WBEZ | transgender http://www.wbez.org/tags/transgender Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Billboards demand respect for transgender women http://www.wbez.org/news/billboards-demand-respect-transgender-women-110535 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/transgender_140722_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ten billboards targeting misperceptions about transgender women are up on the South and West Sides of Chicago.</p><p>A pair of anonymous high-heel clad legs is paired with this message: &ldquo;She&rsquo;s just walking, not working. Respect transgender women.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the biggest stigma is that trans are street workers,&rdquo; said Danielle Love, a peer outreach educator for <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/?post_causes=translife-center">TransLife</a>, a program of Chicago House. The nonprofit advocates for the transgender community and is behind the billboards.</p><p>&ldquo;My own personal story to tie into that is just 15 years of if I&rsquo;m walking to a store and I get stopped by the police and they say what are you doing? Where are you going. Why are you out here?&rdquo; Love said. &ldquo;Just by those questions and the fact I was pulled over, that already says right there a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>The intent of the campaign, which kicked off in July, is to blanket areas where there are fewer resources for transgender women who face many societal and health barriers. Soon posters will go in doctor&rsquo;s offices and health clinics. <a href="http://firebellydesign.com/">Firebelly Design</a> did the billboards pro bono.</p><p>Lex Lawson, housing manager of the TransLife Center, acknowledges some transgender women engage in sex work.</p><p>&ldquo;That is work and that&rsquo;s valid work. It&rsquo;s survival. There&rsquo;s no shame in that. This is more to say that that&rsquo;s not the only thing trans women are. They are more than sex workers and if they are, we need to examine why people feel that&rsquo;s the only option they have,&rdquo; Lawson said.</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to quantify the local transgender community in Chicago. But Chicago House encounters individuals who have difficulty accessing housing and employment. <a href="http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/fact_sheets/transsurvey_prelim_findings.pdf">National research</a> from a few years ago found widespread discrimination against transgender people.</p><p>&ldquo;All we want are equal rights as everyone else. We are employable. We are your neighbors,&rdquo; Love said.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/billboards-demand-respect-transgender-women-110535 Transgender community struggles to find its place in modern India http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-18/transgender-community-struggles-find-its-place-modern-india-110525 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/real pic for web siri.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><br />The Mahabharatha, one of India&rsquo;s most ancient texts, tells tales of gods and demons, of kings and queens, and of common men and women. The epic story takes place over hundreds of years and serves as the foundation for Hinduism. The most popular stories are of Lord Vishnu or Arjun, passed on in Indian households from generation to generation in songs or bedtime stories. But the less talked about characters are Mohini and Brihannala &ndash; who are versions of Lord Vishnu and Arjun in female form.<br /><br />Stories idolizing transgender characters are not uncommon in Hindu mythology, nor were transgender people uncommon in ancient Indian society. Eunuchs, transgender people and cross-dressers were referred to as Hijra &ndash; an Urdu-Hindustani word adopted into modern Hindi. They were hired regularly to guard queen&rsquo;s chambers or assist priests in temples, both highly respected positions.<br /><br />Today&rsquo;s transgender community live in a very different reality.<br /><br />Hundreds of years of imperialist British rule have left imprints of colonial-era puritanical values within, what was, a vastly accepting society. Traditional Indian culture was seen as primitive and soft in contrast to the rational and masculine tradition of the western world. Educated Indians began distancing themselves from customs perceived as effeminate or traditional, so as to assimilate with the British elite. This is when the Hijra first became marginalized and ostracized from the rest of Indian society. &nbsp;<br /><br />Furthermore, the British imposed an anti-sodomy law in 1861 which outlawed all acts of &ldquo;unnatural intercourse,&rdquo; thus criminalizing the Hijra community entirely. &nbsp;Today, the Hijra community find themselves on the margins of society, often living in precarious circumstances and vulnerable to abuse.</p><p><strong>A very different reality&nbsp;</strong></p><p>&quot;The amount of discrimination you face because of your gender and sexuality and because of your caste and class&hellip; that&rsquo;s the matter,&quot; says Akkai Padmashali, a Hijra born in Bangalore. &quot;We&#39;re fighting against this attitude with society every day.&quot;<br /><br />Despite being born into an educated, middle class family, Akkai found that her family reacted with anger and revulsion to her decision to identify as a girl, having been born biologically male. At the age of sixteen she ran away with two of her friends and joined a community of Hijras. Barred from most other professions, the Hijras often earn money from sex work. Akkai was one of them.&nbsp;<br /><br />&quot;I didn&#39;t want to do sex work. It was pressure. I had to earn money so I did it,&quot; says Akkai. &quot;Men. Homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, they all came to us for sex work. They don&#39;t do these things with their wives or their partners so they come to us.&quot;<br /><br />The Bangalore police picked up Akkai and several of her Hijra sisters while they were participating in sex work. &quot;We were taken to the police station. The whole station wanted to know how we had sex, what sort of sexual acts we indulged in. They kept us for the whole day and made fun of us&hellip; the whole station.&quot;<br /><br />In joining the Hijra community, Akkai had lost her value from mainstream society - becoming, in effect, a non-person. If clients were abusive, there was no one to help. Even the police were against her.</p><p>BT Venkatesh is the senior legal advocate for Sangama, a human rights organization for sexual minorities. &quot;Most Hijras do sex work because there is no other work for them,&quot; he says. &quot;They are pushed into that by society and society should accept them.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;In some areas, the Hijras are arrested, beaten, raped, kept illegally in the police station and no one is willing to be a surety for bail. It is a very bad scene. But in Bangalore, Sangama will come to the police station and prosecute them for unconstitutional behavior,&quot; she says.<br /><br />&quot;If the police is [sic] beating me, I will take the beatings,&quot; says Akkai. &quot;I will not turn around and beat him. Then go according to the law, if you die, you die. But we follow the constitutional laws.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div id="PictoBrowser140718161254">Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "500", "500", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Koovagam Festival"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157645752438001"); so.addVariable("titles", "on"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "on"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "mid"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "90"); so.write("PictoBrowser140718161254"); </script><br /><p>On April 15th, 2014, the Indian Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment, which now permits transgender people to legally identify themselves under a &ldquo;third gender&rdquo; option. In India there are an estimated two million transgender people who, until now, have been unable to obtain official government documents due to exclusion from the legal system. In the past, a hospital could turn away a Hijra due to confusion over which ward to place them in.<br /><br />Under this ruling, transgender individuals may legally register for health care, bank accounts and passports. In addition, they now fall under a protected group called the OBCs, or Other Backwards Castes, who are extended a 37% reservation for government positions.