded directly from these links:

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Justus adds that the document may be freely used in any and all lobbying activities around name/gender marker changes.

Comments that I’ve seen so far in discussions about the draft proposal include:

  1. The phrase “The application may be rejected only if it is manifestly abusive” could be used as a way to prevent what might be perceived as ‘too many’ applications to move back and forth between names/genders. It has been suggested that there should be some sort of formal record (perhaps an affidavit) to deter anyone who wishes to change their legal sex either to take advantage of, or make a mockery of, the proposed system.
  2. Although there is no explicit mention of intersex people, the definition of trans people given on advocacy sites such as TGEU does include intersex:

    Trans people (as used above) includes those people who have a gender identity which is
    different to the gender assigned at birth and those people who wish to portray their gender identity in a different way to the gender assigned at birth. It includes those people who feel they have to, or prefer or choose to, whether by clothing, accessories, cosmetics or body modification, present themselves differently to the expectations of the gender role assigned to them at birth. This includes, among many others, transsexual and transgender people, transvestites, cross dressers, no gender, multigender, genderqueer people, including intersex and gender variant people who relate to or identify as any of the above.

    I’m well aware that some intersex people do not consider intersex to be a gender identity – intersex is intersex is a maxim which I’m familiar with – but given that this definition includes intersex people, I hope that it would also apply to the proposal above.


European Parliament briefing note on transgender rights

July 9, 2010

European Parliament logoThe European Parliament has released an internal note on transgender people’s rights in the European Union.

The document is freely accessible on the website of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights – here’s the direct link to the PDF – and here’s the direct link to a copy of the PDF held locally on this blog in case the external link should become unavailable.

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Curtsey to Bruno of the LGBT Intergroup for the heads-up


7/7: Five years on

July 7, 2010

Today, 7th July 2010, is the fifth anniversary of the London bombings. This year, as before, I hope to spend the day quietly, just getting on with everyday life. I think of the 52 who were denied the chance to do that, and of the hundreds more who survived and for whom the phrase ‘everyday life’ surely has a different meaning. And I think of the unknown numbers of us who have been affected in countless ways since that day, the day when everything changed.

Here is an excerpt from my journal of 7th July 2008:

7/7 memorial in Hyde Park

7 July 2008

Three years ago today at about 10 minutes to eight, I got off the Piccadilly line Tube at Russell Square and went into work as usual. An hour later, four terrorists detonated their bombs, murdering 52 people, injuring hundreds and turning upside down the lives of thousands of relatives and friends.

I was lucky; I wasn’t directly affected at all.

It was my second near miss with a terrorist atrocity: in 1996, on the day before it was detonated, I walked past the Manchester bomb on my way home from work. I could have reached out and touched the bonnet of the van containing the 3,300lb bomb.

I was lucky; I wasn’t directly affected at all.

The London bombings made me aware of the randomness of that sort of violence. The population of London was around 7 million – and almost any one of us could have been victims of the murderers. And I began to wonder how it would feel to reach the end of your life, only to realise that you’d completely wasted it; that there was nothing you could look back on with a sense of achievement, of happiness, of peace.

Over the course of the following year, that sense of a wasted life returned to me time and again, and always I would refuse to face up to the fact that I was denying my true identity, my sense of being gendered female. And each time I pushed those feelings down inside me was another act of self-harm. Until, eventually, I couldn’t take it any more.

And one sunny afternoon in August 2006, I found myself in the headspace where I knew I needed outside help to begin to heal the damage I had done to myself – and was ready to ask for that help. But I had to find that place by myself, and I wouldn’t have started that process without the events of July 2005.

Good things can come from bad. And even though they may not be the things we expected, we should cherish them and be happy for them, because life is too fragile, too precious and too short to waste.

We must live the lives that are ours.

Starting today.


IAAF: Woman athlete is a woman

July 6, 2010

At last, eleven months later, it seems that the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) has finally roused itself from its lethargy and clarified what it believes the status of Caster Semenya to be:

Caster Semenya may compete

Monte-Carlo – The process initiated in 2009 in the case of Caster Semenya (RSA) has now been completed.

The IAAF accepts the conclusion of a panel of medical experts that she can compete with immediate effect.

Please note that the medical details of the case remain confidential and the IAAF will make no further comment on the matter. [Via IAAF]

And that’s all the IAAF has to say about it? No apology to Ms Semenya for its discriminatory and sexist behaviour; its flagrant breaches of her human rights; its disturbing attempts to set itself up as arbiter and enforcer of a socially constructed gender binary?

The IAAF should be ashamed of themselves; their (in)actions diminish and demean all of us, and are entirely unforgivable when we consider the huge personal cost to Caster Semenya, whose grace and dignity is an example from which the IAAF would do well to learn.

As for the mass media’s rabid prurience, its global invasion of her privacy, its sexist assumptions, its wholesale mistreatment of Ms Semenya merely to sell a few more newspapers – all of these actions deserve nothing but the deepest contempt.

Let’s hope that the equally out-of-touch International Olympic Committee (IOC) now drops its own alarmingly befuddled plans to “advise” intersex athletes to have surgery before they’ll be allowed to compete. [Via]

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Previous, related posts:


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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Previous related posts: