Transgender Day of Remembrance Speech

Hello everyone,

This is the speech that I gave at my local Transgender Day of Remembrance event. This year another 226 names have been added to the list of people killed for their gender identity or gender expression. Although it was left unmentioned in my speech, it is critically important for us all to acknowledge that most of this violence happens at the intersections of race, poverty, homophobia, and transphobia. This is not a time to ignore these intersection, but a time to highlight, question them, and challenge society to change them

[Image] A solitary burning candle on a black background

Before I do anything else, I would like to acknowledge that tonight we are gathered on Treaty 6 land, which, before people who looked a lot like me came and violently removed the peoples from this area, has had a long history of understanding and accepting gender and sexuality diversity including two-spirit identities, which I hope we will hear more about tonight.

I would also like to take a moment to thank all of those who helped to plan, organize, and run this event, as well as Miki for being such a gracious hostess tonight. Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank you all for coming out tonight. I realize that events like Transgender Day of Remembrance can be depressing and anxiety-provoking for even the most optimistic of people. But, by being here tonight you all are making a statement. You are showing that you care about what happens to those in the Transgender communities, and you show that you won’t stand passively by as yet more people are attacked, abused, and killed for their gender identity or gender expression. Your presence here tonight shows that the people on this year’s list have not been forgotten, erased, or destroyed. So thank you. For all of those who can’t say it anymore, thank you.

But without further delay, onward to the reason that I am here tonight.

Tonight we have gathered to acknowledge the most heinous of violence against the transgender people and communities; we have gathered to honour those who have been taken by this violence; and we are here to challenge society to do better for us and our transgender peers. As it always is, the list of the dead is far longer than it ever should be. However, being confronted with this list, of people who have been killed, sometimes in the most gruesome and grotesque ways imaginable, can make us forget about all the other, less deadly ways, those in the transgender communities face violence, oppression, and discrimination.

Transgender people, including some of us in this room tonight, have experienced employment discrimination where we were removed from positions, or simply never hired in the first place, because of our gender identity and/or expression. Recently, a survey of 433 transgender people living Ontario found that 18% reported they had been turned down for a job because of their gender while 32% reported being unsure whether their gender influenced the hiring manager’s decision. Further, 13% reported that they had been fired or otherwise dismissed for being transgender.

On average, the transgender people who took part in this survey reported having an education higher than that of the general population, but yet experienced joblessness at a rate nearly 4 times the provincial average. With that, is it any surprise that so many transgender people feel forced to do sex work to survive?

Transgender people also face housing discrimination. In another recent survey, 19% reported being denied the ability to rent an apartment due to their transgender status and 11% report being evicted for being transgender. This same study estimated that transgender people experience homelessness at rates at least double that of the general population, and for transgender youth it is even worse. For these youth, who too often have to face being kicked out of their house by unaccepting family members and guardians, the homelessness rate is nearly 10x that of the general population.

However, housing discrimination doesn’t even end there. In 2008, Jennifer Gale, a transgender woman died in Austin, Texas after being denied access to an emergency shelter. Her death was attributed to the colder than normal temperatures she had to bare as she slept on the street outside the Salvation Army. Jennifer was third such death in 2008 alone.

But that isn’t all. Transgender people also report being sexually assaulted at rates far higher than their non-transgender peers. In one study, it was found that 54% of transgender people had been sexually assaulted at least once, while others suggest a more realistic estimate is between 45-51%. This is at least double the rates that are considered ‘an epidemic’ by sources such as the Globe and Mail, Mother Jones, and The New York Times.

With all of this bad news, it should come as no surprise that transgender people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, social anxiety, phobia, and other mental health problems than their non-transgender peers. As a result, transgender people attempt suicide at rates much higher than the general population. In fact, it has been estimated that between 34% and 45% of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once, and even these numbers are dwarfed by those reported by the two-spirit communities.

So, while the names on this list seem so disconnected from us, here, in this room, I ask you tonight, tomorrow, and every night after to remember the reasons we have gathered, to call for changes that would leave this list empty, and leave those of us in the transgender communities protected, locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally.