&nbsp;<br /><br />Barathi K is a Hijra from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. She says that the ruling is the first step towards acceptance from society.&nbsp;&ldquo;The first problem that we are facing is that the family is not accepting us. That will automatically be eradicated after we get job opportunities, economically some growth will come, slowly acceptance will come.<br />Society will also start to respect us once we get opportunities for employment&hellip; so that will happen once we mingle with our family. And that will happen because of the Supreme Court judgment. So really, really we are happy.&rdquo;<br /><br />After four years of sex work, Akkai decided it was time to rejoin her family. With the help of her younger brother, Akkai was able to negotiate a way back. &quot;I fought in a very positive sort of fight,&quot; she says. &quot;I am this. I just want to be what I am. Just to have my own feelings. That kind of debate was taking place for eight years.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>For higher caste families, Akkai imagines the struggle is even more difficult as those castes can often be more conservative. &quot;Just imagine if you&#39;re [the highest caste] and become homosexual and you come out, how does your caste treat you? The community will put you out of your caste. Same with transgenderism. People don&#39;t [compromise] with that, they&#39;ll always judge you.&quot;</p><p>BT Venkatesh has been going door to door and working with families by encouraging them to accept family members who are part of the hijra community. &nbsp;He says he also wants to see &nbsp;law enforcement to provide more protection for hijras.</p><p>&nbsp;&quot;We have to start with the police. They are the ones who should enforce the protective laws to help sexual minorities...A police officer we were prosecuting got angry with me and shouted &#39;Are you a Hijra?&#39; and I said, &#39;Of course I am!&#39; Because I feel their struggles, their issues, their pain.&quot; In all of Venkatesh&#39;s time working with Sangama, he has never lost a case.</p><p>&quot;Things are changing very slowly. But they are changing. Now in Bangalore, the police think twice before arresting a Hijra. They know that Sangama will come after them,&quot; says Venkatesh.</p><p>Meanwhile, the day-to-day struggles continue for Akkai and the transgender community. Despite growing awareness and small signs of acceptance, there are many challenges yet to be addressed.</p><p>&quot;I think behind the happiness there is a huge amount of sadness,&quot; says Akkai. A huge amount lack of space. You can&#39;t wear a sari outside, you can&#39;t behave feminine in the outside society. If you do, you&#39;re done, you&#39;re killed.&nbsp; You&#39;re targeted and you can&#39;t express what you are.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s only been four months since the Supreme Court ruling so changes on the ground are slow. Still, many members of the hijra community feel like the recognition of their human rights by the government and society at-large are an important step toward rejoining the mainstream.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Siri Bulusu is a freelance journalist based in Bangalore,India. You can follow her on twitter @siri_notsiri</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-18/transgender-community-struggles-find-its-place-modern-india-110525 Transgender man learns to accept love http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/transgender-man-learns-accept-love-110424 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 140627 Nick Heap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;I was the oldest of three girls and I had really only male friends for most of my growing-up years,&rdquo; Nick Heap says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;I had long, long blonde hair, long enough I could actually sit-on-it, blonde.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick grew up female and transitioned to male as an adult. He recorded his story as part of a partnership between StoryCorps Chicago and the<a href="http://transoralhistory.com/"> <u>Trans Oral History Project</u></a>.</p><p>As a kid, Nick was a &ldquo;tomboy&rdquo; who enjoyed riding around the neighborhood on his dirt bike, without a shirt on. His parents were supportive of expressing his identity as much as they understood it, but he struggled to understand himself.</p><p>In seventh grade, Nick wrote anonymous love letters to a girl at school who figured out pretty quickly who was writing them. &ldquo;Within days it was all over the school,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The harassment I would get after that was daily.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick&rsquo;s parents were called into the principal&rsquo;s office, but they stood firm: &ldquo;Is she causing an academic disruption in the classroom?&rdquo; they asked. &ldquo;So she wrote some notes to another kid. Kids do that.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick says that years later he talked to the girl who passed his notes around. She became a family counselor as an adult and they were able to talk through the experience in a healing way.</p><p>Even with that kind of support, for a long time it felt like he was on the outside looking in.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really hard feeling like I was utterly alone,&rdquo; Nick says. &ldquo;Now that I am passably male one hundred percent of the time, I am finally free to express those aspects of myself that are feminine, safely. But for so long, I spent so much of my life being ultra-masculine.&rdquo;</p><p>Over time, Nick has learned to have more patience with his family and himself.</p><p>&ldquo;For so long in my life, I couldn&rsquo;t feel the love of all the people around me,&rdquo; Nick says. &ldquo;It was like I was walking around inside a shell of armor. And their love just couldn&rsquo;t get to me. I couldn&rsquo;t feel it. I saw it, I knew it was there, I just couldn&rsquo;t feel it. And today that&rsquo;s not the truth. I can absolutely experience all this amazing love that has been all around me all the time and I&rsquo;m able to give that back to people now.&rdquo;</p><p>In June,<a href="http://storycorps.org/outloud/"> <u>StoryCorps launched the &ldquo;Out Loud&rdquo; initiative</u></a> to collect stories from LGBT people. One of these stories will be broadcast nationally on NPR each week for the next year.</p><p>The Trans Oral History Project continues to collect stories in partnership with StoryCorps Chicago. They <a href="http://transoralhistory.com/uploads/toolkit/ilive-interactive.pdf">recently published a toolkit</a> for gay-straight alliances and community organizations that work with LGBT youth.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/transgender-man-learns-accept-love-110424 Life in Northwest Indiana's steel closet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steel.PNG" style="height: 470px; width: 325px; float: left;" title="" />As Illinois gears up for its first legal same-sex marriages, across the border in Indiana gay marriage is still officially banned.</p><p>Hoosiers say attitudes there are starting to soften, but some workplaces are still more closeted than others.</p><p>A new book reveals a little-known community of LGBT steelworkers who punch in every day at Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s huge steel mills.</p><p>&ldquo;Steel Closets&rdquo; by the author <a href="http://www.annebalay.com/" target="_blank">Anne Balay</a>, documents life in the macho environment of the steel mills where LGBT workers face discrimination and are often afraid to report it to the union.</p><p>Balay, a former English professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and the University of Illinois at Chicago, spent five years interviewing some 40 current and former steelworkers for her book.</p><p>She and retired lesbian steelworker Jan Gentry joined WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente at our Crown Point bureau.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 Morning Shift: New discoveries about ancient mummies in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-01/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummies <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Spo0ky mummy Flickr Chris Devers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We hear how researchers are discovering new things about the long dead. Plus, we hear about the Department of Justice&#39;s new initiative to help the transgender population, and the music of Rachel Ries.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: New discoveries about ancient mummies in Chicago" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-01/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummies Morning Shift: The unique challenges facing the transgender community http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-09/morning-shift-unique-challenges-facing-transgender <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The transgender community faces many challenges - including ignorance from the general population. We talk with some leaders in the trans community in Chicago about how everyone can be more educated.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The unique challenges facing the transgender community" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 08:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-09/morning-shift-unique-challenges-facing-transgender Gay advocacy group wants Chicago to suspend sister city program with Moscow http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Moscow Sister City_130731.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois wants Chicago to suspend its sister city program with the Russian capital of Moscow.</p><p>The <a href="http://chicagosistercities.com/sister-cities/moscow/">program</a> organizes local events, such as the Russia Day celebrations and the Russian-American Business Forum, to help strengthen cultural and commercial ties between the two cities.</p><p>Russia recently passed a law that bans people from holding gay pride rallies and informing minors about the LGBT community.</p><p>Equality Illinois also calls for Illinoisans to cancel business dealings with or travel plans to the eastern European country.</p><p>Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov says some local businesses have already stopped selling Russian products.</p><p>&ldquo;We live in a city that is very conscious of treating everyone with equal dignity and respect, and by us partnering with Moscow, a city that&rsquo;s... the opposite of where Chicago stands, I think we&rsquo;re going to send a strong message by saying that enough is enough.&rdquo; Cherkasov said.</p><p>Chicago Sister Cities International says they must continue the program so LGBT Russians might still feel welcome here. A statement from the organization also noted that it&rsquo;s important to keep the lines of communication open.</p><p><em>Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/jclee89">@jclee89</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 Privilege in a dress: Arrested Development's transphobic slip http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/privilege-dress-arrested-developments-transphobic-slip-106843 <p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2x16_Meat_the_Veals_%2831%29.png" style="line-height: 1.15; width: 516px; height: 290px;" title="Mrs. Featherbottom attempts to fly on an umbrella in 'Meat the Veals,' one of the classic program's all-time great episodes. (Still from Arrested Development)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes there&#39;s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can&#39;t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in. However, other times things just suck. This week, <em>Arrested Development</em> sucked.</p><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;ve been excited for months about the promise of the show&rsquo;s return. <em>Arrested Development</em> is one of my favorite things in the world, a show that never sacrificed intelligence in its quest for jokes. Creator/writer/producer Mitchell Hurwitz created a show that was dense with jokes, some so brilliantly weird that it took viewers multiple views to pick up on the humor. Hurwitz reportedly spent weeks crafting some of the episodes, and it took Hurwitz five years to get the reboot off the ground. If the <em>AD</em> could come back, he wanted to get it right. The viewers deserved that.</p><p dir="ltr">However, a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.queerty.com/arrested-development-makes-tranny-joke-in-new-ad-20130421/" target="_blank">recent joke</a> from the show&rsquo;s promotional materials calls into question that capacity for caring about their audience. Writer Zinnia Jones&nbsp;<a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2013/04/arrested-development-of-good-taste/" target="_blank">reports</a> that the show has been using transphobic humor to sell its relaunch. One advertisement, which has now been pulled, asks viewers, &ldquo;Who&rsquo;s your favorite tranny granny?&rdquo; The caption is next to pictures of Tobias in drag, as Mrs. Featherbottom, and George Sr. in a dress.</p><p dir="ltr">On the joke, Jones writes,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s...not funny at all. It&rsquo;s the sort of lazy humor that every comedy, given enough time, will arrive at eventually &ndash; like a Godwin&rsquo;s Law of transphobia. These low-effort attempts at comedy are made under the assumption that the mere idea of men in dresses, or trans people, is inherently laughable. Treating both as though they were the same is just the icing on the cake.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Although the show heavily featured &ldquo;men in dresses,&rdquo; the joke was never about Tobias wearing a dress. It was about the delusion that he could trick his family into believing that he was a woman, despite giving one of the worst drag performances in history. <em>Arrested Development</em> wasn&rsquo;t critiquing Tobias for wearing a dress; the show lampooned him for being a bad actor &mdash; and a hideously self-involved one.</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout the show, the characters&rsquo; persistent narcissism is the real target. The Bluths are the worst, most clueless people in the world, and that makes them hilarious. It&rsquo;s smart comedy about stupid people.</p><p dir="ltr">However, this joke is what is clueless and stupid. Instead of making the Bluths the butt of the joke, it&rsquo;s an affront to transgender viewers who believe in the show and are as happy to see it return as the rest of us. The show has a strong following in the queer and trans communities because a) it&rsquo;s funny b) we hate George W. Bush, too and c) it&rsquo;s hella queer inclusive, with multiple out recurring characters and a notable lesbian star. (Hi, Portia!)</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Arrested Development </em>premiered in 2003, when few shows would touch queer audiences with a 10-foot pole. <em>AD</em> made us feel embraced, and it&rsquo;s treatment of Tobias is surprisingly sweet when you think about it. What&rsquo;s considered funny about Tobias isn&rsquo;t that he&rsquo;s gay; it&rsquo;s that he thinks people don&rsquo;t know. Most shows would shame him for it. In <em>Arrested Development</em>, his wife and daughter stick by him anyway. What&rsquo;s more affirming than that?</p><p dir="ltr">This humor achieves the opposite effect, using transphobic language to marginalize transgender viewers. Jones writes,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Here it is, the all-too-frequent reminder that this is not for you. It&rsquo;s meant for other people, so that they can laugh at you. It tells us that the fact of our humanity wasn&rsquo;t actually taken into account at any point between someone having an idea, someone cobbling it together, someone approving it, and someone clicking &lsquo;post&rsquo;. Just being able to go about our lives would be too much to ask &ndash; we have to be someone&rsquo;s punchline.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Whenever jokes like these are made, people are quick to defend it as un-PC and the creators as equal opportunity offenders. However, what is equal opportunity about this joke? For the trans community, &ldquo;tr*nny&rdquo; is considered a hateful slur, comparable to using the &ldquo;n-word,&rdquo; the six letter &ldquo;f-word&rdquo; or the Jewish &ldquo;k-word.&rdquo; You would never see <em>Arrested Development</em> ask its audience who their favorite &ldquo;n-word&rdquo; is.</p><p dir="ltr">What makes it okay with trans people? Where was the outrage?