The Challenge

fannie-lou-hamer-activist-nobodys-free-until-everybodysOkay, my LGBTQ and sex positive friends and allies:

This is your call to action.  Maybe you’ve been burning with anger, or immobilized by fear. Maybe you just don’t want to think about political stuff at all — jeez, I know I don’t.  I’m not a policy wonk, and while business-as-usual hasn’t worked out that well for me as a disabled person, I’ve survived.

But the battleground is set, and it’s on the edge of a volcano. We hear the ground rumbling underneath us.  It’s more heated right now than I can remember anytime in my life — and I’m in my fifth decade. The fight for human rights feels more urgent to me now than anything since Stonewall, since the fight against AIDS in the 1980s & 1990s, since the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, since the rallying cry around the death of Matthew Shepard or any of the myriads who’ve died for the crime of being different.

In the last five years we’ve seen the LGBTQ  community gain some amazing strides: the legalization of marriage nation-wide, the Obama administration interpretation of anti-discrimination law, some strong moves forward and statements by cities, states and school districts in support of their LBGTQ population.

We have met these changes with triumph and with regret that they are still so little and long overdue.  To us, it is obvious that all human beings must have the equal rights to access to love, security, housing, education, and jobs.

For the most vocal of the Trump supporters, no.  The election results were not a surprise to me, nor to many of my friends who’ve lived in rural America.  Anyone who is poor could probably see this coming. We know what shadows lie in the system of business-as-usual, and what has to be sacrificed to keep our awareness down, to keep from being ground under its wheels.

Throughout this election year and especially after the election results, it has become more obvious to us that people are tribal. We’ve noticed that many people’s definition of tribe can’t encompass an entire country, and maybe ours can’t either. But those of us who have been in this fight, whether for years or decades, need to redouble our efforts to put the good for the whole country over the good for just the people we like.

And how do we do that?

We need to challenge the idea that any life can be disposable. We need to broaden our perspective.  We have to struggle even harder for our own rights while simultaneously insuring that the rights of other people aren’t sacrificed for our security and peace of mind. Not in this country, and not on this planet.

We need to stay informed. And we need to get our information from good sources. Read many sources not just a few.  Cruise the news. Try checking out The Guardian or another foreign paper to get news on US politics.  Don’t rely on the same sources every day. And definitely get on the mailing lists for your own representatives to stay apprised of what they are working to do.

We need to stop vilifying people.  We can despise actions without despising the humanity of the people who perpetuate them.  We aim for understanding of those who are our worst critics. Tha

We need to commit to what we can actually do.  It’s easy to get swept up in post-election fervor and it’s not hard for most people to participate in a nonviolent protest. But if I’m agoraphobic, that’s not going to be my style of activism.

What small thing can I actually do to change the world today?  Would my efforts be more useful at a local level or state level? Am I more of an online activist or a call-your-senator type?  Maybe I’m a person wh0 believes that meditation or prayer has a place in activism.  Or maybe my Vietnamese next door neighbor needs me to go with her to Social Security to make sure that communication lines stay clear because she doesn’t speak English well.

I remember why I left the peace movement in the late 1980’s — I reached a wall. I felt I’d done what I could and I didn’t have any more to give. I was angry all the time, and some part of me felt that I couldn’t be marching for peace until I had more peace with who I was. Sometimes you need to change the world and sometimes you need to let the world change you.

The Challenge

I completely understand the desire to hide away somewhere peaceful or to Netflix out for awhile — and there’s a place for that. But don’t let that be where you stay.  Make a small amount of time for political action — an hour a week, or a phone call a day. Pick an organization working for change and meet with them in your city.  Because we really can’t afford to numb out all the time. We have a clear example of where inaction leads us. Now let’s see what we can really do.

 

(Value added: LGBT rights by country or territory)

 

Seattle Bans Conversion Therapy

The Seattle City Council voted to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth on August 1st. The vote was unanimous.

