On WordPress and Hate Speech

2011 September 15

As LiveJournal user labelle77 and Lisa Harney at Questioning Transphobia have reported, a certain radical feminist has been using a WordPress blog to post the pictures of trans women she reports to have entered the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (hereafter, MichFest) along with commentary that has a high probability of inciting some of her blog’s visitors to commit acts of physical violence against trans women. (Out of respect for trans women’s lives and well-being I will not be posting a link to the blog here.)

If you do not know already, MichFest is a music festival whose organizers have long had a policy of excluding trans women from the festival or, as they code it, of hosting a festival that is only for “womyn-born womyn”. There was a time when the organizers prevented trans women from entering. Beginning in 2006, however, the policy has been to put the burden of policing on individuals, asking interested trans women to respect that the festival is not intended for them but not denying them ticket sales. With this change many trans women began to attend the festival, but several outspoken people who attend MichFest continue to oppose trans women’s presence.

The woman whose blog is the subject of this entry is one such person. Having seen the offending post myself, I have a few observations. First, I believe it is, if anything, an understatement to say as Lisa Harney has that the post “practically incites violence against” trans women. At least one of the people leaving comments have has called for trans women to be bodily thrown out despite the fact that there has been no change in MichFest’s policy, and I believe that someone who already has misogynistic, transphobic inclinations would be inclined to do worse. Second, this is a matter that affects more people than just those trans women who choose to attend MichFest. The woman who was the radical feminist blogger’s original source of information has said she believes that two of the women listed in the post were not at MichFest, but the blogger has not removed any names. This suggests that any woman the blogger perceives as trans could have her name and picture listed on the web site and be made the subject of ridicule for failing to meet her standard of womanhood. (Of course, this would be a tragedy, even if the women already listed were the only parties who were affected.) My third and final observation is that by any reasonable interpretation of WordPress’s Terms of Service the WordPress staff should take action against the blogger. WordPress’s inaction when it comes to this matter is as deplorable as the blogger’s action.

And so I leave you with a question, dear reader: Where do I take Faithful Image now?

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The Youth of Color in Boystown Don’t Call Me “Faggot” or “Tranny”

2011 July 5

Recently members of Gender JUST protested a “positive loitering” organized by people whose stated aim was to “take back Boystown”. (Full disclosure: Though I was not present at this event, I am a member of Gender JUST.) The reason for the protest was that members of Gender JUST saw it as the latest in a series of efforts to intimidate working class queer and transgender youth of color who come to Boystown. According to Kate Sosin of the Windy City Times several members of the “Take Back Boystown” page have blamed youth of color for recent criminal activity in posts that make claims like the following:

These trannys are bringing their homey G boyfriends into the neighborhood courtesy of The Center on Halsted. You can tell who they are by the way they act.

According to Sosin, Rob Sall, the organizer of the “positive loitering” event, conceded that the Facebook page “is extremely racially charged”. The racist, classist, ageist, cissexist rhetoric is not new. On 2009 September 2 the Windy City Times published a letter by someone identified only as “a concerned Lakeview resident”, who blamed “Center on Halsted youth clients” and “transsexual prostitutes” for Lakeview’s “crime issues”.

What do I have to say about this?

On the day of my first direct action in 2004 it was not youth of color in Boystown who arrested three queer rights activists, kicked one of them, and called him a “faggot”. It was one of the officers policing the pride parade.

It is not youth of color in Boystown who have been making transmisogynistic comments in letters to the editor or on Facebook. It is the people who have been scapegoating them.

I have been sexually assaulted twice in Boystown. I do not have a single young person, a single person of color, or a single transgender person to lay the blame on for either of these incidents.

“Concerned Lakeview residents”, if you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of young people. Stop theatening the safety of people of color. Stop threatening the safety of transgender people. Stop trying to “take back” Boystown from working class queer folks, when Boystown was the community of working class queer folks before the businesses and the middle class gays moved in. If you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of me and my friends.

2011–07-07 Edit: I have substituted the word assaulted for the less accurate term accosted.


