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Archive for July, 2009

Prisons

I have been meaning to start a mail correspondence with a queer inmate for awhile now.  Yesterday, I looked at blackandpink.com and found a persyn.  When I sat down to write the letter today, I wanted to check the mail regulations for prisons in Texas so I wouldn’t send anything that would get rejected and mailed back.  I did not know that you cannot send any publications to prisoners in Texas that “would be detrimental to the offender’s rehabilitation because it would encourage  homosexual or deviant criminal sexual behavior.”

While much of the LGBT community seems so wrapped up  in the racist, classist, sexist, elitist, transphobic “fight” for marriage equality (a term that does not make any sense to me), queer prisoners cannot even read any books, magazines, comics, or zines that are queer.  The movement for marriage by rich, white gays and lesbians seems to have forgotten all about police brutality, street violence, and gender policing that forces extremely high numbers of poor queers, especially transpeople of color, into prisons and jails, violently abusing them along the way.

I also wanted to state that the rule did not really surprise me at all.  If the State cannot stop queerz on the outside of prison walls, they will do anything and everything they can to ensure that prisoners who leave uphold Eurocentric, middle class, capitalist heteronormativity.  

We do not need prison reform.  We need prison abolition!

You can look over the document here .

*Also, I wanted to note that in the rules about sexual assault process, there is a warning that says (their emphasis):

Engaging in HOMOSEXUAL conduct in prison significantly increases your risk of HIV infection, along with exposing you to other sexually transmitted diseases.

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I am a guy who menstruates.

I recently came across some advertising that disgusted me beyond belief, not difficult I know.  Tampax really takes it to another level with this one.  Apparently, one of their marketing people decided that to get people to buy Tampax they should create a fake persyn, give him a blog and a twitter account, and have him promote Tampax.  Yes, they created a 16 year old guy named Zack Johnson who wakes up one morning to find himself with a vagina and soon starts menstrating.

You can find the website here.

Zack’s Profile describes him: “Basically, Zack is a normal 16-year old guy. Except for the fact that one morning he woke up a little bit more like a girl.”  First, this whole idea that one day Zack woke up and suddenly had a vagina makes the story so fantastic and unreal that it urges the reader to believe that men can’t have vaginas, that your gender is determined by an arbitrary body part, and that men who don’t have a penis and women who don’t have a vagina are abnormal.  It goes on to say that this problem is “a question best answered by modern scientists.”  The same scientists that label me as having a disorder.  The same scientists that assigned me female.  The same scientists that rely heavily on Fruedian philosophies to create an idea that all transmen have a “phantom penis.”  (Yes, transmen are “normal” men.  Somehow in the womb they simply oops, lost their penis and now operate in the world feeling a penis that is no longer there.  Anyone who has fantasized about having a penis during sex could be diagnosed with this disorder.  Sadly, such ideas may help transmen in the future get bottom surgery if this is included in the DSM.)  Also, his experience of waking up with a vagina completely disregards and disrespects and misrepresents the struggle that many transwomen endure to get bottom surgery.  He is a wealthy white male who has a lot of privileges and mobility.  Trannies, especially those of color and who are boxed into the lower income category, do not have this mobility and for a straight, white guy to wake up with the “wrong” or “other” body part to sell a product is sick and transphobic.

This is some bullshit.

There is so much on the site that makes me want to scream in rage at the normalness of this ad campaign.  Of course a company would use an advertising technique to profit.  This is really no surprise.

I feel like I cannot do a complete job of critiquing this site.  Below are some excerpts that I thought were worth noting.  The whole blog and ad campaign is transphobic, sexist, racist, classist, elitist and makes me wonder how effective a 16 year old guy is at promoting teenage women to buy Tampax brand products.  Is this helping to sell tampons?!?  

“Still in possession of girl parts “down under.”…During lunch, Bryan and the guys were being gross. It was like watching Vikings eat with their feet at an all-you-can eat country buffet. Open mouths, talking and chewing at high volume, food flying everywhere.”  Suddenly, Zack not only wakes up with a vagina, he also lacks an ability to relate to his guy friends.  Apparently, women are perfect examples of Eurocentric table etiquette and are disgusted by the immaturity of teenage guys.  This reinstates this notion that women and men can’t relate, that the binary is a natural division between two completely opposite types of people and that everyone should fall on one side or the other.