Thank you.

The Marginalization of Vegetarianism

So, today, while I was catching up with some of the comics that I read online, I noticed this little gem posted on Abstruse Goose: 

Abstruse Goose Comic 488 [Orignal Alt Text: Hey, I didn't become the awesome specimen of man that I am by eating salads.]

Transcript:

Vegetarian: I haven’t eaten red meat in 1697 days.

Vegetarian: I haven’t eaten poultry in 1588 days and …

Meat-eater: Hey, nobody cares!

Meat-eater: Why do you keep reminding us everyday that you are vegetarian? Nobody cares what you ate last night! Nobody cares that you don’t eat steak, nobody cares that you don’t eat chicken! And nobody cares that you don’t eat fish or…

Vegetarian: Fish? I haven’t eaten fish in 1027 days.

Box 1: On average, meat-eaters live five years longer than vegetarians.

*All three meat-eaters shown to be beating the vegetarian, one is punching, another is kicking, and the third is holding a baseball bat*

Box 2: Scientists baffled.

 

Did you get that? Did you see the joke there?

Well, you see, the joke is that scientists are baffled as to why “meat-eaters” live five years longer than vegetarians (which is not true, by the way), but the real reason is because vegetarians are insufferable to the point that they get physically assaulted, with deadly weapons, I might add!

HA! Get it!? *crickets chirping*

Oh, this is just a crude rehashing of a common trope? One that claims that all vegetarians come with this internalized need to tell the world that they are vegetarian at every chance they get? No, that couldn’t be it; there is nothing is society that claims that vegetarians are like that! I mean, as a vegetarian, I have never been called such a thing before I said anything further, I have never been attacked because I choose to not eat meat…

Oh, wait, yes I have..

In fact, just about every time that I have mentioned that I am vegetarian I have come up against some kind of resistance. I guess I must have been bragging then, I must have some how claimed to be morally superior to everyone else somehow. But, thinking back to the last incident, I don’t really know how. 

You see, the last time that I was attacked (less viciously than depicted above) I was in an IRC channel talking to a couple friends of mine in a busy room. One of my friends mentioned that he was about to go off to eat dinner, and he offered some to me (you know, in that IRC-esque action script). I declined the offer, mentioned that it sounds nice, but I reminded him that I don’t eat meat.

Well, that was a mistake! All the sudden three or four people that weren’t really chatting about much beforehand started commenting and asking questions. They started off innocently enough; you know, questions about when I decided to go vegetarian and why I chose to do so. But soon, the questions turned to more leading questions like “You know that completely removing meat from your diet can be dangerous, right?” and “You need more protein in your diet. How can you get enough without meat?” Then, from there it turned into a whirlwind of immature banter and trollish comments to try and piss me off. They talked about how meat is the awesome-est and how anyone who doesn’t like meat is stupid or childish or feigning environmental friendliness.

It was really quite annoying.. and, to me, this is that discussion in comic form. This is the backbone of the annoying comments and turned up faces that I need to deal with. This is the trope that makes it so that I don’t want to talk about food with people until I know they are okay with vegetarians.. 

And this is just because I choose to actually eat my greens.. I don’t get it.

International Day Against Homophobia

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) banner

Today, it was brought to my attention that tomorrow, 17-May, is the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia. Much like last year, I was very skeptical that the inclusion of Transphobia in the title would lead to anything real or substantial in the way of including the lived experiences of transgender people, and it seems that I was right to be skeptical. In searching the website, which is still at http://www.DayAgainstHomophobia.org/ despite the inclusion of transphobia in the mandate, I found very little in the way of information about transphobia or transgender people. Instead, I found that most of the time, the only inclusion of trans* experiences was when the website mentioned about sexual orientation and gender identity. Almost like it was just thrown on there to make sure that they are good with us trans* folks.