Was 2011 a Good Year for Transfeminine People at Dyke March?

2011 June 26

Having been one of the participants of Dyke March 2011, which took place yesterday, I thought I would write about two aspects of the march that no news source has yet reported on, so far as I have seen—the presence of the Trans United Contingent and the apology issued by the Chicago Dyke March Collective.

Along with other community groups, such as SWOP Chicago, Invisible to Invincible, Genderqueer Chicago, and Gender JUST, participants in the Trans United Contingent congregated at the start of the route and joined the Dyke March. (Full disclosure: I was in the Trans United Contingent, and my membership in Gender JUST is pending.) As I remember it, everyone in the contingent was in high spirits. Personally, I was quite pleased by the number of transfeminine people present; I cannot remember being at a public event where I strongly felt my identities as a trans person and a dyke affirmed. The Trans United Contingent invigorated many of the other march participants, who could not help but join in our chants of, “Trans people united will never be divided,” and, “Hey hey, ho ho / Transphobia has got to go.” (My new voice got quite a workout; I had to remain silent for most of the last 15 minutes or so of the march.) Considering the passion of another contingent that had a significant number of transgender people, Gender JUST’s contingent, I believe Dyke March would have been impoverished, had there been no trans folks present.

This brings me to the other topic of this post. In the rally after the march Mika Muñoz read an apology in which the collective said that I, “Veronika Boundless”, had “experienced . . . transmisogynistic violence”* at the hands of the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC) in 2009. Mika went on to say, “We acknowledge this occurred and commit to the process of responding to what happened and to doing all we can to make sure nothing like it happens again.”** One of the other march participants asked me what I thought of CDMC’s apology. I said, “It’s a start.” According to the participant apologies are easy and make a collective look good; the real test will be to see what actions follow.

*Because I had difficulty making out what Mika read (as did, I am surmising, the vast majority of the people who stayed for the rally), I am relying on an electronic draft of the apology that I was privy to before the march. As far as I know, what was actually read did not differ (significantly) from the electronic version.

**In the electronic draft the word and is emphasized.


Bread and Purple Flowers Too

2011 May 30

Purple Flower

One of the purple flowers that lines the street outside my apartment.

I have recently been contemplating an unexpected state of affairs. It started on May 13th when my doctor doubled my estrogen prescription, but first it might help to understand what I experienced when I first started taking estrogen back in October. Along with increased emotional sensitivity and ineffable changes to my perceptions I experienced euphoria. However, it was not long before I felt myself return to my usual depressed state. So when I started taking more estrogen on the 13th I was hoping to effect changes I would see in the long-term—increased breast growth, for example. It did seem that the estrogen had lifted my spirits, but this time the feeling was brief and not so pronounced, and it soon became a memory tucked away in the attic of my brain. However, after some days had passed I started noticing differences. One was that flowers captivated me like never before. Throughout most of my life I cared about no flowers besides red roses and carnations, but suddenly the purple flowers that line my street made my turn my head like they were Amber Heard. This change, while welcome, was nothing compared to the change in my emotional experience. It was not the euphoria I experienced in October, but my mood was noticeably elevated independent of external influences. Before it was as though I was hearing a continuous series of dissonant sounds that was always present, no matter how favorable the circumstances were. Now a symphony has replaced the dissonant sounds, and the harmony has soothed me even when I am at my lowest. I feel as though for the first time in my life I know contentment.

It will be a rare post in which I substitute discussion of my delight over purple flowers with my usual rage over social injustice. For one thing I think long-time readers would think my blog had been hijacked. More importantly, my happiness is all the more reason for me to fight the oppression of trans women. I should not have had to wait thirty-three years punctuated by self-injury and hospitalization for depression to experience what most cis women will know their whole lives. What’s more, for various reasons many trans girls and women who would benefit from hormone therapy have not yet started receiving it. Maybe they live in fundagelical Christian homes, where their parents hope to “pray away” their daughters’ gender identities instead of giving their children the respect they deserve; maybe they are locked away in one of the vast majority of US states that deny trans prisoners hormone therapy; maybe economic circumstances prevent them from buying what ought to be freely available; or maybe transphobic feminists have convinced them that they are infiltrators or worse, if they transition. Whatever the obstacles are, we cannot smash them too soon. Every woman deserves to have the emotional stability that I have now.