“Went into a stall, pee everywhere. Yuck. Did my best and hovered like a girl.”  What?!?  I don’t even know what to say about this.  I sit down to pee like a guy.  This is so ridiculous.  And, if a period makes a woman a woman like Zack so frequently claims, why does he always refer to actions and experiences he labels female for girls.  He never talks about boy things; he talks about man things.  Yet, it seems he uses the word girl much more frequently than woman.  This sexist use of language creates a dynamic where a man is talking about girl things, and with often an attitude that Zack is doing it better than women with his completely open and honest posts and his ability to call out guys for their lack of knowledge on the subject.  (Although, before he woke up with a vagina Zack knew nothing about menstruation either.  Does it take going through menstruation to care to know?)  I think he is intended to appear as the perfect, understanding gentleman in a position to help women.  People who menstruate don’t need some white, upper middle class guy informing ignorant guys on everyone’s behalf.  We have the ability to do that ourselves.

“My sister Chrissie and I have a love-hate-mostly hate relationship. But since I changed down there we’ve been kind of bonding. I bet if I told her my secret she’d be totally supportive.”  Zack loses his ability to relate to his guy friends and suddenly finds himself bonding with his sister.  Again, distinct and rigid lines are drawn between the two sexes as inarguably natural.  People with vaginas relate to people with vaginas.  People with penises relate to people with penises.  How could a someone with a vagina (who are labeled as soft, emotional, calm, mature, and understanding) relate to someone with a penis (who are labeled as loud, rambunctious, immature, careless, and inconsiderate)?  I wonder what the people at Tampax think of trans folk?  

“I believe that being a perfectly normal 16-year-old guy with a perfectly normal vagina qualifies as ‘unique experience.'”  Zack soon believes that this experience will allow him into top colleges.  It seems like a wonderful benefit of his situation.  Being a guy with a front hole has never helped me financially, socially, or educationally.  People who have their gender identity denied because either their bodies or representation does not fit into either box option are not getting economic benefits.  They don’t receive anything for going through a world that continuously denies them their identity and violently attacks them whether they are passed as their gender identity or not.  This completely ignores the experience of gender variant folks, whether trans, queer and or intersex.  Zack is not identifying as any of those identities and no experiences can be compared, however Zack seems to think he is the only persyn who travels through the world with a body that is different from what he is told makes him the gender he identifies with.  He seems to believe that although he is annoyed by this experience, he can gain something when his secret is discovered.  

“Some people tweeted me that I should make a TV show or movie out of my predicament. Or an after-school special where we all learn a lesson of tolerance and acceptance, but in the end, I still get my junk back.”  Again, Zack thinks he can gain something from this.  This statement also reinforces that men must have a penis.  That is the only way this story could end.  Men are not allowed to be men if they don’t have this body part and Zack states this very plain and simple.  We can learn about what it means to be intersex or trans, but in the end those individuals will have to be “fixed” to fit either/or and that is the ONLY WAY.  It’s so disgusting.  Where is the talk about the expense?  How hard it is to get surgeries?  What documentation and process does a persyn have to go through?  What do those without documents or identification do?  Are they any options?  Zack’s situation urges the reader to assume that everyone has the ability to make a decision to modify their body however they please.  It’s oversimplified and totally ignores how complicated and impossible the medical system makes it for trans and intersex people.

“Took Chelsea Carr to prom last weekend. She looked great. Too bad I’m completely unequipped to be her boyfriend. Not sure why I even asked her. I guess I just want to keep things as normal as possible.”  WHAT!!!!?!  I can’t even write anything about this statement.

“Well, my period is over and things are getting back to normal. Of course, I still have girl parts down there, so in my case “normal” is still pretty freaking weird.”  Again, I don’t even know what to say.  This is so sick.

“Guys having a period would remove any of the shame associated with the process.”  According to Zack only women get a period and, well, him.  Women are obviously incapable of removing the shame of getting a period so a man like Zack must come in and save the day.  And, he goes beyond that to say that if all guys got a period a few times that then all the men could come together and “fix” this problem.  They could go and “fix” the horrible conditions in other countries in Asia and Africa.  They could make getting your period something to celebrate.  That is some colonialist bullshit.  Zack seems to think that when shame is removed from the period in the United States of America, then indigenous and third world countries can adapt these models developed by wealthy, white men.

“Guys would understand that yes, getting your period sucks. But it’s what makes a woman a woman.”  Does a period make a woman a woman?  What about women who don’t get their period?  Is it about bleeding every month or the ability to conceive children?  Does it matter?  This essentialism is clearly transphobic and excludes people who identify as female that are unable to get their period.

There is more, much more, to be said about this blog site, about this fictional character developed for an ad campaign, about the mixed messages that people get about menstruating.  At times, it makes you irritable, not fresh, and is extremely painful.  At other times, all of these negative associations need to be removed by men.  I know my thoughts on this site are lacking and no where near complete.  They definitely lack a comprehensive understanding of the simultaneity of oppressions.  These were my initial reactions.