Seattle is the third city to ban conversion therapy (or “reparative” therapy), joining Washington DC and Cincinnati.

Conversion therapy is an attempt to change LGBTQ youth and make them straight. It has been condemned by “every major medical and mental health organization in the United States” based on a body of evidence that the “therapy” can be affirmatively harmful to LGBTQ youth, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Author Garrard Conley , who has undergone the therapy, calls it a “death sentence”.

Seattle City Councilwoman Debora Juarez likens it to the forced assimilation of Native Americans into mainstream Eurocentric culture.

Conversion therapy is the 20th century or 21st century version of what happened to my people all in the name in assimilation. We were forcibly taken from our families, from our children. I am literally one generation removed from that practice. –Debora Juarez, member of the Blackfoot nation.

Conversion therapy (along with the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom of their chosen gender) is addressed by the Republican Platform, which states that “reparative” therapy should be available and that it should be left up to the parents of LGBTQ youth whether or not to subject them to it.

Sources:

 

News Round-up, May 27

In transgender news

On Wednesday, 11 states filed suit against the Obama Administration over its guidelines ordering schools to allow access to the bathrooms of their chosen gender for transgender students. (New York Times Mag). Plaintiffs in the suit are: Alabama, two school districts in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, a school district in Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. (CNN)

Also on Wednesday, Alisha, a 23-year-old transgender activist in Pakistan, died on the operating table after being shot 7 times and then taunted by men outside the Emergency Room at the hospital. (LA Times)

In sex positive news

Vice.com has a nice article about Pornceptual:

…Pornceptual is not a regular sex party where the primary goal is getting off with hot strangers—although that still might happen. The project has a socio-political mission that many parties of this sort lack: challenging the mainstream porn industry’s misogyny, [exploitative] treatment of its workers, and fetishistic views on race and sexuality by creating an alternative model based on inclusivity and queerness.

On Thursday Babeland employees became the first unionized sex shop employees in the US. (Autostraddle)

In the news about sex worker rights

Amnesty International published its policy on protecting sex workers from human rights violations. (Amnesty International)

The policy calls on governments to take several critical steps to protect the human rights of sex workers, including: decriminalize consensual sex work, ensure that sex workers are protected from harm, exploitation and coercion; include sex workers in the development of laws that affect their lives and safety; and end discrimination and provide access to education and employment options for all.

Feel free to send news items of interest to: mysticsavage@gmail.com

 

Why Sex Worker Rights Complement LGBT Rights

I’m pretty new to being vocally sex positive.  I’ve been polyamorous all my life, so in my personal circle, I’ve been critical of dominant relationship paradigms — for me.  I’ve been bisexual all my life, so when someone has asked, I’ve said yes, I’m bisexual.  And I’ve been submissive most of my adult life.  That actually doesn’t come up in conversation much with my friends, so while I don’t hide it, I also don’t make a big deal out of it.

But through my volunteer work with the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, and with this blog, I have become much more vocal about what I’d like to see happen beyond the personal level:  transgender people should be able to use whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate; no one should be discriminated against in employment or housing, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity (or race, age, etc.).  And this:  I believe sex work should be legal.

Why?

Because I’d like to see sex workers empowered with protections and rights.  I’d like to see the highly professional people I know who do sex work get some recognition as the hard workers they are.  I’d like the profession to be better regulated, for sex workers to be seen as separate from the current international story that human trafficking and preying on the week is what drives sex work.  I’d like the profession to be regulated, too, because that would make illegal activity around sex work more visible.  And I’d like the people who patronize sex workers to be free to do so.

I also think it’s an important human rights issue.  Currently sex workers are arrested and jailed for their motive for having sex and for whom they have sex with.  Just like at one point, gay men could be jailed, beaten, and worse for their idea of whom they found sexy.  And there is also this, from the Huffington Post:

In terms of ideology, the two movements are not so far apart. The heart of the demand for LGBT rights is the idea that all people should be granted autonomy over their lives and bodies, that anyone should be allowed to sleep with who they choose and that it only concerns the people in the relationship and not the government or bigots. The very same idea is at the core of the fight for sex workers. Why should they not be granted the same freedom? Why should they not be allowed to have sex with who they choose? — Stephanie Farnsworth

If anyone wants to be truly free on this planet, we must fight for the rights of all our people to be free.

