faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
I have ended my hunger strike. Last night I started having difficulties apparently as the result of having my electrolytes out of wack. As the one health risk I was trying to avoid was electrolyte imbalance, I decided it was time to eat again.

This is not how I was hoping my strike would end, but I am not despairing. While it is true that my strike has not led the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC) to make any policy changes, I have had a few small victories. For one thing CDMC finally got in touch with me. Granted, its response left a lot to desire: The collective failed to so much as acknowledge that its actions have been in any way sexist or misogynistic or that I have and need boundaries. However, CDMC did admit that it had once again disregarded my privacy, which is more than it had done over the previous three months.

It is also encouraging to see some of the community discussion that has come about as a result of my open letter. This is the first time many of the participants have talked about Shame Weekend or the surrounding incidents. What’s more, some of the participants have been people who do not readily identify as activists.

I am grateful for all the people who have supported me or expressed concern for me. This includes anyone who e-mailed me to say, “Don't fast.” I was putting people into a situation in which two principles—“Respect the autonomy of the oppressed” and “Preserve health”—came into conflict. I strongly believe that the former principle trumps the latter, but I know that the people who were acting in accordance with the second principle did so, because they cared about me. I am also thankful for the people who have supported my cause, understanding that the past two and a half years have been hell for me, and have written to CDMC or eaten with me at the last meal before my strike.

When I began my fast, I felt sorrow in part because I felt that there were few other people in Chicago who cared about all that has happened. I see now that this is not true, and this gives me hope that one day CDMC will be held accountable for its actions.
faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Nineteen days before I begin my fast.

I have sometimes found it hard to explain the problems I have with the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC). The difficulty may lie partly in the fact that in many cities Dyke Marches explicitly exclude trans women, so some people initially assume this is the problem with CDMC as well. When they learn that CDMC members have long welcomed trans women, they figure I have sounded a false alarm and resume ignoring the voices that have been critical of CDMC. It does not matter if CDMC has allowed slurs to proliferate at Dyke March or repeatedly shown disregard for a trans woman’s safety, so long as the collective has extended an explicit welcome to trans women. (Apparently not everyone in CDMC has disagreed. After the privacy violation and the other threats to my safety that preceded Shame Weekend I left CDMC and told the collective that safety concerns lay behind my decision to do so. One member’s response was to tell me, “You are welcomed.”)

Should we even be making welcomes the focus of discourse about trans women’s inclusion? More . . . )
faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
To: "Chicago Dyke March Organizers" <dykemarchchicago@gmail.com>

Chicago Dyke March Organizers,

I am writing in response to what the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC) called in a rare moment of forthrightness the “transmisogynistic violence” it has perpetrated against me. My purpose in writing is to explain why I plan to begin fasting on November 24 and what it will take for me to avoid or stop fasting.

My Restatement of Grievances

I remember expressing concern in May of 2009, shortly after I became a member of CDMC—I was the only transsexual woman who was a member at that time—because the collective had received a complaint that performers at Dyke March 2008 used a sexist, cissexist* slur in the context of a cheer that fetishized women who face multiple oppressions. The other members could have acted swiftly to address the problem. Instead they dragged their feet.

I remember making myself vulnerable to members who were using CDMC’s private e-mail discussion group, confiding that I had heard the aforementioned performers use the same slur at Dyke March as far back as 2005. The other CDMC members could have—indeed, as self-declared allies, should have—respected my privacy. Instead a CDMC member forwarded my message, including my name and e-mail address, to the parties who were responsible for using the slur; other members were aware of this but did not tell me.

I remember calling out the cisgender members of CDMC for their inertia. They could have taken the opportunity to educate themselves and grow as activists. Instead they responded with fear-mongering, tone-policing, derailing, and gaslighting.

I remember deciding that avoiding Dyke March 2009 would be safer than attending. CDMC members could have recognized the tragedy in excluding a trans, queer woman from attending Dyke March on the weekend of the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots and held a moment of silence for me and the other transgender people who had been silenced over the previous forty years, as I had suggested. Instead they held a celebratory “moment of noise”, making what should have been a weekend of pride a weekend of shame—Shame Weekend, as I have come to call it.

I remember contacting CDMC members, trying to find a win–win solution to problems they and other members caused before, during, and after Shame Weekend. They could have taken the opportunity to organize with me to find a mutually satisfactory resolution. Instead they failed to maintain contact with me, if not failing to respond altogether.