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The queerz in the 612 can’t stop! 

 On Saturday, July 18th a group of queerz invaded the Mall of America for Queers Make Out! Volume One.  Starting at the Franklin Station light rail stop, they danced, sang, and made out consensually.  As they gathered at the stop, they gathered attention from other passengers. Dancing to the beat until the train came, the energy was high and the grooves were bumping.

 As they got on the train, several passengers commented positively on their dance moves.  One persyn was laughing and talking with the group.  Young children were grooving in their seats.  As the beats got hot, the queerz began making out.  Smiles faded as passengers on the train realized they were being invaded.  This was not a group of queers wanting to create a safe space.  It was not queers wanting to be able to be affectionate with their partners in public or assimilating into a heteronormative lifestyle of consumption and expensive entertainment.

 It was a queer invasion to state that we are queer and we are going to continue to invade spaces and terrorize systems of domination until they explode into nothing in a fury of liberation.  Averting one’s eyes will only make dance moves sweatier.  Looking disgusting only makes a make out session hotter. 

 The fabulous times did not end on the train.  Those queers moved their make out party right into the mall, boombox playing all the way.  Since the rotunda was being used to create the world’s largest cupcake, the queers headed to the Chapel of Love, a place to get married at the mall. 

 Sick.

 There was a wedding party was socializing in front of the chapel!  Feeling lucky, the group made a huge circle taking up the entire walkway and began a game of spin the bottle.  It got hot quick as some unknowing shoppers stopped and watched while others looked scared and tried to move through the area as fast as possible.  After a while, a security guard showed up with back up.

 Apparently making out is not appropriate for families.

The guards were pissed and tried to appear as intimidating as they could.  They wanted to know who this group was and why they went to the Mall of America if they weren’t going to shop.  The group danced their way out of the mall, laughing and having a good time.  The guards were getting frustrated that nobody would answer their questions and warned there would be cops waiting at the next train stop.  There were no cops.  Just plans for the next invasion.

 Keep updated for Volume 2.

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Time to Fundraise

Reposted from bashbacknews.wordpress.com

by an alleyway tranarchist

(This was originally written for the queer issue of Maximum Rock N Roll and is intended for an audience that hasn’t heard of BB! before…)

In the fall of 2008, the Lansing, Michigan chapter of national queer and trans anarchist group Bash Back! descended upon anti-queer mega church Mount Hope in two strategically placed groups of disruptionists. The first of these groups diverted the attention of security, pink and black blocked up and waving sings which read such things as “Dykes of the Damned” and “Satanic Trannys 666″. Inside, others waited patiently in their best Sunday drag until at once they rose, interrupting the service with cries of “Jesus was a homo!”, a banner drop from the balcony that said “It’s Okay to Be Gay! Bash Back!”, queer kiss ins, over a thousand strewn fliers with queer positive content aimed to console potentially queer youth of the church, and pulled fire alarms. Afterwards, a communique was written proclaiming “So long as bigots kill us in the streets this pack of wolves will continue to BASH BACK!”

Cross country chapters and cells of Bash Back! have since emerged at a rapid and steady pace. Several churches have been attacked, spray painted and glued shut, transphobes have been beat down, the officer responsible for the brutal beating of trans womyn Duanna Johnson who was shot and killed in the process of suing the Memphis Police Department has been sent caskets and death threats, corporate pride events have been stormed, a queer and trans squat has been opened in response to the disproportionate rate of queer and trans homelessness, dance parties have spilled out of convergences transforming the trains of Chicago into queer fucking, crowd surfing and graffiti writing modes of public transportation, which then spilled into the streets along with a couple trashcans and newsstands leading to four arrests and several unarrests. And to top it off they state that they “know you call us terrorists because our very existence terrorizes you. This makes us proud but you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Yet as the queerest hours of the night are lit by the fuchsia flames of insurrection and liberation, and as the candle lit vigils of the soon to be past erupt into wild infernos which reach urgently into the sky, we must not forget that there are also sirens wailing in the not so distant background.

Bash Back! has received the attention of endless right wing wingnuts, the Ku Klux Klan, disapproving assimilationist gays, the FBI, Bill O Reily and the Alliance Defense Fund, who are a right wing rights group that is currently in the process of suing over 20 subpeonaed, alleged Bash Back! members in connection to the action at Mount Hope Church. Bash Back!’s response? “Bash Back! and radical transfolk/queers cannot and will not be intimidated. Some of us face life and death on a daily basis. This lawsuit ain’t shit.”