 

 

Rabbit Hole: ACP statement, Dr. McHugh, Leelah’s Law

Symbol-des-Tages_TransGender_2006-03-29From Think Progress:  Hate Group Masquerading as Pediatricians Attacks Transgender Youth:

As trans activist Brynn Tannehill pointed out in her own debunk of ACP’s statement, it appears to have been spearheaded by Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University. He is one of the only prominent doctors in the country that rejects transgender equality, distorting and rejecting research as is necessary to do so. Conservatives regularly rely on him to prop up their anti-trans talking points and he in turn contributes columns to their publications.

From Brynn Tannehill on Huffington Post: Johns Hopkins Professor Endangers Lives of Transgender Youth:

Somewhere out there, a parent will follow his advice. Or a court, or child protective services. We already know it happens when they do. We know the results from anecdotes and years of research, and it looks like Leelah Alcorn.

This isn’t just about academic freedom. It’s about the reputation of the institution. It’s about the moral obligation to do no harm.

And if all of those things are meaningless to Johns Hopkins administration, it’s also about liability. Someday, someone who followed McHugh’s advice, with your implied blessing, is going to show up on your doorstep with a lawyer and a dead child.

From Wikipedia: Death of Leelah Alcorn:

Leelah’s Law

A Facebook group called “Justice for Leelah Alcorn” was established,[56] while a petition calling for “Leelah’s Law”, a ban on conversion therapy in the United States, was created by the Transgender Human Rights Institute to raise awareness of the psychologically harmful effects of such practices; by January 24 it had 330,009 signatures,[47][57][58][59] and was named the fastest growing change.org petition of 2014.[60] A second appeal demanding the enactment of “Leelah’s Law” was posted to the We the People section of WhiteHouse.gov on January 3, 2015 which garnered more than 100,000 signatures as of January 30.[61] In response to the petition President Barack Obama called for the banning of conversion therapy for minors.[62] Under the Twitter hashtag #RealLiveTransAdult, many transgender people posted encouraging tweets for their younger counterparts,[63] while other hashtags, such as #ProtectTransKids, and the term “Rest in Power”, also circulated on Twitter.[9][64][65][66] A change.org petition was set up calling for Leelah’s chosen name to be included on her gravestone,[29] which gained over 80,000 signatures.[39] On January 6, Adam Hoover of Marriage Equality Ohio remarked that, since the request of having Alcorn’s chosen name on her gravestone seemed “like a slim possibility”, they would be raising money for a permanent memorial arranged as a bench, tree and commemorative plaque.[39] In April 2015, President Obama responded to the petition seeking to ban conversion therapy inspired by Alcorn’s death with a pledge to advocate for such a ban.[67]

In December 2015, Cincinnati became the second U.S. city after Washington D.C. to ban the practice of conversion therapy outright; council member Chris Seelbach cited Alcorn’s suicide as an influence in the decision, stating that “She challenged us to make her death matter, and we’re doing just that.”[68]

From #BornPerfect: Facts About Conversion Therapy:

All of the nation’s leading professional medical and mental health associations have rejected conversion therapy as unnecessary, ineffective, and dangerous. These groups have cautioned that the practices do not work and have warned patients that they may be harmful. For example, the American Psychological Association “advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.

To end conversion therapy, look at #BornPerfect: Laws and Legislation By State.  If your state doesn’t have a bill that’s been introduced yet, work with state representatives and senators to get a bill authored.  Also consider working directly with your city council.  Like the movement to legalize gay marriage, the end conversion therapy may need to start locally and as a grassroots effort.