</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s because in comedy, we often see hierarchies of offense &mdash; people who are seen as okay to make fun of without much backlash. When <em>The New Normal</em> called intersex people &ldquo;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/because-racism-so-last-year-new-normal-making-fun-intersex-people-now-104822" target="_blank">pathetic</a>,&rdquo; many viewers barely batted an eye. People don&rsquo;t seem to give a flying truck that <em>Two Broke Girls</em> regularly makes Asians into desexualized, &quot;<a href="http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/41440/yo-is-this-racist-2-broke-girls-and-the-new-long-duk-dong-we-never-asked-for" target="_blank">Yellow Panic stereotypes</a>.&quot; When someone says the word &ldquo;f*ggot,&rdquo; we know to be scandalized. Look at what&rsquo;s happened to Isaiah Washington and Mel Gibson. Homophobia helped kill their careers.</p><p dir="ltr">When Stacy Lambe of Queerty&nbsp;<a href="http://www.queerty.com/arrested-development-makes-tranny-joke-in-new-ad-20130421/" target="_blank">wrote about</a> <em>Arrested Development</em>&rsquo;s transphobic slip up, many commenters called Lambe and Jones&rsquo; critique &ldquo;attention-seeking outrage.&rdquo; Eric Auerbach wrote, &ldquo;Transphobic humor? Give me a f*cking break.&rdquo; TinoTurner felt that the criticism only showed that Queerty is &ldquo;really hard up for stories.&rdquo; The respondent instructed Lambe to &ldquo;f*ck off.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">By telling trans people they don&rsquo;t have a right to be offended, it upholds the idea that it&rsquo;s okay to make fun of some and not others, a marginalization that shows trans people aren&rsquo;t worth caring about. We saw this same calculation in a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/4ad20b4edf/michael-shannon-reads-the-insane-sorority-letter" target="_blank"><em>Funny or Die </em>video</a> this week, when Michael Shannon read off Rebecca Martinson&rsquo;s infamous &ldquo;sorority girl letter.&rdquo; Shannon and <em>Funny or Die</em> took out Martinson&rsquo;s use of the word &ldquo;f*ggot&rdquo; but kept in &ldquo;ret*rded.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">What makes it okay to offend differently abled folks? <em>Funny or Die</em>&rsquo;s misguided idea that they aren&rsquo;t part of the audience. They aren&rsquo;t watching the video to get offended. My brother is differently abled. Just because he isn&rsquo;t watching doesn&rsquo;t mean he doesn&rsquo;t receive that message every day, when kids push him at school or mock his inability to read. He isn&rsquo;t just called a &ldquo;ret*rd.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s also called a &ldquo;f*ggot,&rdquo; just like I was &mdash; but for different reasons. The other kids at school don&rsquo;t think he&rsquo;s gay. They want him to feel weak and pathetic. It&rsquo;s about power.</p><p dir="ltr">These words shouldn&#39;t just be painful for him. They should be painful for all of us. Ableism, homophobia and transphobia are an embarassment to everyone.</p><p dir="ltr">At its best, comedy can work as a force for healing and take that power back. <em>Jezebel</em>&rsquo;s Lindy West&nbsp;<a href="http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke" target="_blank">reminds us</a> that the best jokes work upward, critiquing those who are in power, rather than mocking the already marginalized. The best comedy opens up a space to ask questions about society, offering us an avenue to laugh and to critique. Although we think about it just as entertainment, comedy is about social justice. It&rsquo;s giving a voice to the voiceless by finding the laughter in our pain.</p><p dir="ltr">A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thebacklot.com/louis-cks-extraordinary-ten-minutes-of-gay-tv/06/2010/" target="_blank">scene from</a> the TV show <em>Louie</em> is a model for how boundary-pushing comedy should work. In the scene, Louie C.K. and his comedian friends discuss gay sex with Rick Crom, an out gay comedian. They ask Crom probing and often homophobic questions about his &ldquo;lifestyle,&rdquo; which exposes their discomfort with the issue. The scene sets itself up for bigotry as a way to combat it. Crom schools them:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;I don&rsquo;t think about p*ssy. I don&rsquo;t care what you guys do. You&rsquo;re the one&rsquo;s who asked me. You ask me this sh*t every time I&rsquo;m here. I talk about gay sex more with you guys than I do any of my gay friends. You guys are obsessed.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The scene then abruptly turns. After Crom&rsquo;s speech, Louie C.K. asks if Crom gets offended when C.K. uses the word &ldquo;f*ggot&rdquo; in his stand up. Crom tells him he can technically use any word he wants, because he knows C.K. doesn&rsquo;t mean to offend, but C.K. has to realize what that word says to gay men. Using that word tells gay men that, like the bundle of sticks it refers to, they deserve to be tied up and burned. &ldquo;F*ggot&rdquo; affirms the our history of violence against queer people.</p><p dir="ltr">This scene was an extraordinary moment in television, proving that humor can be a tool for dialogue and education. It can help to heal our wounds, instead of reopening them. In taking the transphobic material down without apology or comment, <em>Arrested Development</em> hopes trans people and their allies weren&#39;t paying attention and that no blood will be shed over it. But we&#39;re watching. We&#39;re a part of your audience. We expect better.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can find Nico on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang" target="_blank">Twitter</a> or&nbsp;<a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/privilege-dress-arrested-developments-transphobic-slip-106843 The (un)equal sign: It’s time to break up with HRC http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/unequal-sign-it%E2%80%99s-time-break-hrc-106422 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/seeing-red_20130327142736_320_240.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: tahoma, geneva, sans-serif;"><object height="338" width="601"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2F&amp;set_id=72157633106819470&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2F&amp;set_id=72157633106819470&amp;jump_to=" height="338" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="601"></embed></object></span></span></p><p>When you look at the pink and red Human Rights Campaign equal sign&nbsp;that many queers and their allies displayed on Facebook <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/you-can-support-equality-without-being-marriage-106303">last week</a>, you might see a simple testatment to marriage equality. You might see a promise to fight for equal rights. However, a recent <a href="http://www.back2stonewall.com/2013/04/hrc-discriminates-scotus-hearing-discrimination.html">incident</a> forces us to ask this question: Members of the community might stand with HRC, but does HRC <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/hrc-you-have-problem.html">stand with them</a>? Does the organization&#39;s commitment to equality <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-juro/even-after-all-these-years-hrc-still-doesnt-get-it_b_2989826.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&amp;ir=Politics">include everyone</a>?</p><p dir="ltr">Sadly, the answer is no.</p><p dir="ltr">When gay marriage supporters gathered in <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-hell-happened-in-dc-today.html">Washington, D.C.</a> to stand against DOMA and Prop. 8 last week, attendees brought rainbow banners that suggest the diversity of our community. But at the rally, the HRC proved its true color-blindness.</p><p dir="ltr">During the rally HRC staffers asked one of the attendees to move a flag bearing the transgender equality symbol away from the stage, as it was too close to the podium. This was after another HRC staffer <a href="http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/03/29/activists-seeing-red-over-hrc-antics-at-scotus-hearings/">asked</a> the holder what the sign meant and was upset to find that <em>there were transgender people there, too</em>. The staffer then allegedly <a href="http://thedcgayz.tumblr.com/post/46475109689/hrc-asks-trans-protesters-to-remove-trans-flag-from">told the</a> attendee that &ldquo;marriage is not a transgender issue.