Even so, with resistance comes repression. And while there is such an overwhelming, immediate need to bring the entire atrocity known as the prison industrial complex to it’s heartless fucking knees, their is also an urgency in keeping gender variant populations free and out of the transphobic, gender binary segregated cages of the state. So let’s get fucking organized! Solidarity means attack. It also means fundraise! Legal expenses are unreal, but networks of support and creativity can warm hearts and give queers in kourt a fighting chance. Organize a benefit show! Play one! Distro! Have a bake sale! A secret cafe! Donate online by searching Bash Back Legal Defense Fund at fundable.com.

Let us join the wolf pack, have each other’s backs. Sing our howling warcries to the moon, and continue to make clear that queer and trans oppression is part of a system of oppression, and that no part of that system will be spared the fierceness of our fury!

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Gay Bar Raid 2009

QUEER BOMB!

On Friday, July 10th, radiqueerz and transfolk responded to the Gay Bar Raid that happened in Fort Worth, TX on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall.  Queering up cowboy, they grabbed their sequin cowboy hats and glittery western shirts as they took it to the streets of Dinkytown in Minneapolis.  They visited a few local bars where the drunken dude bros had no idea what was about to come.  Dancing, laughing, and getting sweaty, the queerz gathered attention of the patrons and security of the bars.  Their moves were so good several dude bros took out their cell phones and recorded the queer cowfolk.  Everyone else’s mouths hung open in shock at their fabulousness.  Just as the security was about to approach, the group split up, throwing flyers on their way out the door.

The flyers read: You have been queer bombed!  

On the backside, they read: On the night of June 27th 2009, police raided a gay bar in Forth Worth, Texas.  Patrons were harassed, beaten, and arrested for drinking INSIDE the bar.  One man is still in the hospital suffering brain injuries.  Police have changed their story and are now claiming the man sexually assaulted the officer who beat him.  THIS HAPPENED ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE STONEWALL RIOTS.  The Stonewall Riots were a response to police brutality during a bar raid by the NYPD.  Queers, mostly Queens of color, resisted by grabbing rocks and bottles and taking it to the streets.  Police will continue to brutalize people and target people of color, queers, trans folk, and lower income communities.  We have not forgotten the Stonewall Riots.  We will continue to respond.  RESIST POLICE BRUTALITY!

No heteronormative, racist, elitist, sexist, transphobic, capitalist space is safe.  Radical queers, trannies, and insurrectionists will continue to disrupt and invade those spaces.  

OUR BODIES ARE OUR WEAPON.  What space will you queer bomb?

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They Know

I could watch this every morning.

Also, here is a link to a copy of “The Coming Insurrection” in English.

http://tarnac9.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/thecominsur_booklet.pdf

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I started reading Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein this week.  It is the first book I’ve read by her and had been recommended to me by many folks.  It’s okay.  She does an amazing job to ask challenging questions to those who have never considered what it means to be a woman or a man and to introduce a trans experience.  I have yet to finish it.  There are a few challenges I wish to make.  It is possible that she has responded to similar criticism and answered some of the questions I have already.

Criticism #1:  Male behavior is male privilege?

Bornstein writes, “It took my becoming a woman to discover my ‘male behavior’–that is, exhibiting male privilege.  When I was first coming out, I used to hang out mostly with women.  Any act of mine that was learned male behavior stuck out like a sore thumb.  Things like leaping up and taking charge, even when it wasn’t called for; things like using a conversation like a sledge hammer; things like assuming that everyone owed me special consideration for my journey through a gender change–I still shudder at my arrogance.  Some might say none of that’s male.  Well, I learned it when I was a guy, and I was the only one exhibiting that behavior when I was in the company of women, so if it’s not exclusively male, it’s real close…I noticed I didn’t have much remaining male privilege by the slow dawning of peacefulness in my life.  That may sound flaky, but the fact is I’m nowhere near as territorial and possessive as I used to be.  I’m not as frantic to get or hold on to something as I once was.  I still want things.  I still go after things.  But I use force infrequently now.  For me, that’s a perk of having gotten rid of male privilege” (p. 110).

One saying that I recently learned is, “Save masculinity from the patriarchy.”  Often times, masculinity (or male behavior) is labeled immediately and absolutely as negative.  Misogyny and the patriarchy have hijacked any and all traits that have been traditionally labeled masculine, thus much feminist rhetoric speaks out against this behavior has always already oppressive.  Traits like taking charge, physical activity, and confrontation are said to be taught to boys.  Like other social constructions, I agree that some behaviors are learned to be acceptable for some people and not acceptable for others.  I agree that masculinity has been labeled as violent, forceful, and oppressive.  What type of masculinity?  Which boys are taught to take charge?  Which boys are taught they have the power, skills, and ability to lead?