Rabbit Hole is a regular feature that starts with one article and follows the links within that article to the next, and so on.  Look for more Rabbit Hole posts in the future.

 

Case Study: Arkansas

“…we have a long way to go for actual equality and justice, not only in the law, but in the eyes of the people. For now, we’ll start with the law.”

I’m looking at transgender rights and where we are in each state with the fight to get rights for transgender people. It’s a struggle that is just starting to garner support from the public in some places– and a very hot issue right now.  Even in states where there are ample protections in place for sexual orientation, there are still no protections for gender orientation.

In my research I’m looking at three areas:  does the state have protections against discrimination by gender orientation? Does the state have protections for hate crimes against transgender people? And, what does it require to get a birth certificate name changed.  But I keep bumping into a more interesting story.

Take Arkansas. Please. (Rimshot.)

Arkansas is a perfect example as to where the controversial issue is right now for most of the country in early 2016.  Now, sexual activity between people of the same gender has been legal for — gosh! — about 11 years now, although there are still no legal protections against discrimination of gay people, let alone any protections for hate crimes.  So you know that transgender rights and protections aren’t going to be an easy sell.  I mean, it’s the South, right?

But along comes the Fayetteville City Council with their highfalutin espresso drinks and liberal ways.  In 2014, they passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.  That’s less than two years ago.  Lest you think that Fayetteville is stockpiled with extra radical sex positive people, though, the voters of Fayetteville defeated the ordinance that December by 51%.  That’s a mighty close margin.

Now on high alert, the state Senate met and passed the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act in February of 2015.  That’s a little over a year ago. Why it’s called an “Improvement Act” and what it has to do with “Intrastate Commerce” is a mystery we’ll leave to brighter political minds than mind.  This is an act that prohibits “any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law”.

It makes an exception for employees of a local government.  So basically it’s saying, go ahead Fayetteville City Council.  Do your thing and make your statements. But they’ll never be law. This Act passed both the state Senate (24-8, 2 abstentions) and the state House of Representatives (58-21, with 21 either abstaining or just voting present).

It’s worth noting that it passed without the signature of Governor Asa Hutchinson who seems okay despite being an old privileged white guy.  He made his name early in his career by prosecuting a white supremacist organization and more recently came out in favor of medical marijuana use.

While the Improvement Act was being hotly debated on the state Senate floor, the Eureka Springs City Council had their own ideas in mind.  The very same day the Act passed the state Senate and went to the state’s House of Representatives the Eureka Springs City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In April 2015, the board in Little Rock voted in protections for transgender people.  In June 2015 that pesky Fayetteville City Council passed a new ordinance with protections for transgender people.

It’s looking good, right?

Not so much. On September 1, the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement that the Fayetteville ordinance was in violation of state law and unenforceable. Not to be squelched, the Fayetteville city council sent the ordinance to the voters, and this time it was upheld by 52% of the voters.

Arkansas is a microcosm of the kind of battle most states are having with transgender protections. People in those states just don’t want to give up their right to discriminate against deviants and use a bathroom in which presumably all the other people share the same plumbing that they do.

California, by contrast, has had anti-discrimination protections for gender orientation since 2004.

So there’s hope, but we have a long way to go for actual equality and justice, not only in the law, but in the eyes of the people.  For now, we’ll start with the law.

This piece is Part One of a series on Transgender Rights.  If you want to help along the causes of social justice, please contact your state senators and representatives, and your federal senators and representatives, and let them know this issue matters to you.  

— Virginia Lore is a cisgender woman who volunteers with The Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, WA.

 

 

Transgender Rights

I’m working on putting together a graphic on where transgender rights are per state. In the meantime, from graphiq.com, here is a graph of the number of transgender people per 100,000 in different states of the US.

I’m working on putting together a graphic on where transgender rights are per state. In the meantime, from graphiq.com, here is a graph of the number of transgender people per 100,000 in different states of the US. Source is 2010 census data.  Oregon, Vermont and Washington lead at 10.6 transgender people per 100,000.