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In defense of the move, the HRC claimed that many rally goers were asked to move their flags, so as to stage a patriotic photo-op. <em>Yay, America</em>. <a href="http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/03/29/activists-seeing-red-over-hrc-antics-at-scotus-hearings/">According to HRC</a>:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Featuring American flags at our program was the best way to illustrate this unifying issue which is why when managing the area behind the podium, several people were asked to move who were carrying organizational banners, pride flags or any other flag that was not an American flag.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;m not quite fluent in &lsquo;Murican, but this statement is, how do you say, total bullsh*t: Jerame Davis of National Stonewall Democrats <a href="http://www.bilerico.com/2013/03/hrc_and_the_trans_flag_incident.php?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BilericoProject+(The+Bilerico+Project)">witnessed</a> the <a href="http://dearcispeople.tumblr.com/post/46651162487/the-hrc-told-a-trans-person-and-activist-to-take-down-a">altercation</a> and confirmed the attendee&rsquo;s story.</p><p dir="ltr">Davis writes: &ldquo;I was there. I saw it happen. It was only the HRC reps asking for the trans flag to be moved. If they&rsquo;d only asked once, I&rsquo;d have given them a pass, but they continued to harrass this person over a flag.&rdquo; According to Davis, it was only the transgender attendees who were asked to relocate.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://planetransgender.blogspot.com/2013/03/undocumented-queers-demand-hrc.html?showComment=1364700470366">John M. Becker</a> of Freedom to Marry <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/hrc-you-have-problem.html">stood behind</a> Davis&rsquo; account. He stated:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m sure it was not HRC&#39;s intent to exclude or deeply offend, but regardless of the circumstances, people felt excluded and were deeply offended. HRC really should <a href="http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/united-for-marriage-coalition-apologizes-for-mistreatment-of-trans-and-undocumented-activists-hrc-signs-on-then-denies/politics/2013/03/29/63826">apologize</a> for this regrettable incident before it casts any larger a shadow on an otherwise beautiful event.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">HRC initially <a href="http://transitiontransmission.tumblr.com/post/46519107813/hrc-denies-any-wrongdoing-in-transgender-flag-incident">ignored criticism</a> of its actions, but as opposition to the organization&#39;s douchery spread over social media, the group was forced to <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/04/01/hrc-and-coalition-apologize-silencing-undocumented-trans">apologize</a>. HRC issued a statement that read in part:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;We apologize for having caused harm to the individuals involved. Apologies are being made individually and collectively and we are working to make amends.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Then they frowned, collectively put their hands in their pockets and spent the rest of the day sulking in their room while playing XBox.</p><p dir="ltr">A forced mea culpa is better than<em> noa</em> culpa, I guess, but I don&#39;t think we can take the organization&#39;s apologies seriously. This is <a href="http://sundial.csun.edu/2011/10/equality-for-some-a-critique-of-the-human-rights-campaign/">far, far from the first time</a> the Human Rights Campaign <a href="http://spaceykate.tumblr.com/post/46544373088/about-those-red-equal-signs-that-are-all-over-the-place">has been criticized</a> for its <a href="http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/jordan/2012/11/28/hrc-releases-municipal-equality-index-throws-trans-under-the-bus-again">relationship</a> with trans people. Remember: This is the same organization whose former Executive Director Elizabeth Birch said that fighting for transgender inclusion in employment legislation <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-transgender-community-hates-hrc.html">would happen</a> &ldquo;over [her] dead body.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The HRC is kind of like that boyfriend you had in college who claimed to &ldquo;love you so much&rdquo; but then wouldn&rsquo;t take you out on dates or be seen with you. You never got to meet his friends, and you always ended up paying for him on dates. When it came to the bedroom, it was all about him. &ldquo;Next time, it&rsquo;s your turn,&quot; he would say. &quot;Just be patient. I&rsquo;ll get to you.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">How many more ways can HRC tell trans people, &quot;I&#39;m just not that into you?&quot; The organization has been neglecting trans rights and taking trans support for granted for years, whether that meant <a href="http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?cat=96">throwing trans people under the bus</a> during the <a href="http://www.campkc.com/campkc-content.php?Page_ID=952">ENDA legislation negotiations</a> or having <a href="http://www.bilerico.com/2009/02/hrc_throws_trans_health_equity_under_the.php">transgender health initially left out</a> in HRC&rsquo;s Corporate Equality Index. In a survey on the nationwide <a href="http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/jordan/2012/11/28/hrc-releases-municipal-equality-index-throws-trans-under-the-bus-again">Municipal Equality Index</a> in 2012, the group referred to transgender inclusions as &ldquo;bonus points.&rdquo; <em>Bonus</em>, meaning &ldquo;doing more than what is expected.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In the brief, the HRC referred to trans protections as &ldquo;not achievable by all people at this time.&rdquo; HRC didn&rsquo;t even include trans folks in their mission statement until 2001:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;The Human Rights Campaign is America&#39;s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">I don&rsquo;t understand, HRC. If you&#39;re fighting for &quot;equality for all,&quot; what about equal health for trans people isn&rsquo;t achievable? Can you only get T on the moon, or is it lost at the bottom of the ocean like the heart necklace in <em>Titanic</em>? Is the idea of protecting trans people so alien that we can&rsquo;t hold employers to a standard of basic humanity?</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, HRC <a href="http://www.queerty.com/watch-lana-wachowski-talks-growing-up-transgender-in-hrc-speech-20121025/">honored</a> transgender filmmaker (and all around awesome person) Lana Wachowski with its (Token) Visibility Award. In her moving speech, Wachowski detailed her struggle to find a community that could accept her and move past seeing herself as &ldquo;broken&rdquo; or a &ldquo;freak,&rdquo; while acknowledging that sometimes our greatest struggles are for self-acceptance and to simply endure.</p><p dir="ltr">Was Wachowski&#39;s survival marginal, HRC? Is she a <em>bonus</em>?</p><p dir="ltr">HRC seems fine with transgender people if they are part of an appeal for dollars or a face on an ad campaign&nbsp;&ndash; as long as the group doesn&rsquo;t also have to actually fight for trans rights.</p><p dir="ltr">HRC also <a href="http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/2/9/harvard-goldman-glbt-award-shameful/">honor</a>ed Goldman Sachs with a Workplace Equality award in 2012. This is the organization whose &quot;<a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">corporate malfeasance</a>&quot; and <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">subprime lending</a> helped us get into the financial crisis, mind you, one that has particularly impacted those at the margins. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/homeless-lgbt-youth_n_2411884.html">Statistics show</a> that 40 percent of America&#39;s homeless population are queer.) This is the same organization that has, in the words of Samuel Bakkila of Harvard, <a href="http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/2/9/harvard-goldman-glbt-award-shameful/">consistently</a> &ldquo;supported <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=18683">conservative politicians</a> who <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/12/12/143590615/romney-stance-on-gay-rights-issues-its-complicated">oppose LGBT equality</a>.&quot; Goldman Sachs was also one of the largest donors to <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-02/goldman-sachs-joins-wall-street-to-fund-romney-over-obama.html">Mitt Romney&rsquo;s presidential campaign</a>. You might have forgotten him already. Let me remind you. Mr. Romney once <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/romney-some-gays-are-actu_b_2022314.html">informed us</a> that &quot;some gays are having children.