Primarily middle and upper class white boys.

The construction of masculinity that Bornstein refers to, the male behavior she was taught to display growing up, is complicated within her race and class privilege.  Bornstein does not deny her background or privilege; yet, when she discusses freeing herself from force, her reflection upon this experience lacks a critique of race and class.  Although I do not believe there is one experience for a whole group of people, some sort of shared experience for all middle class white boys, I do believe that in order to uphold systems of oppression the wealthy white male must stay at the top.  What do we try to teach them?  The skills, language, and behavior to make and or maintain that climb to the top.

Still, some of the behaviors that Bornstein labels as male behavior, therefore male privilege, I cannot see as either.  I think that often those behaviors, like possessiveness, are labeled misogynistic but they are not exclusively male.  I know plenty of people, of all gender identities, that struggle with being possessive.  Capitalism requires possessiveness in everyone.  If we did not want to keep what we have, other forms of consumption might be seen as more effective.

Although I have not had Bornstein’s experience, I can understand how freeing it feels to liberate oneself from behaviors that were forced upon someone due to the gender they were assigned.  Being passed as a gender that one is representing takes a lot of work, and one effective way to be passed upon is to rid oneself of behaviors that are traditionally attributed to the other end of the oppressive binary created to regulate representation and one’s agency to define one’s own identity.  It might not be that these behaviors are acts of male privilege as much as the lack of these behaviors allow Bornstein more movement in society passed as female.

I also do not believe that force is always already negative or an act of male privilege.  This seems like empty rhetoric deployed by pacifists to ensure that nonviolence remains the only acceptable form of activism.  I do not wish to argue some sort of moral code that labels force as either good, bad, or only good if used in very specific situations.  Force can be a tactic used by any body to resist oppression.  Force can be used to survive.  

This leads me to my second critique of the book.

Criticism #2: Revolution is problematic?

“It would be important that any role that the transgendered wind up claiming is not a role that would by its very existence forward the culture that oppresses the transgendered and related border-walkers…Any position which operates non-consensually (violently) forwards a culture that oppresses the transgendered…Over the past decade, transgendered people have increasingly been speaking in their own voice.  It’s the beginnings of a revolution.  The problem with revolution, of course, is violence.  It would be neat to take part in a non-violent revolution of inclusion, whereby the revolutionaries simply have a good laugh, and welcome anyone else to dinner” (pp. 131-2, my emphasis).

First, I must say that not everyone uses their voice to liberate themselves.  It is an Eurocentric and ableist assumption that voices are necessary for liberation.

Systems of domination and those who actively seek to uphold them do not want a revolution.  Acts of liberation disrupt the lives of those whose position is to uphold systems of oppression.  I cannot argue with that.  Yet, these acts are not exclusively violent.  A peaceful sit-in and protesters that cause property destruction are disrupting the lives of the people they aim to protest against.  Both of these acts are non-consensual.  Both of these acts are not labeled violent, however.  Systems of domination are not going to dismantle themselves while we sit around a table, laughing.  We can invite those who hold traditional understandings of power over for dinner all we want.  I do not believe, I cannot believe that that act will dismantle capitalism or free people of color from the prison industrial complex or offer new understandings of the non profit industrial complex to liberal white do-gooders.

To add to her arguement, Bornstein states that violent acts are always already non-consensual, thus leaving the reader to wrongly assume that nonviolent acts are consensual, as well as those who engage in such behavior (revolutionary activism) are taking on a “role that would by its very existence forward the culture that oppresses the transgendered.”  Her understanding of revolution, and what she claims to be the only acceptable way to liberation, is extremely limiting and frustrating.

Bornstein challenges that violent acts are oppressive to trans folks without explanation.  

And, Bornstein also does not define what is violent.  What is violence?  Property destruction?  Bashing back?  Anything requiring force?  Any non-consensual act against the systems and powers that oppress, regulate, and violate the lives of trans folk and queerz?  This would include actions labeled as peaceful protest often used in the struggle for liberation.

These critiques are important to me as I struggle against adopting misogynistic behaviors in order to be passed as male and as a transgender radiqueer dedicated to respecting a diversity of tactics and saving masculinity from the patriarchy.  Liberation will not happen simply by wishing it were so.  A revolution will not occur simply by inviting everyone to a dinner party.  These systems are complex, entangled within one another, and have a lot invested in them to uphold them.  

I challenge anyone to explain to me how a revolution can come exclusively by actions labeled as nonviolent and consensual.

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