Category Archives: trans

An uncomfortable inclusion, rejected

This morning I found myself sitting in my favorite neighborhood spot, Akat Cafe Kalli, where the politics are as palpable and potent as the coffee. I sat here, eating my breakfast sandwich, drinking my café de olla, reading my book , nodding my head along to the music, which I was growing increasingly aware of and was increasingly digging, but also increasingly scared to trust it. As I listened to the explicitly political lyrics on police violence, racism, sexism and homophobia that seemed to speak directly to me as a queer, leftist, womanish person of color, my suspicion grew that I might feel significantly less in tune with other, yet unnamed politics of the artists whose album was playing. The feeling increased as the words, now in Spanish as well as English, continued to resonate as much as the music to which they were set.

A few more tracks in, and I was digging the music too much to not know whose it was. I searched online for a snippet of the lyrics–“i’m a bird who sings in the springtime”–and found that it was indeed Climbing PoeTree, and that I was indeed right to feel betrayed. (In short, Climbing PoeTree performed at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival despite a longstanding call for a boycott because of their exclusion of trans women; the duo’s public response, the only one I know of, was weak, as was their response to me in real life after I yelled for them to stop selling out trans women while they were on stage at an organizational event I attended.

Despite feeling so seen, heard, included and even centered by this music and these words, I couldn’t stop thinking of those who are not included in the circle of these artists’ politics, those whose exclusion these artists have endorsed and even embraced–trans women. I couldn’t let myself go with this music, as much as my ears and body wanted to, because I cannot leave my sisters and siblings behind in order to enjoy my own inclusion.

 

A conversation with THEESatisfaction about their MWMF and AMC performances

Scroll down for screenshots of the full Twitter conversation.

On May 28 I started a conversation on Twitter with THEESatisfaction, musicians of whom I’ve been a fan for a bit, about their upcoming performance at the Allied Media Conference, which I’ve been deeply involved in since I first attended in 2011.

I wrote in response to their tweet about their upcoming performance at the AMC, a space which to me has long worked to be a safer space to trans women, other trans and gender non-conforming folks. This community ethos was especially visible in 2014, when the AMC was the site of the first International Trans Women of Color Network Gathering , a beautiful, groundbreaking and vital part of last year’s conference. Because of that, I felt it was important to ask THEESatisfaction about their participation in a transphobic and specifically transmisogynist institution despite a boycott called by trans women and their allies.

I recently learned that THEESatisfaction played at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 2013. The festival has had a longstanding practice of excluding trans women from participation as performers or attendees. In response, boycotts and other protests of the festival and its policies have been happening since 1992. In 2013, a widely publicized petition was circulated asking the Indigo Girls and other MWMF performers that year, including THEESatisfaction, to boycott the festival until trans women were fully included.

Below are screenshots of the rest of the conversation. The tweets that came from me and Jessie, another AMC participant, are still available on Twitter; THEESatisfaction have deleted all of their tweets and quickly blocked Jessie and I, cutting off further dialogue.

To date, THEESatisfaction has made no further statements with regards to their performance at MWMF, transmisogyny, or how it relates to their performance at the AMC.

AMC organizers have been aware of the situation since May 30 at the latest. Though they have engaged in conversation with myself and others about the topic, they have also made no public statements about this situation. THEESatisfaction is still set to perform on Saturday night.

thee_screenshot_1thee_screenshot_2Fourth set of screenshots of conversation with THEESatisfaction

 

The next screenshot should be read in reverse order, from bottom (earliest) to top (latest.)

Finally, a tweet from the personal account of one of the members of THEESatisfaction, which has since been made private.

thee_screenshot_5

EDITED TO ADD: I shared this on Facebook on June 20, 2015:

Trans women & allies met tonight to discuss the situation & possible responses. For a variety of reasons, including exhaustion, illness and a meeting earlier with Cat from THEESatisfaction, we have decided not to do an action at tonight’s show. We hope that Cat makes a statement from the stage as she said she would during our conversation. As a community we will be following up with AMP and AMC organizers about the problems with how they handled this situation and next steps to address these problems going forward, including how performers are selected and held accountable in the future.

The Allied Media Projects’ staff and board later posted this statement on their site, addressing this situation and others that occurred during the 2015 Allied Media Conference.

Cat of THEESatisfaction made a statement from the stage in support of trans women, accompanied by tweets that promised further response. Those tweets were eventually deleted, and no written response was posted on the THEESatisfaction website.

 

For Aubrey

After a webinar on blogging for social change earlier today, I found myself on the home page of my old blog, AngryBrownButch. Scrolling down the page, I was jarred to read these words from November 18, 2008:

Since writing about Duanna on Friday, I’ve learned about the killings of two more trans women of color in recent months. Ebony Whitaker was murdered in July, also in Memphis. In August, Nakhia Williams was killed in Louisville, Kentucky. GLAAD and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance report that not only was there minimal news coverage of Williams’ murder, but the coverage that did happen was transphobic and disrespectful. And just this past Friday, Teish Cannon, a young Black trans woman living in Syracuse, NY, had her life cut short at the age of 22 because she was trans. Again, the media coverage has been both sparse and disrespectful, identifying Cannon as a man who was killed for being gay, not a woman who was killed for being trans.