That being said, I did manage to find a section in the news section of the site to do with transphobia; However, even this section had major issues which made it completely impractical. The main issue that I had was that there were so few stories even on the page. In total, there were 4 unique stories, and some of these were over a year out of date. There was no mention of the events which happened to CeCe McDonald, there was no mention of the death of Lorena Escalera, there was no mention of the trans* movement’s success in Argentina, and there was no mention of the murders of trans women in DC.

This is a MAJOR problem, but it gets worse still.

I then went over to the section on the site which contains the press releases for the organization. Here I was shocked by what I saw, or more correctly, shocked as to what I didn’t see. On this page there were a number of different press releases; there was one about the death penalty, there was one about an event that happened in Malawi, and there was one about International Women’s Day. However, there wasn’t one about Transgender Day of Remembrance or any other trans* day or event of significance.

This, to me, was extremely distressing. This is because Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is an international day of remembrance on which, those trans* people who were killed for being trans* or gender non-conforming are remembered, and the transphobia that led to their death is highlighted and questioned. This places TDoR directly in alignment with the mandate of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and, as such, demands some acknowledgement by those in charge of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

However, I worry that things go a bit deeper than that. You see, TDoR is a day to remember murdered trans* people which was started and run by trans* people. So, to not include this important date in the trans* agenda, those who are in charge of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia are not only showing that they are out of touch with other movements with similar goals, but also that they are out of touch with the trans* communities entirely.

So, while I do not advocate a boycott of tomorrow’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, I do ask you, the reader, for just a couple of things.

The first, and most important, is for you to take a moment to think about both Transphobia and Homophobia. In doing this, I hope that you come to the realization that both of these prejudices are aberrant, and both must be challenged at every opportunity no matter the day of the year or the way that the prejudice appears.

And the second is for you to speak up and make it clear to those in charge of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia that, in order to effectively challenge these prejudices (and meet their own mandate), they must take notice other events, and work with other organizations, that have similar or overlapping mandates.

Morwen

P.S. You may have noticed that I didn’t shorten International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to the acronym which appears in the banner above. This was done deliberately because the acronym IDAHO seems to lose something important from the main title; Namely, the focus on transphobia.

Creative Commons Copyright - Sharing, with attribution, for non-commercial purposes allowed.

Adult Baby Role Play and Disability Tropes

[Image: A Portrait of Stanley Thronton in front of a open field]

Image by: Stanley Thornton

So recently, there was an episode of Taboo. A series about showing the world the way that it is, with all the gross and strange details. One of the segments focused on consensual infantilism, better known as adult baby play. This is where a grown adult decides to dress and act as if they are an infant or baby. (Most famously depicted on CSI.) Some of the people who enjoy this kink have others that they play with. Usually, a Mummy or Daddy that take care of them as if they are a baby. During the episode, the baby, Stanley Thornton, showed off the crude website that he runs and the furniture that he made for his play.

However, things turned weird after the episode was aired. Apparently, a Senator in Stanley’s home state saw the episode with him in and decided that the disability living allowance that Stanley is receiving is not warranted. Now, it seems that there is an official investigation into the health status of Stanley.

When I first read about this, I was furious, and I really still am. I thought that if I left it sit for a while that my emotions would die down and I would be able to write something that is a bit more objective. However, I really can’t wrap my head around it. I did some research, and as I thought there would be, a lot of people are spewing a lot of ableist tropes. So, I thought that the first thing that I should to is break some of these down:


Trope: “He has shown that he is able to work, thus he shouldn’t be on disability”

The senator was the first to say this; however, there have been a large number of reports stating the exact same thing. citing the fact that Stanley runs a website and makes custom furniture as proof. This is shocking to me. Not that he is able to do either of these things while being disabled, but instead that someone would think that running a website is hard. Realistically, I am running a website right now, but I don’t really think that this qualifies me as just about anything. (You know, other than a blogger.) Also, when I went to the website that Stanley designed and gave it a good looking over, I noticed that it really isn’t anything fancy. There is minor javascripting and a demonstration of the basics of HTML, but not much else. This isn’t a website of someone that should be working as a website designer or developer, at least not a high paid one.