The Latest on Angel Johnson

2011 January 9

I found this information via Diamond Stylz and Transgression:

If you do not already know, Angel Johnson is a trans woman from Indianapolis who survived getting shot six times. As is the rule and not the exception for women in her situation, she has had to endure misgendering and victim-blaming from the media. Adding injury to injury, Angel’s landlord recently evicted her, making the absurd claim that she was endangering the safety of other tenants.

Angel’s story can be found on Diamond Stylz. Scroll down for the update on her eviction.


Nothing More, Nothing Less

2010 October 22

On the 19th I started taking estrogen tablets. While this has mostly been a cause for celebration, I’m dreading the moment someone says, “Congratulations on your first step towards womanhood!” I’d like to pre-empt this now. Taking estrogen never could have been my first step towards womanhood for the simple reason that I have always been a woman (or a girl). On the 18th I was a woman without estrogen, now I’m a woman with estrogen, and in my mind there is very little difference between the woman that I was and the woman that I am.

I once stumbled across a remark a cis woman made—something along the lines of, “Wearing women’s clothing and having surgery doesn’t make anyone a woman,” though her choice of words was much cruder. This wasn’t anything new, but it stood out to me, because she chose to offer her words to the masses in the comment thread of a news story about the murder of a trans woman. Even if I had wanted to contribute to the derailing of the thread, I wouldn’t have bothered to respond to someone so unabashedly callous. But if I had responded, I would have said, “Exactly! It is not clothes or sex organs that make a woman but what’s in her head!”

This is not to say that I don’t feel closer to women while I’m on estrogen. I’ve already had a number of new experiences on estrogen. That is, I’ve had experiences that are new to me but not at all new to most of the women who have walked the face of the earth, and contemplating this is nothing short of wonderful. But then I also felt closer to women when I found my new voice. When I started doing voice work, I immediately felt a connection to all the trans women who had gone before me, struggling to make the sounds that resonated with them, and especially to the trans woman who showed me that the voice I wanted was within my reach. Finding my voice remains the moment of my transition that I’m the most proud of, because it required me to work under daunting circumstances, and all the immediate support I received was from other trans women. But I wouldn’t count this as my first step towards womanhood either. Trans women, like all women, can only succeed when we don’t try to obtain what we already have.

If you feel like being happy for me, then by all means be happy. I for one am ecstatic. And if you’re happy because you understand that this is nothing more and nothing less than a milestone in my efforts to have the body that I want, then I can know you empathize and be all the more elated.


The Unspeakable Dread

2010 September 17

Potential trigger: This post gives a brief description of an act of violence committed against a trans person.

It’s been hard to write for the past few days. On September 14th I read a report from Transgender Europe that said that from January to June of this year 93 trans people were reported killed. (I found the report via Helen of Questioning Transphobia.) This means that every other day a trans person is reported killed, which is pretty remarkable when one takes the small size of the population of trans people into account. Considering that a disproportionate number of the trans people who were killed were women or transfeminine, this should be of concern not only to those of us who fight for trans liberation but also to those of us who fight for women’s liberation. One reason I’ve been disinclined to speak is that experience has shown that no matter what trans women say, cis feminists by and large fail to acknowledge that our concerns are feminist concerns.

But mostly what’s been keeping me from writing has been dread—the dread of facing each day knowing that there’s a greater than fifty percent chance that it will be reported that someone like me has been killed. And who knows how many of us get killed without anyone hearing about it? It is difficult enough to think about just one of the killings. Consider, for example, the trans person who was killed in Chihuahua on April 3rd. Ze was decapitated while ze was still alive, and hir head was discarded one kilometer from hir body. What kind of hate does it take for one human being to do that to another? Thinking about the question leaves me feeling inadequate. I can tell you what happened, dear reader, but I can’t hope to express the horror.