Monday, 3 June 2013
It's been a long time since I've been to a conference so thought-provoking. The organisers did a wonderful job of creating a safe place to explore complex, difficult issues, which no doubt were uncomfortable at times for many/most/all of us attending, without that feeling, in my experience at least, overwhelming. I want to give them a huge thank you, because I know how much work it is to try and create that kind of space.
So this is kinda going to function as a review as well as a pat on the back, for those of you who couldn't get there and were interested. Bearing in mind I missed some sessions because of other life stuff, so there are holes.
Indigenous feminisms and social movements featured Marama Davidson, Shasha Ali, and Erina Okeroa. Erina spoke first, examining Māori women's connections to Black feminisms internationally, through kaupapa Māori research and interviews. Marama presented on the centrality of Māori women to caring for the Earth and kaitiakitanga, given how poor a job we're doing now. Shasha talked about connecting indigenous struggles from different places, and the disconnect this created when you were not indigenous to where you were living, but identified as indigenous in another colonised land.
Takataapui, Pasifika ways and beyond queer theory included Fetu-ole-moana Tamapeau of BOX events, Maihi Makiha from NZAF and Kim Mcbreen of He Hoaka. It's hard for me to give a favourite, but if I absolutely had to, it would be this one. Fetu and Kim focussed on the disruptions colonisation created for Pasifika and Tangata Whenua understandings of sexuality and gender, and why queer theory cannot undo colonisation because it still comes from western understandings. I've thought a bit before about how good English is at categorising - so lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex - and judging differences. Disconnecting, some might call it. And I've noticed that takataapui appears to do the opposite, appears just to connect non-heterosexual people, but Fetu's metaphor of queer being the island, and Pasifika understandings of sexuality being of the ocean is still rocking my wee Pākeha brain. Work in progress.
Intimate partner violence in queer and gender diverse relationships, hosted by Te Whare Rokiroki Māori Women's Refuge and Wellington Women's Refuge with support from the extraordinary Mani Mitchell was something I was involved in, so can't really "review". It was amazing to see between 40 and 50 people in the room, and important to think about how this work can progress, given international research is showing lesbians and gay men are experiencing rates of intimate partner and sexual violence comparable to straight women and men; bisexual people are experiencing much higher rates; and intersex and trans* peeps rates, from early indications, are much higher still.
Body politics: food, health, fat, disability, class and moral virtue featured Cat Pause, Ali Nissenbaum, Robyn Kenealy, Esther Woodbury and Grace Millar. Between them, they took apart body politics and put them back together again, dismantling neo-liberal pushes for individualising responsibility for bodies while they pointed out some of the things the western world at least holds dear just may not be true. Probably the comment that made me saddest was about needing to not be around women when recovering from anorexia, because of the extraordinary amount of social time women spend policing one another's - and our own - food intake and bodies. It just rings very true to me, and is something I struggle, constantly, to know how to respond to respectfully. I'm slimmish, and love food, and constantly deal with people telling me how "lucky" I am I can eat so much. I haven't yet found a way through that misogynist mess.
The Underclass panel was incredible, Nic Dorward, Ruth Amato, and Hana Plant sharing their own personal experiences of class and marginalisation, tied in with colonisation and racism, gender inequalities, class oppression making us unwell, and social institutions responsible for "caring" for vulnerable people being both inadequate and chock-full of classist assumptions about families and people.
And finally (for me) desire as social currency and how desire is constructed around stigmatised and non-normative bodies focusing on trans* experiences. Dee Dewitt and Wai Ho talked about how difficult it might be to separate personal preferences from socially constructed desires, and the painful fetishising that creates for non-normative bodies. Beautiful and brave.
Hoping there's another CLITfest on the horizon. And a nod too, to the beautiful artwork on the flier, which is now decorating my room.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
It would be nice to never need to do it again, but we do. This year we're marching in Wellington on May 11th, and focussing on transphobic and homophobic bullying in schools. Full details here.
I'll be marching, in solidarity with QUILTBAG youth, and in memory of those who have lost their lives this year and in the years before. And there are two particular things I'll be marching for:
The first is the need to specifically address bullying aimed at children and young people because of their actual or percieved sexual orientation or gender identity. Whilst in previous years Pink Shirt Day has specifically related to homophobic bullying, in New Zealand at least is has now evolved into a more general anti-bullying campaign.
Stopping bullying is of course a cause to get behind, but at the same time transphobic and homophobic bullying does need a specific response. Overseas research puts suicidal thoughts and attempts for LGB High School Students at between 3.5 and 7.1 times higher than heterosexual students and found that 30 percent of LGB youth versus 13 percent of heterosexual youth (mean age of about 18) had attempted suicide at some point. New Zealand statistics appear to follow a similar pattern. Accurate statistics for gender varient youth are harder to come by, but there is every indication that they are significantly higher.
These aren't just numbers. These are kids we know.
QUILTBAG youth are unusual as a minority group, in that usually no other member of their immediate family is a member of that same minority group. Whilst some parents and family members are supportive, even they are often not helped to support their children. Others can be dismissive or outright hostile, meaning that neither home nor school is a safe place. With queer content frequently ignored in lessons, children feel that there is simply no place for them in the world.
Because it is often technically possible for these young people to remain secret about their identity, many are pressured to do so, irrespective of the - sometimes devastating - impact on them, and blamed for being out when they are targeted. Innappropriate toilet facilities and uniform codes make many schools completely inaccessible for gender variant youth.
All bullying needs tackling, but there are specific issues that affect QUILTBAG young people. We can't just shove them under the carpet.
The second is summed up in our slogan 'It Doesn't Get Better Until We Make it Better'. The It Gets Project was an international series of videos in reponse to what was painted in the media as a cluster of suicides amongst queer teens (but was actually the statistical norm) and featured mostly queer adults talking about how much better their lives had become, and encouraging teens to hang on, because it would get better for them too.
The videos were beautiful and heartbreaking. But now it's time for something more.
I'd like every young person considering suicide to reconsider. I believe - hell, I know from personal experience - that things can get much better. But I'd like it even more if we combatted the structural prejudice that allowed them to get to that point. Bullying shouldn't be a part of life, nor should prejudice, nor should suicidality.
The pressure shouldn't be on one individual to put up with what feels unbearable. It should be for all of us to fight alongside them.
Nor should we ignore the fact that for some people it never will get better. That it's already too late. Or others, for whom things have got better, but they still suffer the lasting effects, both emotional/psychological and educational.
'It doesn't get better until we make it better' is more than a message of hope. It's a call to arms.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
On March 14th at the Embassy Theatre, members of the Queer Avengers “glitter-bombed” feminist writer Germaine Greer, touring New Zealand as a part of Writers and Readers Week.
Glitter-bombing, or throwing glitter on public figures, has gained prominence internationally as a way to highlight transphobia and queerphobia. Greer has a history of denouncing transwomen; outing prominent transwomen and describing them as “ghastly parodies” of womanhood.
“Transphobic feminism is so 20th Century,” asserted Stacey of the Queer Avengers. “It wasn’t okay then and it’s not okay now. Women’s liberation must mean the right to refuse imposed gender roles, to fight for diverse gender expression.”
The Queer Avengers also handed out leaflets stating “transphobia is bullshit.” Greer was arrested in 1972 while touring New Zealand, for saying the word “bullshit.”
The Queer Avengers recently stormed Fairfax Media headquarters in Wellington for giving a platform to anti-trans sentiments. The group will be holding a press conference on media coverage of gender variance on Thursday the 15th of March, 1:30pm at Anvil House.
Thursday, 23 February 2012
- Referring to a known person (particularly one with a clearly stated gender identity) as he/she questions that identity, and is not acceptable.
- I assume by "surgically created penis thingy" you mean a penis. If so, say so.