Next, in the show there was a mention that he custom makes his own furniture. Furniture that can hold his adult body in a position like that of a baby. He is even shown drilling a few holes for the camera. However, one thing that isn’t mentioned is how long that furniture took him to make. Do you think that he would be qualified as a carpenter if it took him three years to make a single piece of furniture? What about if it was a mere six months? Do you think that if he sold his furniture that he would be able to make a wage that would allow him to live?


Trope: “He shouldn’t be on disability”

This is part of the last one, but this is attacking it from a different angle. So, what makes you, or this senator an expert on who should be on disability and who shouldn’t? I think that this is just a flexing of able-bodied privilege. This idea that the abled can threaten to remove the money that you, as a disabled person, need to live on because you did something that doesn’t fit their limited view of what disabled and disability is.


Trope:”He doesn’t look disabled”

This one should be clear, really it should. But, here I go anyway. What does a disabled person look like? And does that mean that there is a hierarchy of “disabledness” based on what you look like?

I tend to think that people who are disabled should be believed to be disabled, when they tell you they are disabled. You don’t know what they have been through, what is going inside their body or inside their mind. And you have no right to compare and judge how bad things are for them. People with narcolepsy or epilepsy, can walk and talk and do everything that another person can. But sometimes they faint, sleep, or seize. Does that mean that they shouldn’t get disability? Does that mean that they should drive (assuming that they don’t have their condition under control?) What about someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Autism?


Trope: “He shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer’s money”

There are two ways that you can take this comment, they are both really offensive and really ableist. The first is that those who have a medical or mental condition that makes it hard to work, but are able to work are a waste of money should they be receiving assistance. This is again that privilege lording. The other is that funding people with disabilities is a waste of taxpayer’s money. Let that sink in a bit. Do you think that is offensive now?


Trope: “Disabled people have it easy” or “I should apply for disability, if these are the people who get it”

Speaking as a person with a disability, would you like to trade? I would love to be able to read a book. You know without having to scan it into my computer, convert it to a new file type, pass it through a reading program and listen to it. I am sure that people with depression would love to give you their depression. I am sure that my friend, that was just diagnosed with MS, would give that away too. People with disabilities do not have it easy. We have to fight for every little right and privilege that we get, and living shouldn’t be one of those fights.

Next, in the United States (as well as in Ontario) those who are disabled do not make money. They are given an amount of money to live on. They are not allowed to have savings above a certain amount. This monthly amount varies based on severity of disability, cost of living, and a number of other things. Stanley gets about $750 each month. Let me say that again EACH MONTH. Do you think that you would be able to make that work? That is feeding yourself, putting clothes on your back, a roof over your head, paying for the internet or cable or phone, paying utilities and more. Here in Ontario, the rate is about $1000 a month. If you were living in Toronto, for that $1000 a month, you would get a one bedroom apartment (even with the rent allowance that Ontario gives out on top of that $1000), that you share with another person, ramen noodles or kraft dinner, a bus pass, and a new shirt once every three to four months. Sounds like a wonderful life doesn’t it?


Trope: “I know someone that abuses disability and gloats about it”

This one makes me whimper, every, single, time. There will never, ever, EVER, be a perfect system. There will always be people that are willing to lie and cheat and steal to get ahead of other people. On the grand scale of the entire disability system, people like that are VERY rare. In fact, I would argue that there are fewer people abusing the system than there are people that can’t get on the system, even though they “deserve it.”


Trope: “Disabled people just need to get a job” / “He is just lazy” / “We should help find these people work instead of paying them to not work”

I don’t think that I have the words to say how wrong this one is. Of those that are disabled or have problems with accessibility or ability to work, very very few of them are on disability. I, while disabled, am not on disability. Those who have severe enough conditions to be taken seriously by our doctors, our families, and our governments, are severely disabled. Disabled people have to prove to multiple doctors and the government that they aren’t lazy, that they really have a problem, and that it can’t simply be overcome by an accommodation in the workplace.