&quot; According to Romney, &quot;it&#39;s not right on paper, [and] it&#39;s not right in fact.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Oh, and did I mention that <a href="http://www.queerty.com/hrc-appoints-goldman-sachs-honcho-as-new-marriage-equality-spokesman-20120206/">HRC hired</a> Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein to be a spokesman for its <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">marriage equality</a> campaign in 2012? <em>Salon</em> called the move to honor our toxic 1 percent &quot;<a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">offensive</a>.&quot; I call it licking the hand that feeds you.</p><p dir="ltr">HRC also receives funding from other financial companies like <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000071">Citibank</a>, <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000103">JP Morgan Chase</a>, <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=d000000090">Bank of America</a> and <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000106">Morgan Stanley</a>. These political donations go to conservative and anti-gay causes at disproportionate rates. There&rsquo;s a reason HRC&rsquo;s nickname is &ldquo;<a href="http://thenewgay.net/2011/07/in-defense-of-gay-inc.html">Gay Inc.</a>,&rdquo; and it&rsquo;s not just the pretty penny it makes off those shirts. It&rsquo;s because of the group&#39;s status as a tool of big business, its consistent valuing of &quot;<a href="http://open.salon.com/blog/avimecca/2012/02/07/dont_support_human_rights_campaign">profits over people</a>.&quot; The symbol shouldn&#39;t be an equal sign. It should be a dollar sign.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite what HRC would have you believe, the reality is that this organization doesn&rsquo;t speak for our community, or even reflect it. The HRC&#39;s cadre is made up of disproportionately white, cisgender people of wealth, power and privilege, who end up fighting, not for social justice, but for personal self-interest. Donors think they are putting their dollars toward equality, but they are merely paying for <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-transgender-community-hates-hrc.html">homonormativity and assimilation</a>. There&rsquo;s nothing equal about deciding who gets rights and who gets left out.</p><p dir="ltr">As <a href="http://agnesgalore.tumblr.com/post/46709012222/why-i-almost-defriended-everyone-who-had-an-hrc-logo-as">marriage equality</a> continues to dominate the<a href="http://mamamantis.tumblr.com/post/46505304978/darnganronpa-posted-on-fb-so-basically-as"> media conversation</a>, I think back to the HRC logos I saw slapped on bumper stickers and windows as a queer youth. I grew up in a conservative city often hostile to anyone who wasn&rsquo;t drunkenly tipping over cows on a Saturday night. But seeing that little blue and yellow square made me feel like there were safe spaces for me. I knew I had people in the world looking out for me. I knew I would turn out OK.</p><p dir="ltr">As a white, cisgender-ish individual, I still have that privilege. I can look at that symbol and know that HRC portends to fight for my rights and protections. But that&rsquo;s meaningless unless we start working to extend our systemic privileges to all. HRC needs to grow up and stop hogging all the toys for itself. It needs to start sharing.</p><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;m fine with organizations working to become more trans inclusive and fighting their histories of transphobia. I&rsquo;m incredibly proud of GLAAD for making the <a href="http://www.glaad.org/blog/glaad-affirms-commitment-trans-people-lgbt-community-and-allies-melissa-harris-perry-show">necessary moves</a> to include trans folks in the organization&rsquo;s name, realizing that an acronym that leaves the B and the L out contributes to the very marginalization it&#39;s hoping to fight. Its work isn&rsquo;t perfect, but it recognize that. A first step is still a step worth honoring.</p><p dir="ltr">However, I&rsquo;m tired of HRC saying it will change later. I&rsquo;m tired of HRC telling us, in more ways than one, that transgender rights aren&rsquo;t everyone&rsquo;s rights. I&rsquo;m tired of the group pushing trans people to the side. I&rsquo;m tired of HRC <a href="http://americablog.com/2010/10/hrc-caves-on-dadt-appeal.html">patronizing</a> the <a href="http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?p=96">trans community</a>, <a href="http://planetransgender.blogspot.com/2011/12/hrc-starts-abc-work-it-petition-leaving.html">speaking for them</a> instead of working with them and claiming it is fighting for trans rights in <em><a href="http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?p=20">its own way</a></em>. You&rsquo;re not Jesus H. Christ. I don&rsquo;t want you to work in mysterious ways. I want your ways to be visible and transparent. I want to know your ways even exist.</p><p dir="ltr">More than that, I&rsquo;m tired of being tired with the HRC and complaining about their commitment to shiny, $<a href="http://www.queerty.com/angry-protestors-pro-gay-corporations-democratic-politicians-and-hungry-journalists-descend-upon-hrcs-nyc-gala-20120205/">450-a-plate</a> galas and &ldquo;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/derrick-clifton/human-rights-campaign-same-sex-marriage_b_2973131.html">surface-level politics</a>.&rdquo; Our community needs to stop giving HRC free passes and instead needs to look into the face of the organization we enable. We need to stop being nice and start getting real.</p><p dir="ltr">Let&rsquo;s be clear: HRC is the problem. They are a giant, wailing infant of a problem and they need to be spanked and to change their poopy diaper politics. However, we are also part of the problem when we keep giving this group money. We need to stop rewarding an organization that we know doesn&rsquo;t speak for the diversity of our community, one that fights for the wealthy few at the expense of the many. We need to stop accepting later as an answer and expect change to start today. We need to start voting with our dollars.</p><p dir="ltr">We need to expect more than <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/04/01/hrc-and-coalition-apologize-silencing-undocumented-trans">sorry</a>. If not, we&rsquo;re just going to keep going back to the same <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/hrc-you-have-problem.html">broken relationship</a>, and we&rsquo;re never going to be happy. If the HRC can&rsquo;t learn to give back, we need to stop giving to it <a href="http://www.facebook.com/amigas.latinas.16">and</a> <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/">support</a> <a href="http://www.thenightministry.org/001_programs/040_youth_services/030_youth_housing/040_the_crib/">one</a> <a href="http://www.chicagoi2i.org/">of</a> <a href="http://www.aglochicago.org/">the</a> <a href="http://getequal.org/">many</a> <a href="http://www.howardbrown.org/hb_services.asp?id=50">other</a> <a href="http://www.lambdalegal.org/">organizations</a> <a href="http://www.almachicago.org/">doing</a> <a href="http://jointcra.org/">more</a> <a href="http://tjlp.org/">intersectional</a>, <a href="http://tjlp.org/">transformative</a> <a href="http://www.genderjust.org/">work</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">I think it&rsquo;s time the queer community breaks up with HRC, before it breaks us. If we want to fight for true equality, this is not the marriage we want.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang covers LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> or Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find them on the <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/unequal-sign-it%E2%80%99s-time-break-hrc-106422 We need to give up transphobia http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/we-need-give-transphobia-106351 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:16px;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2013-03-05-chain-fence-4_3_r536_c534.jpg" style="width: 386px; height: 290px;" title="Image of MMA fighting cage, where a trans fighter has stepped into the ring for the first time (Jae C. Hong/AP)" /></span></div><p style="font-family: arial;"><em style="font-family: georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;">Trigger warning: Transphobia. A lot of transphobia.