- I have no idea why the man in question has not had 'bottom surgery', but there are a lot of reasons (medical risks, cost, the fact that the results are often not that great) why he may not have done so (DOES NOT NEED A PENIS TO BE A MAN is another option). If you don't know the reasoning, don't draw any conclusions from what you think it might be.
- As a queer woman with short hair, a little facial hair and who sometimes wears men's clothes, I'm actually not like Thomas Beattie when it comes to gender. THAT IS BECAUSE I'M NOT A MAN. He is, I'm not. Therefore, none of the above are determining factors.
- Plainness = so utterly irrelevant.
- I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE ABORTION RATE HAS TO DO WITH THIS.
- Have you ever considered the fact that maybe the couple are modelling pride in who they are, openness and the fact everyone is entitled to respect for their children?
- Have you ever considered that maybe it would be hard for them to keep this secret and they are trying to reveal it on their terms.
- If all the people (disabled, non-white, unmarried, low income...) who some obnoxious bigot thought shouldn't have children acted on that advice, the world would have a lot less kids and be a far worse place.
- I've never heard of a child with a trans* parent being made homeless by that parent because of their gender identity. Maybe that needs to be considered when we're thinking of the children.
- When you start talking about BIRTHING LIVE GOLDFISH, OF ALL THINGS you make this sound like a freak show. It isn't. Shut up.
- If you're concerned about the children, oh the children, why won't someone think of the children, why don't you stop worrying about what may or may not have been between their parents' legs at whatever times in their life, and make the world a bit easier for them by showing some respect.
Friday, 27 January 2012
It's rare - but not unheard of, thank you Audre Lorde - that I completely agree with everything I know about someone's political analysis. Sometimes I feel in complete agreement, and then I meet them and realise they deliberately use power and control in their interactions, or they are only interested in people they think are important, or they treat waiting staff like lackeys, or they talk to their partner without respect.
I often learn from the ideas or concepts or experiences or political analysis of people with whom I disagree, sometimes vehemently, about other things.
When I went to see the leader of the Black Panther Party in London a few years ago, he was fascinating on race, and much more thoughtful about gender in terms of African American women's experiences than I'd expected. But he called anyone he didn't agree with a faggot. Repeatedly. This was unchallenged by everyone there, including me and my straight but not homophobic Black British friend. The reasons I didn't challenge were complex - partly I didn't think I was going to change his mind, partly I was very aware of being nearly the only white person in the room, partly I was there to learn about a struggle I was less familiar with than battling homophobia.
So in theory I could go and see Germaine Greer, second wave feminist legend, author of one of the most important feminist texts in the 1970s, exponent of women's liberation rather than just equality with men (which men?), the butt of much misogynist hatred.
Who deliberately outed transwomen in the 1980s and 1990s. Knowing that there were no protections for those transwoman from reactions like being fired, or losing their homes, or facing transphobic violence and rejection from their communities.
I could forgive Germaine this if it was a view she held thirty years ago, and after listening to transpeople and those for whom the gender binary just does not fit, she could re-examine those views. After all, we're all capable of getting things wrong and changing our minds. But some of this transphobia is recent, and even though I abhor the way Germaine is criticised on the basis of her age, the fact is this is hate speech.
I've loved being a girl since I knew I was one, I've loved messing with gender in terms of what I wear or how I cut my hair since I had control over these things. I love that I can throw seventy metres, like a girl, and do many, many other things which traditional gender roles told me I shouldn't.
Despite my gender play, I'm comfortable in the gender I was assigned at birth. This means going to see Germaine would feel like treachery to those experiencing an oppression I'm privileged around. A very different thing, for me, than listening to an expert in challenging racism express homophobia.
Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Awesome resource I got from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programmes on negotiating consent if you're a transman or want to be sexual with a transman, featuring local cartoonist Sam Orchard:
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
A 19-year-old British girl lived a double life, dressing up as a boy to dupe her friends into dating her.
Gemma Barker, from Middlesex, wore boy's clothes and gave herself three false identities so she could have sexual encounters with her 15- and 16-year-old friends, the Daily Mail reported.