I remember sitting down to talk about Shame Weekend and surrounding events with two CDMC members on 2011 May 25—one day short of being two years after the collective received the complaint about the slur. CDMC could have used the following months to make good on the agreement the collective’s representatives made with me. Instead the collective resumed foot-dragging.

I remember discovering in August that CDMC had once again shown disregard for my privacy and writing to the collective about this and another concern, expressing that I wanted another opportunity to talk to CDMC members. CDMC could have taken the minimally decent step of listening. Instead the collective has not so much as replied.

Since the events leading up to Shame Weekend, I have for the most part avoided queer spaces, as I have no way of knowing whether the people I was snitched out to are seeking revenge or what Chicago Dyke March organizers will do to hurt me next. Because I contacted CDMC for the first time on the day I came out to myself as a woman, CDMC has effectively robbed me of queer women’s community before I ever found it. I did recently find something in the way of queer community, an organization that was initially attractive in part because no CDMC members were in it, but a member of the collective has entered this space as well. When allies fuck up, they tend to concede space to the oppressed people they have hurt. CDMC, on the other hand, has not so much as given me the opportunity to talk to its members about boundaries.

In the two and a half years that have followed my initial attempt to organize with CDMC it has failed to take an approach that is survivor-centered or focused on the oppressed. CDMC has taken advantage of the fact that because I am a trans, queer woman, I am already prone to being pathologized as a “narcissist”, putting that much more pressure on me to remain passive rather than assertive in the face of oppression. While the intersection of sexism and cissexism is a matter that concerns my well-being and even my life, it is a matter that CDMC, as an institution, has been able to treat as less than urgent or even ignore with little consequence.

This ends now.

My Direct Action

I have designated November 24 to be the day I begin a fast, which I will avoid or end only when Chicago Dyke March organizers meet my demands. These can be found in the following statement:

Demands for Reduced Harm

The survivor, Veronika Boundless, issues these demands. In this context Chicago Dyke March organizers means everyone who has the privilege of voting or participating in deliberative decision-making at Chicago Dyke March organizing meetings and everyone who has served as a marshal at a previous Chicago Dyke March and intends to serve as a marshal at a future Chicago Dyke March.

1. Because Chicago Dyke March organizers have not made a clean break from past violence, they will at least give other organizations fair warning. Thus, they will not collectively partner with another organization or join a coalition that another organization is a part of without first disclosing to the organization that over a period of at least two and a half years the Chicago Dyke March Collective perpetrated violence against a trans woman.

2. Further, Chicago Dyke March organizers will do less preaching of what the Chicago Dyke March Collective has failed to practice. Specifically, no one will, while remaining a Chicago Dyke March organizer, serve as guest speakers or authorities at forums organized to discuss verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual assault.

3. Further, Chicago Dyke March organizers will concede some space to survivors of violence. Specifically, no one will, while remaining a Chicago Dyke March organizer, join or remain a member of another group other than CDMC, if it is part of the group’s primary mission to end verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual assault or offer support to survivors of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual assault.

4. Because no one deserves to join Chicago Dyke March organizing without knowing what they are in for, Chicago Dyke March organizers will make these demands accessible to every person who attends an organizing meeting.

5. Chicago Dyke March organizers will acknowledge the violence against trans women found in their history using at least two of the following four media: Chicago Dyke March organizers’ most widely read public Facebook group, Chicago Dyke March organizers’ most widely read public blog, the Chicago Indymedia web site, or a full-page ad in the Windy City Times; this acknowledgment will be in no way cisnormative, reductionist, minimizing, or survivor-blaming.

6. Using the same two media that Chicago Dyke March organizers select while conceding Demand 5, they will explicitly concede these demands.

7. Chicago Dyke March organizers will honor these demands until they or their representatives meet with the survivor on her terms and reach a mutual agreement with her or until 2019 September 1, whichever comes first.

I am writing now to give you plenty of notice; I am not confident the body of someone who has my health problems will hold up as long during a fast as the body of someone who does not. Even so, I am prepared to carry out this fast to the end, whatever form the end might take.

With a fiery love for every trans woman and transfeminine person,
Veronika Boundless

*Cissexism is prejudice against transgender people plus the power cisgender people—that is, people who are not transgender—have over us.

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faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Veronika Boundless

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