No-one should have to fight for the right to exist in public

Why does society seem so intent on forcing minority groups to have to fight for the right merely to exist in public? And why, when said minorities ask for the same rights as everyone else, are they shouted at and told that they are asking for special rights?

People with disabilities ask for accessible buildings, and are told that it is too expensive, too difficult, and there aren’t that many PWD anyway and why are they asking for “special treatment”?

Trans people ask that they be able to walk down the street without fear of harassment, and that they can use a public toilet without fear of being assaulted, banned from a casino for life (good news is that that has been overturned – scroll right to the bottom) or  denied access at a Gay Pride Rally. Despite every new story I have heard of involving trans people (usually trans women, although I am sure there are many incidents involving trans men) as the victim of prejudice or assault, the toilet issue is still framed as “protecting” cis women and children from trans women, with one of three reasons given: 1.) The cis women would feel uncomfortable 2.) The trans women would assault the cis women 3.) Cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to assault women and/or children.

I’m going to attempt to unpack these.

The cis women would feel uncomfortable. Well there are people who would be uncomfortable with anyone of a non-White ethnicity using the toilets. Or people who look and dress differently to them. There is a clever website which shows the amount of prejudice against the traveling/Roma/gypsy community by taking every headline with the word “Gypsy” in and replacing it with “Jew”. The results are startling. If all the websites taking this stance were to have “trans women” replaced with “black women” this would be shown as the unacceptable prejudice that it is. Just because some theoretical person may be offended by the existence of a person belonging to a minority in a public space, we should not automatically ban the minority from that public space.

The trans women would assault the cis women. A quick Google search yields 5 pages of stories about trans women being assaulted. I can’t find even one story about the reverse. Nobody else can either. This is a complete fallacy. Why are people even continuing to bring this one up with no evidence?

Cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to assault women and/or children. There are no special locks, magical detectors, or scientific thingummybobs currently in use, nor are there ever likely to be, to stop anyone going into any toilet. Hypothetical Male Rapist can just walk into a toilet; Dressing up and pretending to be a trans woman is just too over-complicated, not to mention that said person would feel much of the same shaming that trans women face, except more so for not actually being trans, and would be highly unlikely to consider it. Rape is generally about power, and it’s hard to think of much that might be more dis-empowering to Mr H. M. Rapist.

In my opinion, the first reason is sheer prejudice and the second two are absurd logical fallacies built on what-ifs that are so unlikely to happen that we can safely say that the probability approaches zero.

Everyone should have the right to be in public spaces without any fears of what might happen, without exception.

King and Spalding, in a different time….

King and Spalding building with a ButterflySo this idea came about because normally its considered good legal ethics for a lawyer to defend their client no matter how distasteful. A lawyer should represent their client’s position to the best of their ability. However what happens all the time, when for a variety of reasons, a firm or specific lawyer will decide to stop representing a client. Sometimes its a conflict of interest, a matter of ethics, or quite simply business decisions.

In order however to describe the situation in a clearer way, the year is 1963, and the ACLU has filed a suit on behalf of the Loving family against the state of Virginia about their anti-miscegenation statute. Now part way through that lawsuit, if Mills Godwin had on the advice of his Attorney General, decided to direct the Attorney General of Virginia to no longer defend the 1924 law. In response, the legislature hires a prominent law firm, akin to King and Spalding which is a progressive supporter of equal rights.

On reflection and after prominent complaints to the law firm, they decide on balance, they cannot justify being involved in defending an indefensible law and so withdraw.

Its exactly the same situation with King and Spalding today withdrawing from the defense of an indefensible law, and we applaud them for coming to their senses.


In Montana, Civil Unions are at the back of the bus

There’s been a ruling in Montana, that highlights many of the problems with civil unions. The case was about giving civil unions all the rights of married couples in Montana.

The judge in the case, Jeffrey Sherlock ruled that since there was a Montana amendment specifically in place to prevent equal rights for lgbtqia couples, his hands were tied and he had to reject the plaintive’s case.

Minor hate group, the Montana Family Foundation, applauded the judge’s cowardice claiming he exercised “judicial restraint”.

The Montana ACLU was disappointed but stated that they would appeal to the Montana supreme court. Judge Sherlock indicated that their appeal might be successful, due to his feeling that the superior court would feel they had more of a scope to rule against the amendment.