Prosecutor Ruby Selva told the Guildford Crown Court Barker set up Facebook profiles for her different personas and had individual dress styles for them.It's very difficult to know exactly what's going on here, particularly given my low low low opinion of media reporting when it comes to anything relating to sexual violence OR gender identity.
She completely fooled her friends and their families by posing as Aaron Lampard, Connor McCormack and Luke Jones.
There is no question that pretending to be someone else to someone known to you so they will engage in sexual activity with you is non-consensual and morally wrong.
And it is wrong whether you are male, female, both or neither, whether you use a male or a female or a gender neutral name, whether you wear male, female or gender neutral clothes.
The fact the article fixates on these isn't just irrelevant; it's downright dangerous. I have no idea as to the gender identity of the person in question - zie could be a cisgendered woman who enjoyed pretending to be male or a trans man, or any other of a number of possibilities. Irrespective, the way this has been reported on is dangerous.
Because we live in a world people murder trans* people for 'concealing' their assigned-at-birth gender from sexual partners - and feel justified in doing so. Where dressing in clothes that don't match your assigned-at-birth gender - because you identify with another gender, or you enjoy wearing those clothes, or anything in between - is seen as something for people to be wary of. Where social networking sites routinely shut down accounts for not using your "real" name or "real" gender or having multiple accounts (as I have known several people to do in the early stages of transition) - which may seem trivial, but if you're an isolated teenager, Facebook can literally be a lifesaver.
But it seems it's easier to play into bigoted ideas of gender trickery than it is to have a meaningful exploration of what consent means.
Monday, 28 November 2011
In Wellington: Queer Avengers have organised a public gathering on Tuesday 29 November at 6pm in Civic Square. We all want an end to violence against people because their gender identity or expression. We welcome anyone to this gathering who shares this aim. Theevent will include lighting sparklers or candles and reflecting on the people who have been subjected to transphobic violence in the last year, including those people who have died as a result.
In Auckland: GenderBridge has a community event at St Matthew-in-the-City at 7pm on Tuesday 29 November. The church is on the corner of Wellesley and Hobson Streets. BYO a plate of food to share.
In Christchurch: the recently reopened Te Whare Puakitanga / Transition House will be holding a community meeting from 7-9pm on 29 November. Nau mai, haere mai koutou – everyone is welcome. Contact Cherise Witehira on (03) 372-9298 or email@example.com for the address.
In Hamilton: Agender Waikato, in conjunction with Hamilton Pride, held a Transgender Day of Remembrance at the Riff Raff statue Hamilton at 7pm, 20th November.
[The text is mostly stolen from the Queer Avengers facebook event]
Monday, 26 September 2011
Hopes were high when Aotearoa New Zealand became the first nation to hold an inquiry into discrimination experienced by trans people in 2006. 200 people rocked up to talk to the Human Rights Commission. The subsequent report found 80% had experienced discrimination, from avoidance and insults to violent physical and sexual assaults. Difficulties accessing affordable healthcare including around gender reassignment services were widespread – but so were problems with finding somewhere to live, work and play – the kinds of things that we should all be able to take for granted.
According to questions in parliament a couple of months ago, progress on the report’s recommendations has been slow and patchy. The decision not to explicitly include gender identity within the Human Rights Act because this government feels it’s covered already by “sex” – without going to select committee – may need to be tested by an individual trans person, according to Rainbow Wellington.
I’m interested particularly in how the government answered questions about whether they had implemented a human rights education programme to improve understandings about human rights and discrimination issues for trans people. They said:
The Human Rights Commission has worked to improve the public’s understanding, and that of the transgender community, of gender identity issues by: running workshops in five cities alongside the Assume Nothing exhibition (from April 2008 – February 2010); hosting two national human rights training hui for trans people including opportunities for them to meet with government officials; collating FAQs, resource lists links and workshop notes from that human rights education work which should soon be on the HRC’s website; and created on line FAQs and resources, some specifically targeted to enable schools to support trans students. The HRC has also: included a chapter on the rights of sexual and gender minorities in Human Rights in New Zealand 2010; supported the Outgames Human Rights Conference and the pre-conference regional hui for trans and intersex people.