</em></p><p style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.3950813978444785" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A month ago, my friend Todd Clayton came out as a recovering transphobe in an incisive <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-clayton/queer-community-transphobic_b_2727064.html">essay</a> for the</span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> Huffington Post </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">entitled &ldquo;The Queer Community Has to Stop Being Transphobic.&rdquo; In the piece, Clayton details his own journey on transphobia and inclusion, how a Lana Wachowski speech opened his eyes to the quiet bigotry in his own life. He hadn&rsquo;t openly attacked trans people or worked against their freedoms. Clayton was transphobic in a lot of the ways our community members are: insensitive and dismissive, not realizing the ways in which trans lives and struggles intersect with our own.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.3950813978444785" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">When he asked me to read it, I told him it was a common experience of cisgender people in the community. As someone who came from a similar place as he did, it was my experience. I told Todd that if he ever published it, I would come out with my own story. This is that story. It&rsquo;s not easy to tell. I&rsquo;ve been holding onto it for awhile, keeping it secret and safe. But it can&rsquo;t stay secret any more.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">My name is Nico Lang, and I used to be transphobic.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I never thought about myself that way. I thought that my emotions were normal and valid, feeling justified in my passive disgust for trans bodies. The first time I heard about trans people was when my father talked about seeing </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The Crying Game</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> in the theater and the way the audience convulsed with shock when the heroine&rsquo;s &ldquo;secret&rdquo; was revealed. My father claimed that people walked out or threw up when confronted with the image of transness or a life that didn&rsquo;t fit their binaries.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I was a teenager. Binaries were all I knew. Like Patty Hearst, I grew to love my captivity. I identified with my oppressors, working to uphold that marginalization in my own life.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">When I met a trans person for the first time, I didn&rsquo;t think my emotions were hatred, but they had to show on my face. For the purposes of this essay, her name was Megan, and she was one of the oddest characters I&rsquo;ve ever met, the kind of person you&rsquo;ll never forget. Megan claimed to be a vampire and drink blood; she also told us stories of being a general&rsquo;s wife and getting married in Egypt, as if she were a real-life Orlando or Candide. She wanted to believe she led a life that was too big to comprehend. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I thought she was pathetic. Rather than looking at her identity as a natural defense mechanism for a conservative Cincinnati that would always see her as an outsider, I refused to understand her. I didn&rsquo;t try. My friend told me that Megan had been kicked out of her home and most schools she&rsquo;d attended. This should have helped me be more compassionate, but my heart couldn&rsquo;t open to let her in. I still think about her sometimes. I don&rsquo;t know if she even knows I have anything to be sorry for, but I want to apologize anyway.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Like all hate, I held onto it and secretly nurtured it in my refusal to believe there was anything wrong with the way I felt. On my first day of Human Sexuality in college, we watched a video on transitioning, one that included thorough graphics on gender assignment surgery. Just as the doctor discussed creating a vagina out of the shaft of a penis, I tapped out. I went for a drink of water. I milled around in the halls, checking fake text messages. I didn&rsquo;t even have a texting service at that time. I just couldn&rsquo;t go back in there. This wasn&rsquo;t what I&rsquo;d signed up for.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I wasn&rsquo;t sorry yet. I started to feel the void where sorry was supposed to be, the same one I felt when I saw</span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> Transamerica</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> and turned away during its brief flash of nudity. I couldn&rsquo;t look at her, just like a part of me couldn&rsquo;t comprehend the identity of a trans masculine classmate of mine. When a friend showed me what trans masculine bodies looked like (from a coffee table book he owned of Loren Cameron&#39;s work), I almost couldn&rsquo;t believe it. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This is an actual quote: &ldquo;But they look so </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">normal</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&rdquo; It would be years before I learned to regret those words. I wish I could go back in time and punch that person in the face.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I wish there were a moment where I look at my behavior and realized that I needed to change, but life isn&rsquo;t like that. There isn&rsquo;t always a moment; there are a million moments, where you are made accountable to your lack of compassion and openness to the experiences of others, and that part of you will always still be there, nagging and pulling. Sometimes hate stays the same way it did before, and sometimes it lives on in racism, sexism and homophobia. Sometimes it just takes a nap.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">My hate was always secretly directed inward. From an early age, I <a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/when-i-was-a-girl/">identified as female</a>, and it was years before my parents could get me to put on a pair of jeans. I wanted to wear dresses. I settled for sweatpants. Most kids were obsessed with Barney or Chuck E. Cheese; I wanted to be like Jane Fonda, in her spandex and matching headband, commanding a room of women to be their best selves while protesting the war in Vietnam, winning Oscars and being married to an eccentric billionaire. Many of us grew up secretly believing we could have it all. I knew I could. Jane told me so.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">My father has the same name as I do, and I didn&rsquo;t want his name, just like I didn&rsquo;t want his maleness. I went by the name &ldquo;Nicky.&rdquo; When my parents resisted, I started spelling it in increasingly elaborate and stripper-esque ways, like &ldquo;Nicki,&rdquo; &ldquo;Nickie,&rdquo; &ldquo;Nikki&rdquo; and &ldquo;NICKEE*.&rdquo; I dotted it with hearts, wrote it in pink and shellacked it with glitter. Some kids have to come out; I was barely ever in.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">For a long time, my parents let it slide. This was at the height of my brother Jonathan&rsquo;s illness, and my mother&rsquo;s days were too filled with breathing tubes, doctor&rsquo;s visits and press appearances to pay attention to anything else. My brother was born with a condition that they didn&rsquo;t have a name for. Basically, his insides swelled until they couldn&rsquo;t anymore. It was like his brain was trying to push its way out.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">They didn&rsquo;t name my gender variance either. They figured that if they didn&rsquo;t pay attention to it, the problem would go away, like a car alarm or a Jehovah&rsquo;s Witness. My father expected that I would grow to only love the things he did; he expected me to give up Barbies for G.I. Joes and teatime for football, the sport he so loved. He just wanted us to be playing on the same team. He didn&rsquo;t expect to see me in dresses.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As a culture, when we see a man in a dress, we do one of two things: We laugh or we beat it out of him. We do that in different ways. My parents caught me playing Cinderella at daycare one day after work, and they didn&rsquo;t hit me or punish me. They didn&rsquo;t throw me on the street or pawn me off on a religiously conservative relative. They just showed me that wasn&rsquo;t an option. This isn&rsquo;t what boys do. I was never taught that it was okay to be a woman or that it was okay to be myself. Boys aren&rsquo;t princesses; they rescue them.