Are Tennessee lawmakers looking at the LGBTQIA suicide rate, and saying its not enough?

Thats what the bill coming from Tennessee senator Stacey Campfield seems to be saying. What the bill says is that teachers upto and including the 8th grade are forbidden from

The man who is calling for more gay suicides

mentioning or acknowledging LGBTQIA issues within school no matter how innocuous. The bill has the label of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, because effectively thats what it means.

Apparently this law has been the pet project of Senator Campfield for several years, and now its heading towards the state senate floor, and we’ve got ask what motivates him. I’m sure will ascribe misguided motives to him, and maybe thats what’s going on, but this bill seems purpose built to increase the rate of suicide in LGBTQIA youth.

Not only will this prevent teachers from acting to stop LGBTQIA-phobic bullying, it prevents them from offering any support to LGBTQIA youth who are beginning to come to terms with themselves. While California is pushing forward with SB48 in an effort to end LGBTQIA-phobia and intolerance, Tenesse seems to be trying to remove any ability from the schools to help vulnerable youth.

Now I’m sure that this comes from some idea about if you don’t mention “Gay” people wont be gay…  but it comes from bigotry and ignorance.

This bill is going to increase the rate of suicides, not maybe, not possibly, not even probably, this is removing from LGBTQIA youth one of the most important sources of support and help. Senator Campfield even wants teachers investigated just to make sure that teachers do not offer said support.

This is about shoving us back in to the closet and hoping we go away… well we aren’t, and if this bill passes, the legislature of the state of Tennessee will have the blood of vulnerable youth on their hands.

If you are in Tennessee call your state senator, your representative, and the governor’s office, to protest.

Even if you aren’t in Tennessee call  Senator Campfield’s office on (615)-741-1766 and remind him of the lives he is putting at risk.

A Day of Despair, when we need a Day of Hope

For those of you who maybe were approached in school or college on monday, you’ll know that it was the “Day of Dialogue”, an event meant to counter the “Day of Silence” memorial that takes place every year. It was started by Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund to protest the grass roots personal vow of silence taken to protest bullying of LGBTQIA youth.

They try to wrap the concepts up in ideas of love, hope, understanding, compassion and truth, and yet in an Orwellian twist the day is one of hate, despair, ignorance, callousness and lies, but it doesn’t need to be. There are those who want to leave the religious bigots alone, to suffer in their pain and ignorance but that’s not good enough for me.

We through chances of fate, luck and character, get the advantage of seeing a better world, a tolerant progressive world worthy of our dreams. I don’t want to live in a bubble outside which fear and misunderstanding rule. We’re all outside Plato’s Cave, bathing in the sunshine looking in at people chained to the walls begging to not be set free. Maybe thats a situation you can live comfortably with, but I choose not to.

As you sit comfortably in your homes and live you lives, think about all the Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Intersex youth. There’s at least a million children in daily torment due to the prejudices of their parents who we are abandoning. But as well as that we are abandoning those parents, pastors and other misguided people to their ignorance. I have to believe that for all the evil they spread, there has to be hope for the Pope, Maggie Gallagher, and Rick Santorum. All it takes is the right person, in the right place, with some wise words, to start them on the road towards the light.

This isn’t about changing what those people are, its about showing them about the kind of people they have the potential to be, free of the shackles of ignorance. We don’t have to wait until the next “Day of Dialogue” we can start today, we can start talking, and fighting the lies they tell about us.The battles fought over healthcare actually gives us some lessons to be learned. We have to confront every lie, every distortion, and every last verse of holy book. The death panels lie should have lasted less than a news cycle, and so should the lies being told about LGBTQIA people. We are different, but we are not broken, and our stories, and our courage can set more than just us free.

Its not just about us, its about freeing them from the artificial constraints that they are forced into. The sheer madness of the situation is actually thrown into sharp relief with the legal prostitution that occurs in Iran, where a helpful iman grants marriages between client and sex worker, who after “sharing the marital bed” divorce using the “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you” method, and leave. Sex is meant to be between consenting adults, and freedom from religious views on sex is something of what we offer. … and holding it back because of some strange ideas about criminalizing intimacy only being allowed during marriage, is lunacy.


Wake up Texas and kick Rick Perry Out of Town

The Face of Texas?

Texas is in some ways the heart of the US, it certainly is one of the largest and most populous states in the Union.