These are good things, but not exactly wide-reaching in terms of numbers. And I’m not sure that to reduce discrimination we need to be working with trans people – unless the aim is increased reporting – seems like it’s cis types who probably need the learning. So here’s something kinda cool (with some potentially triggering scenes, so please be careful) from trans activists in the USA, focusing on access to public toilets:
So bring on the toilet training. Because as Helen Keller said, the highest result of education is tolerance.
Friday, 10 June 2011
I wasn't - I was running late - but the wording of the text was quite thrilling.
I got there just as the demo was leaving and let the people stream past me. I went backwards and forwards trying to get a handle on the size of the demo. It was more than 500 - too big to count. I did some section counting and my best guess is 600-800 people. It was fucking beautiful.
I saw my friend who had been up to her eyes in organising the demo and told her my estimate (she was expecting it - I'm a little obsessive with demo counting).
"Black, White, Gay, Straight, Love Does Not Discriminate"
"Isn't love the ultimate discrimination - saying that this person is more important than anyone else." Taking chants literally is up there with head-counts as one of my favourite things to do at demos.
"Shut up Maia"
"You've done an amazing job." I give her a hug.
It was a joyous march - you can get a sense of it here:
Two young men had brought along placards designed to insight hate rather than fight it. One said "Iran executes gay people - which side are you on?" the Other "Israel is the most gay-friendly state in the middle east." . Slowly the crowd edged away from them leaving them alone.
Later on someone gave me a flaming torch and I resisted the urge to set their placards on fire ("on careful consideration it would just bring attention to them away from everything awesome" "Yes and they'd also have a burning placard to attack you"). Although having a burning torch and not setting anything on fire is quite difficult, and I had to content myself with lighting people's ciagerettes.
I couldn't hear most of the speeches. I was down the back and megaphones are hard to hear at the best of times.
There were lots of Green party MPs, and Kevin Hague gave what sounded like a good speech. I was surprised about the lack of labour party MPs. When Jordan Carter talked about needing to vote I tried to shout out "Not for parties with MPs who accept that supporting gay rights is hating God." But I couldn't make it work in the moment, so it came out as random labour party sucks rhetoric (it's not that pithy even now).
The most powerful speeches, of course, were of people telling their own stories. Stories of hate, violence, fear - and resistance. Brooklynne's speech spelled out so amazingly how important that resistance was - and the whole event was about collective strength.
There was a girl there in her school uniform. When I was in sixth form the Evening Post printed an article stating we had a lesbian support group in our school (which I don't think even was a lesbian support group). Our principal was on Kim Hill who asked her if she'd allow satanist support group. I didn't do any work in any of my classes the next day, because we just talked about it all the time (what were the conversations even about?). At Queer the Night, those high school kids whose gender and sexuality don't conform with what they're told they should be got such a different message than anything available when I was at school.
It is appalling that Queer the Night is needed, but amazing what the organisers, and everyone there managed to create.
* I have a little bit of a demo counting obsession. I count or try to estimate pretty much every demo I go on.
Thursday, 2 June 2011
On Thursday 9th June, 7pm, Waitangi Park, the Queer the Night march is happening in Wellington. This is to stop homophobia and transphobia on our streets.
Inspired by Reclaim the Night, Queer the Night is happening in response to a couple of recent incidents where members of the queer community were assaulted in central Wellington. Whilst many would think that respect for people of all sexualities, and identities, is nigh universal, homophobia is not just restricted to a few bigoted Neanderthals. Homophobia and transphobia exist throughout New Zealand society, not just on the streets after dark. (One example being the controversy which was the Civil Union Act 2004).