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">They didn&rsquo;t realize that one day I would need to rescue myself.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Hating yourself is easy. I found a million outlets to hate myself. I had Jesus, who was nailed to a cross because I wasn&rsquo;t good enough. I had the locker room, which helped me learn to hate my body, on top of hating my soul. I had the guys who would wait outside my Pre-Calculus class to stare at me as I walked by, treating my queerness as a spectacle. I had the uncle who stopped talking to me when I came out, who would only direct questions or statements to me through my mother. He didn&rsquo;t hate me for being a socialist or wanting to tear down his capitalist patriarchy because of my political beliefs or any interesting reason. He hated me for the same boring reasons everyone else did. He hated me without even knowing why.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Boring or not, hate sticks. And low-simmering hate is particularly dangerous, because it&#39;s easy to ignore. Hate becomes a pattern, and you learn to hate for the same stupid reasons everyone else does. You hate without even knowing why, not recognizing that hate is a reflection of yourself. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">You don&rsquo;t choose to give up hate one day and wash your hands of it forever; the feelings stick with you, and they take lifetimes to cleanse. It&rsquo;s not enough to simply not hate people, and you don&rsquo;t get a pat on the back for looking at Lana Wachowski and saying, &ldquo;Oh, I accept you now. Here&rsquo;s an award. Go us!&rdquo; You have to actively work to include trans people in your lives and spaces, accept a callout when you get it wrong and educate yourself to be better. You have to be accountable to yourself.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As Virginia Mamey Mollenkott argues, </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&quot;It is vital for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to recognize our movement </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">as basically a transgender movement</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&quot; Mollenott tells us that it&rsquo;s not just about homosexuality. It&rsquo;s about being queer -- or &nbsp;different from the norm. Our struggle is about gender. She writes, &quot;The fact that the most effeminate gay men and the butchest lesbians are the most endangered among us should alert us to the fact that society cares less about what we do in private than it cares about a challenge to its longstanding gender assumptions.&quot;</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">There was a time when I accepted not hating people as enough and credited myself as a good ally for &ldquo;having trans friends.&rdquo; </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Look how far I&rsquo;ve come! </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">However, our engagement needs more than love; it needs action. Trans people are some of the most visible and at risk in our collective struggle, and we must actively work with trans people, rather than simply for them. Gay cisgender men need to stop wondering where the T is and realize that the T is all around us, organizing and working to make the community safer for all of us. The trans movement isn&rsquo;t the next movement. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Look around you. The movement is happening now, whether we care to recognize it or not. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The movement is <a href="http://kokumomedia.com/kokumo-music-2/">KOKUMO</a>. The movement is <a href="http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/12/04/being-transgender-no-longer-a-mental-disorder-apa/">Kate Bornstein</a>. The movement is <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/">Monica Roberts</a>. The movement is <a href="http://juliaserano.blogspot.com/">Julia Serano</a>. The movement is <a href="http://www.wehappytrans.com">We Happy Trans</a>. The movement is <a href="http://janetmock.com/2012/05/28/twitter-girlslikeus-campaign-for-trans-women/">Girls Like Us</a>. The movement is the <a href="http://www.transmonthofaction.org/">Trans Month of Action</a>. The movement is being broadcast all around you, and it&rsquo;s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/491163934264456/">coming to Chicago</a> this weekend with <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Trans100?ref=ts&amp;fref=ts">The Trans 100</a>, celebrating the incredible diversity of the trans community. Trans people are here. Are we paying attention?</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I thought of Megan this week when GLAAD <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/03/24/glaad-affirms-commitment-trans-and-bi-people-alters-name">announced</a> that it would be changing its acronym. The organization will no longer stand for the &ldquo;Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation&rdquo; but GLAAD, as in the emotion. </span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This reflects that the </span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">organization</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> not only speak</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">s for gays and lesbians, but also includes trans people in its mission. This was announced even though the G and the L will remain in the organization&#39;s name and their board is <a href="http://americanapparently.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/glaadt-gltaad-glaad-adds-trans-equality-to-its-mission/">mostly comprised</a> of white, cis males -- much like HRC, our friendly neighborhood transphobes.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I don&rsquo;t discredit them for that. I know personally that we all have to start somewhere, and that we can&rsquo;t move forward without taking that first step. However, in <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/172925/white-people-have-give-racism">giving up transphobia</a>, we must do more than just mention trans folks. Trans people are worthy of full inclusion, and they must lead, speak, sign, march, walk and wheel next to us (or in front of us). We must realize that their perspectives and issues are as worthy of championing as ours. We need to shut up and learn to listen. As GLAAD moves forward, I hope they continue to listen and push inclusion further. I hope we all do.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A month ago <a href="https://twitter.com/janetmock">Janet Mock</a> very politely called me out on Twitter for getting something wrong in an article I wrote on transphobia in <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/observers-transphobic-bullying-what-war-trans-women-looks-104924">The Observer</a></em></span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">, and I learned from her. I haven&#39;t always been great with callouts, but this time, I was happy to get schooled by the best. My work isn&rsquo;t perfect. My work needs to be pushed and to push itself. I&rsquo;m still learning -- and that includes learning to love myself, finally. Personally, I&rsquo;m still <a href="http://inourwordsblog.com/2012/01/10/coming-out-yup-im-genderqueer/">figuring out</a> what gender <a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/things-ive-learned-from-writing-under-a-gender-neutral-name/">means to me</a>. Like everything else in my life, it&rsquo;s a journey.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If I saw Megan today, I wouldn&rsquo;t just apologize to her. I would thank her. After all, she succeeded in at least one way: I never forgot her.</span></b></font></span></p><p><em>Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly characterized the makeup of the GLAAD board. Ten percent of the GLAAD board identifies as transgender. It also mistakenly characterized GLAAD&#39;s mission statement. GLAAD&#39;s <a href="http://www.glaad.org/about" target="_blank">mission statement</a> includes trans people. </em></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><em style="font-family: georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Twitter</a>, <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</span></b></em></span></p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/we-need-give-transphobia-106351