Despite its’ reputation for being a solid red state, there’s a strong liberal progressive core in Austin, with similarly strong blue showings in most of the major cities.

The governor of Texas, considered to be one of the weakest governors of all the states, but its still an influential leadership position.

This means that when Texas elects a man like Rick Perry, it means disaster for all texans, not just the progressive ones. It seemed like it couldn’t get any worse when during the healthcare debate, he raised the spectre of secession. But now he’s come out swinging against LGBTQIA Texans.

“There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas,” Perry said. “We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Ignoring that Texas is in such a bad situation even without all the regulations most states have, he shows his ignorance and bigotry. He tries to laud Texas as the land of the free, while crowing that LGBTQIA texans are not free. Its the true hypocrisy of conservatives, that they want small government for them, and big government for us.

This is a man, wholly unsuited to the positon of mayor of a 1 horse town, let alone governor of Texas. He does nothing but bring disrepute to the wonderful people of Texas, and needs to go. He threatened to tear apart the union because Obama wanted to give affordable healthcare to Texans.

Nearly every Texan I’ve ever met, has been truly awesome, and are fiercely loyal to their home state. Its a rich and diverse state that deserves someone better than Rick Perry to be their leader. Tomorrow belongs to the real enlightened Texans, not the ignorant minority that thinks that secession and homophobia are good ideas, and that Texas will always be ruled by them.

Rick Perry is not up for re-election until 2016, but in 2012 you can take away his legislature.

If you have pride in Texas, if you have love for the lone star state, then you can not allow this secessionist homophobic clown to run amuck ruining your great state.


Stop telling minorities what is best for them

Nothing about me without meI was struck recently by a parallel between the “burqa ban” in France and the ongoing debate around prescribing hormone blockers to transsexual children and teenagers.

The ban in France is against the niqab, a full-face veil, and the burqa, a full-body covering that leaves only a mesh to see through. Other forms of Islamic head and body coverings are not affected.

France has passed this law on the basis that the women who wear the niqab or burqa are oppressed and have been forced into it by their husbands or the local mosque. (See here and here, these links also include a slide show of what the different forms of veil and head covering look like) This is arrogant and small-minded, and one journalist who took the time to speak to a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the niqab got a fantastic interview, which I urge you to read. My favourite quote has to be “If women want to walk around half-naked I don’t object to them doing so. If they want to wear tight jeans where you can see their underwear or walk around with their breasts hanging out, I don’t give a damn. But if they are allowed to do that, why should I not be allowed to cover up?”)

Similarly, those who oppose giving hormone blockers to transsexual youth insist that they know what is best. That people so young can’t possibly know that they are transsexual, that X% (where X is anywhere from 50 to 98) turn out to be cissexual, that delaying puberty is harmful, and even that prescribing these drugs is child abuse. (I am with the camp that argue that not prescribing them is a form of child abuse). Janefae has written an excellent post on the subject on one of her blogs, Sex Matters.

The similarities in both these cases is that the majority is insisting, loudly and vocally, that they know what is best for the minority, ignoring the opinions and lived experience of that minority. I am left feeling jaw-dropping shock that anyone could be so arrogant, so condescending and so patronising.

For the heartbreaking story of what happens when these drugs are not prescribed, read one mother’s story: “I would rather have a live daughter than a dead son”.

On the other, much happier, hand we have German singer Kim Petras, who has been erroneously described as “the world’s youngest transsexual” (Gender Identity Disorder has been diagnosed in six-year-olds. Kim is the youngest person to undergo surgery, which she received when she was 16.)

I will spell out what I mean clearly and plainly: Do not tell minorities that you know what is best for them. Ever.

Even us fabulous queers suffer from the ignorance around us…

Hatred is a strange and terrible beast, alone among all human emotions, it has no positive, no value, and it is born in ignorance. I was brought up in such an environment. Long before I had even come to terms with myself, the world around me treated LGBTQIA people as broken, twisted, and disgusting.

IgnoranceI remember being told the “tragic news” when my cousin came out as gay. I watched as a supposedly happy straight man on Eastenders was “corrupted” by the token gay character. Being gay was synonymous with something negative.