Hopefully, with this recapping of tropes around disability, you have learned to look at some of the other articles about Stanley a bit more critically. And if this wasn’t enough information about disability for you to trust the doctors and the governments that award access to the disability system, then maybe you should remember that the ENTIRE episode of that Stanley was in was a mere 45 minutes in length. The average working adult needs work 30-40 hours a week to make a wage that they can support themself on. So, we are comparing the 45 minutes (tops) that Stanley was working for the camera, to the 30-40 hours of work each week that working adults need to do. Does that offend you as a working adult? Does that offend you as a disabled person? That a senator, not a doctor, but a senator, can make the decision that you are able to work a full time job based on 45 minutes of a highly edited and staged show based on your life. That after having to prove to at least two doctors, and a government oversight board, probably being denied and appealing, and waiting more than a year, you can be told that you are a drain on the system based on a 45 minute evaluation by some body that has no expertise at all.

As a disabled person, it offends me.

Resources:

Able-bodied Privilege Checklist [PDF]
FWD: Able-bodied privilege
The Able-bodied Backpack
Stanley’s Website

International Day Against Homophobia

[Image: Two Goldfish facing each other, looking as though about to kiss. Words to the left of the fish: Same-sex Couples: A Love Story. Below that, the site name is visable: homophobiaday.org. Words to the right of the fish: May 17: International Day Against Homophobia. Participate! This day belongs to you (with you being in block letters).

Image source. Copyright Gai Écoute / Fondation Émergence 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission

Hello everyone!

So I thought that I would let you all (I know that there is only like one reader at the moment) know that 17 May, 2011 marks the 7th annual International Day Against Homophobia. While this has nothing to do with the kinky lifestyle that I lead, this has everything to do with what I stand for as a person.


Some Interesting Facts:

  • On this day in 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) made the decision to remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders.
  • Before this, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the book used by psychologists and psychiatrists in North America and other parts of the world, removed homosexuality as a mental illness in 1986.
  • The International Day Against Homophobia is officially recognized by the following governmental bodies:
    • The United Kingdom
    • The European Union
    • Mexico
    • The Netherlands
    • Costa Rica
    • France

Notably absent, though is Canada, my home and one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. ( =( )


Events:

There are a number of events planned near me. As usual, the most active area around me seems to be the heart of Downtown Toronto. However, there are events in Chatham, London (Ontario), Windsor, Barrie, Thunder Bay, and just about the entire Golden Horseshoe, in Ontario. There are also events in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Quebec (the city), as well as internationally. For events near you, ask the oracle using terms like “Anti-Homophobia Day” or “Day Against Homophobia” and your area.


A Transgender Critique:

On the official website, the full name of the day is called “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.” However, I struggled to find a single mention of Transphobia, other than in the Frequently Asked Questions section. The history of the movement, and how the movement is often described seems to make it about homophobia and prejudice towards people based on sexuality, not based on gender identity or gender expression. I feel like the addition of the word Transphobia serves to try to make the movement sound more inclusive than it actually is. I actually wonder if this addition was mostly to do with the critique that the Gay (GL and sometimes B) communities don’t actually include gender identity or expression. I think that is notable for those that are heading this movement to recognize this; however, I feel like this is only superficial. And I feel this way because of the lack of mention on the official site. I feel that if the movement genuinely wanted to address the issue of Transphobia, there would be some mention, some reference to more knowledgeable projects dealing with Transphobia, like Remembering our Dead or Transgender Europe’s Murder Monitor project.

So, until I feel that Transgender people are truthfully and earnestly included in this day, I will continue calling it the International Day Against Homophobia, as the day was originally coined.

Here’s hoping that my opinion changes next year!

This week in Transgender news

There seems to have been a lot going on this week for the Transgender community. I thought that I should let everyone know what is going on. I encourage you to pass these pieces of news on to other interested parties.

Bad news:

Saturday Night Live (SNL) mocks the Male to Female transsexual community by running a skit about EstroMaxx (an hormone replacement drug). In the skit, a parody of the drug commercials that are on TV all the time was made; however, most of the jokes and laughs came at the expense of the male actors (some with full facial hair) pretending to be Transsexual women.