(It took me maybe ten minutes to type that last paragraph. It made me feel nauseous. I’m not sure how I’m managing not to cry at this point.)

Those words, written just over six years ago, are a terrible echo of words I’ve heard, read and helped write in recent weeks. Not even two months into 2015, at least nine queer or trans people of color have been killed, the majority of them trans women of color. We mourned those nine people on February 14 at a Valentine’s Day Action for Murdered Trans and Queer People of Color in downtown Oakland. Since then, the heartbreaking list of murdered trans women of color has continued to grow at a horrifying rate.

This epidemic of violence against trans women of color does a tremendous amount of collateral damage, beyond the devastating losses of the victims themselves. The toll this violence takes on communities of trans women of color and their allies is immense, immeasurable, and too often as severe as the murders themselves.

Hours after the dismay I felt at reading such similar words on my blog from all those years back, I received a text message from one of my housemates. He asked whether I knew Aubrey. I responded that I did; I’d met her and had gotten to know her through weekly hack nights at the POC-led, gender-diverse makerspace I’m involved in. I asked my roommate why he asked.

As I waited for his reply, I felt my stomach sinking. Aubrey was a young trans woman of color. I knew that with those overlapping oppressions and the other challenges she faced, she didn’t have an easy life. I’d seen my roommate post a question about suicide on Facebook earlier in the day. I knew what he would tell me before I received his next message: Aubrey had taken her own life.

The internet has created some strange new rituals of mourning and coping. After more texts consoling each other and planning how to share the awful news with others who knew Aubrey, I looked for her on Facebook, feeling odd about it but not knowing what else to do. We weren’t “friends,” so I could only see her public posts.

Towards the top of Aubrey’s wall, posted the day before she died, is an article about Sumaya Dalmar, a young trans woman of color found dead in Toronto on February 22. Below that, an article about how some trans women had created a now-defunct Facebook event declaring the last week of February “Worldwide Don’t Kill a Trans Woman Week.”

Aubrey’s comment on the article about Sumaya Dalmar: a crying emoticon, and the terrible question I’ve heard far too often from trans women of color in recent weeks: “me next?”

My heart is broken tonight, again, this time for Aubrey. I fear the next heartbreak. I feel like my community keeps bracing itself for the next heartbreak. It takes a terrible toll.

Three things keep going through my head:

The words of Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.” I will.

The words of Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” With all of the loss that we experience, it’s important to remember that it’s not the fight that creates that loss; the fight keeps us alive, gives us strength, brings us hope in the face of these heartbreaks. And, oh yes, we must love each other and protect each other. We must protect each other. We must love each other.

Finally, the memory of Aubrey the last time I saw her. I can’t say I remember exactly what we talked about that last time she came to hack night; I won’t pretend that I have more than a vague memory, most likely an amalgamation of that and all the other times I’d seen her in the space. We were only acquaintances, not close. But we were still kin. We were still community. I remember her smile, her laugh, her awkwardness, her earnest enthusiasm. I remember looking forward to seeing her again.

I’ll fight like hell for the living, and for you, Aubrey.

Thoughts on transmisogyny

What do you mean trans women are women? (Meme from Radicallyqueer.wordpress.com)
Meme courtesy of Radically Queer

Transmisogyny–transphobia directed specifically and often exclusively at trans women–has felt continually rampant in many of my communities for an entire decade now.

I frequently witness transphobia against trans women expressed by people who do not similarly target trans men, thus rendering this particular expression of transphobia sexist in a somewhat traditional sense.

I witness transmisogyny practiced most often by cisgendered (i.e. non-trans, female-assigned at birth) women.

I see transmisogyny excused most often by other cis women or other folks who were female-assigned at birth, including trans men, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming women.

As a genderqueer butch, female-assigned at birth person of color, transmisogyny personally upsets me most when practiced by women and gender non-conforming people of color; especially when their transmisogyny ends up being directed explicitly at trans women of color; and most of all when said transmisogyny is practiced by individuals and groups who possess and articulate clear analyses of how feminist and women’s movements have frequently marginalized certain classes of women, including women of color, queer women, and gender non-conforming folks who were female-assigned at birth.

And I dare say that I see folks who claim to be allies to trans women, people of color and white folks alike, excusing or explaining away transmisogyny committed by cis women way more often than those same people would ever excuse acts of racism, sexism, or even transphobia against trans men or gender non-conforming folks who are female-assigned at birth.

These are simply my observations, from my particular perspective, with all of my privileges and lacks thereof. What do you think? What have you seen or experienced?

Editorial note: Facebook comments and shares are nice, but comments and discussion here are even nicer! That way folks who aren’t on Facebook can both read and participate.