Now I’m a self aware polyamorous queer culture embracing, bisexual transwoman, who looks back in horror at her past viewpoint and tries to understand how I could have been so wrong. My parents didn’t hate gay people, they felt pity for them, but that was indoctrinated into me. Despite going to a christian school, I was fortunate that they were not openly homophobic.

I think this cuts at the root of so many of our problems. I didn’t have the experience, or the knowledge to know better. I was cut off from a world of experience, and a universe of perspectives. Our history is one of filtering out the extraordinary, the interesting, the deep, and the challenging. Society and Geography talked only about 2 parent heterosexual families, and skirted around the fact that the white picket fence was a rarity. No matter how deep I dove into my religious education, i’d never have been allowed to find out about the two-spirited of the first nations, the Galli of rome, or the triangle of Thai myth. The very society that raised me, conspired against my entire generation to limit our ideas, our expressions and our dreams.

We owe a duty to the next generation to not cripple them, the way the previous generation crippled us. Already some allies have stepped up, in California, in Massachusetts, and back here in the UK. Schools are attacking the ignorance head on, but not with truncheons and thought police, instead with stories, histories, and the truth. Change is happening, but you need to help it along. Schools, Education authorities and Governments will listen, if we all speak up.

Stop being worried about being thought of as gay

This is about the idea that straight men should loose their fear of being thought of as gay. Its based on an outmoded stereotype of gay men being something negative.

It’s not all their fault, some of it comes from society enforcing strict pigeon holing that you are gay or straight and once you’ve gone gay then you are gay. Most people are bi to some extent… If they have a gay relationship they are not intrinsically more gay… They are as they were, just more experienced.

Now for me personally, an actively bi guy (I.e. He’s dated a guy already) is more interesting to me than a straight guy. I like depth and complexity, and relationship experience is a bonus.

I wish there was a simple solution, but all I’ve got is focussing on confidence. Be happy with being who you are. If someone treats you badly because they think you are gay then to be honest, they aren’t worth the time you’ll want to waste, worrying about what they think.

Why civil unions are not enough, and way too much

In the battle between the bigots and the progressives, something is kicked around, and thats the idea of Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships, offered up as a compromise. Giving as many benefits as possible to LGBTQIA families provided that they are not called marriages. There are different flavors with different benefits throughout the USA, but just like marriages, they do not extend past the state line. Some states have parity or recognition of civil partnerships and marriages from other states. However the violation of the full faith and credit clause prevents these legal unions from being recognizes USA-wide.

Separate but Equal

Separate but Equal

Now for your for your average LGBTQIA couple they are looking for 3 things from marriage, firstly all the legal benefits of marriage, secondly all the legal responsibilities, and thirdly the actual recognized state of being married.

Now probably the strongest example of a civil union is that in the UK where aside from the name, its a marriage, however thats a rare case in a progressive country.

If you work for a decent company in a decent state and you are in a domestic partnership you may not have to worry about the legal limitations of domestic partnerships, but in the real world, your spouse may not be entitled to visit you in hospital, they may not be able to share your medical benefits, and every year LGBTQIA couples are penalized because they cannot jointly file taxes. There are also many rights recognized universally throughout the US for married couples, including immigration benefits, inheritance tax loopholes and simple spousal privilege in court (the right to refuse to testify against your spouse). Just like any cheap knock off, its not as functional, reliable or worth the same as the genuine article, and fobbing us off with Civil Unions is an insult.

Too Little or Too Much?

Too Little or Too Much?

Now on the right, with groups like NOM, the ADF and other hate groups the problem is that they do too much. NOM in particular are guilty of this little fiction, they frequently claim that its about protecting marriage, but then promote bills that would ban civil partnerships as well.

You look at their efforts around the USA, which vary from fighting against states that give benefits to same sex partners, or dare to pass real civil partnerships.

The problem for them is anything that gives LGBTQIA couples rights is a problem for them, so of course they are going to fight against civil partnerships. “The queers are thinking above their station” is the meme they are trying to spread around.

While on the other hand, being too much for the bigots, not only are civil partnerships separate but equal, quite often they do not provide all the rights of marriage.

The 1898 Plessy vs Ferguson decision codified into law the idea that provided you gave african american people something that sounded the same as given to white people, you could make them use different train cars, different stores, and different rights.

We need marriage equality, our forebears in the civil rights movement would not have put up with this, we owe it to ourselves, and their memories to keep fighting the good fight.