Already this year we have seen high profile cases where people and businesses have faced disgusting and frightening abuse, and vandalism, simply because of an individual or couple's sexuality. (Just search bakers or florists in any mainstream media source and you will find these high profile examples). These, and others, serve as shocking reminders that although we've come far, there are still dangers to those who are, or are perceived as being, outside heterosexual norms. To others, dealing with homophobia or transphobia on the streets is an everyday experience.
We also want to acknowledge and offer our solidarity for all those fighting homophobia and transphobia; in their schools, their homes, their workplaces and throughout the world.
The message is simple and clear. It is unacceptable for anyone to live in fear of physical or verbal abuse. Simply put, everyone has the right to express and explore their queerness without barriers, including fists and bottles on the street.
At the same time we want to celebrate the gains made in this area and have fun! I'm pleased to say that there will be performances from awesome acts such as...
(So bring your dance shoes if you have any?)
These great acts will be at Cuba St after the march. There will also be an open mic to give others the chance to express their opinions and experiences if they want to.
We will be marching on Thursday 9th June, meeting at 7pm at Waitangi Park (formerly Chaffers), travelling to Cuba St. Please bring glow sticks, torches, etc to light up our city. All supporters are welcome.
Kia kaha, and in solidarity,
Queer the Night Collective - queerthenight at gmail - http://www.facebook.com/
Sunday, 22 May 2011
A counselor takes a student to a doctor who prescribes Prozac. "Once the student has seen the doctor, the responsibility for that decision is the doctor's. Counselors don't administer medication."Actually, this is the one I'm closest to sympathetic to. Prozac does carry medical risks, particularly early on and in teenagers, and I'd like someone to be monitoring their health - and ideally that would be a main caregiver. But the counsellors aren't objecting to that - they're simply saying that it's the doctor's responsibility to assess the risk and take precautions. Seems eminently reasonable to me. And if a teenager needs a medication (and yes, I do have concerns about how antidepressants are prescribed - but I also know they can be a lifesaver) isn't it better they get it?
A student has suicidal thoughts. "Our job is to make a risk assessment. If our assessment is the kid really is at risk then there's no choice – the parent must be told. When kids are genuinely at risk, there's no fight in them, and they actually want someone to take responsibility for their safety."They make a risk assessment? Can't have that. That would make too much sense.
Look, they've said that they will inform parents if there is a risk (I would hope/assume other procedures would come into place in certain circumstances, eg abuse). Sometimes people have vague, fleeting suicidal thoughts when things are going badly that they have no plans to act on. Of course expressions of these need to be taken seriously until it's determined what the risk level is, but isn't it best for teens to be able to express them and have help dealing with them?
A student considers a sex change. "If there is no indication of serious imminent harm, then there's no choice; we can't tell."Oh yes, here's the ultimate scare story! Note the really vague term 'sex-change' which most people are going to associate with surgery. Let's get this clear. Little Bobby is not going to go to school one day and come back as Roberta, minus a penis. Surgery happens at the end of a long, long process, and is rarely publicly funded. There probably isn't even any medication involved at this stage (and if there is, see Prozac argument above). What we are talking about is teens discussing their gender identity in a supportive environment. I think that's fucking fantastic - I can't imagine that anyone would have felt able to to that at my high school.
And, yknow, gender identity can be very fluid for teenagers. Some people will know that they're not cisgendered from a very young age - but others will only start to explore the idea at puberty or later. And of those that do, some will be trans* and take medical steps, others will not but identify differently to how they were assigned at birth. And some will be cisgendered but have been exploring - say - an uncomfortableness with gender roles they were expected to take. Imagine being outed to your parents at such an early stage in your exploration, when you're really not sure what to tell them.
We didn't have counselors in my high school, so this is quite a new concept to me, but if they're providing a safe space for teenagers to talk about these issues, conducting risk assessments to keep them safe but not breaking their privacy unnecessarily, then this is a fantastic and needed service. Shame on you, SST, for your scare-mongering. I can guarantee that if you manage to destroy the confidentiality, kids are going to die because of it.
I also recommend Boganette's post on Judith Collins' call for a law change.