Scene by scene brake down:
http://glaadblog.org/2011/02/01/its-just-a-joke/


More reading:
http://glaadblog.org/2011/01/31/demand-action-from-nbc-tell-snl-that-transgender-people-deserve-respect/
http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2011/02/snl%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cestro-maxx%E2%80%9D-skit-on-gender-transition-is-no-joke/
http://transgenderlegal.org/press_show.php?id=320

Craig Ferguson mocks Transfeminine people on his late night show. Ferguson had a sketch on his show where he introduced a male actor as his “half-sister.” The actor had visible facial hair and “accidentally” allowed the audience to see up his skirt where a male package was visible. During the sketch, Ferguson derided his “half-sister” as unattractive, a he-she, and unwanted. Ferguson also made a number of references to his “half-sister” masturbating.

More reading:
http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/18589/craig-ferguson-transmockery-and-the-reality-of-bias-in-new-report-injustice-at-every-turn
http://metroweekly.com/poliglot/2011/02/cbss-craig-ferguson-sketch-moc.html

Research news:

Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was released on February 3rd. Pieces of this report have come out over the past several month. This is, however, the full 220-page report, which is filled with some depressing statistics. (Questioning Transphobia)

The overview:

  • Respondents were four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with incomes lower than $10,000
  • Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed
  • One in four reported being fired for their gender identity or expression
  • Half said they experienced harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace
  • One in five said they experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression
  • 19% said they had been refused a home or apartment
  • 19% said they had been refused health care
  • 31% reported harassment or bullying by teachers
  • 41% reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% for the general population

The link:
http://www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_research/ntds

The Problem with Giving Hatred International Spotlight

Being a subscriber to the GLAAD blog, I heard on Thursday that the Westboro Baptist church would be appearing on a radio program to talk about the shooting that recently happened in Tuscon. This angered me. I know what the Westboro Baptist church is going to say, and whether it is insane and extreme or not, there will be people who will agree and be motivated by their hate to hurt those with Rainbow identities.

I researched a bit more about what is going to happen with this radio program and found a video, from the host of the show, describing why he made the decision to extend an invite to the Westboro Baptist church. The gist of it is that the host of the program felt bad for the families of those that have died because of the violence in Tuscon. So, when he found out that Westboro Baptist church was planning on picketing the funerals of the dead, he felt that he needed to act. So he invited them onto his show on the condition that they do not picket the funerals of those that died in the Tuscon shooting. This seems like a kind move, and when he says that he feels that the Westboro Baptist Church is neither a Church nor is it Baptist it almost lulled me into believing him.

However, there is one glaring flaw: More people will be subjected to the hatred of this group than they would have been if they had picketed. This is amplified by the fact that the show will be hosted on a show that is affiliated (or run by) FoxNews. Should we really be giving people who already delude themselves with nonsense like a Obama being a Muslim (which he isn’t) another, possibly even more right-wing and extreme view? Should we really be allowing a company that encourages people to come to peaceful protests with loaded guns to hold a fair conversation with people who advocate killing people who are gay?

I am not sure what Mike Gallagher was thinking when he offered this. Maybe this is just the story of someone who feels that they can show up the Westboro Baptist church in a public arena. Maybe he hopes that his l33t debating skills will silence Westboro Baptist, at least for a while. If this is the case, he is truly deluded. People with extreme views like those of the Westboro Baptist church will not concede defeat, even when faced with masses of evidence and years to think about it. No matter what Mike Gallagher says to the Westboro Baptist church, no matter how scientific or intelligent the points he makes are, the Westboro Baptist will come out of the interview thinking that they won. Worse yet, those that are listening to this interview, could have their personal anti-homosexual view strengthened. And if even one of these people later goes on to continue the cycle of violence and oppression of Rainbow identified people, we ended with a worse result than the pissing off of a few families and the (completely unnecessary) making a bad day even worse.

So, please, in the future, could we just ignore, or counter demonstrate against hatred rather than giving it an International stage to preach its hatred?