faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Donzell Francis, the San Francisco man accused of raping and killing Ruby Ordenana, will not face the death penalty.

Francis has already been sentenced to eighteen years in prison for the sexual assault, beating, and robbing of a transgender sex worker. He now stands accused of attacking two other transgender sex workers, including Ruby Ordenana, who was found dead on March 16, 2007. (All three of the sex workers were female-presenting people of color.)

According to an article in The Examiner District Attorney George Gascón will not be pursuing a death penalty conviction, reserving this for cases that are “very heinous”.
faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Having been one of the participants of Dyke March 2011, which took place yesterday, I thought I would write about two aspects of the march that no news source has yet reported on, so far as I have seen—the presence of the Trans United Contingent and the apology issued by the Chicago Dyke March Collective.

Along with other community groups, such as SWOP Chicago, Invisible to Invincible, Genderqueer Chicago, and Gender JUST, participants in the Trans United Contingent congregated at the start of the route and joined the Dyke March. (Full disclosure: I was in the Trans United Contingent, and my membership in Gender JUST is pending.) As I remember it, everyone in the contingent was in high spirits. Personally, I was quite pleased by the number of transfeminine people present; I cannot remember being at a public event where I strongly felt my identities as a trans person and a dyke affirmed. The Trans United Contingent invigorated many of the other march participants, who could not help but join in our chants of, “Trans people united will never be divided,” and, “Hey hey, ho ho / Transphobia has got to go.” (My new voice got quite a workout; I had to remain silent for most of the last 15 minutes or so of the march.) Considering the passion of another contingent that had a significant number of transgender people, Gender JUST’s contingent, I believe Dyke March would have been impoverished, had there been no trans folks present.

This brings me to the other topic of this post. In the rally after the march Mika Muñoz read an apology in which the collective said that I, “Veronika Boundless”, had “experienced . . . transmisogynistic violence”* at the hands of the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC) in 2009. Mika went on to say, “We acknowledge this occurred and commit to the process of responding to what happened and to doing all we can to make sure nothing like it happens again.”** One of the other march participants asked me what I thought of CDMC’s apology. I said, “It’s a start.” According to the participant apologies are easy and make a collective look good; the real test will be to see what actions follow.

*Because I had difficulty making out what Mika read (as did, I am surmising, the vast majority of the people who stayed for the rally), I am relying on an electronic draft of the apology that I was privy to before the march. As far as I know, what was actually read did not differ (significantly) from the electronic version.

**In the electronic draft the word and is emphasized.
faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
I have recently been contemplating an unexpected state of affairs. It started on May 13th when my doctor doubled my estrogen prescription, but first it might help to understand what I experienced when I first started taking estrogen back in October. Along with increased emotional sensitivity and ineffable changes to my perceptions I experienced euphoria. However, it was not long before I felt myself return to my usual depressed state. So when I started taking more estrogen on the 13th I was hoping to effect changes I would see in the long-term—increased breast growth, for example. It did seem that the estrogen had lifted my spirits, but this time the feeling was brief and not so pronounced, and it soon became a memory tucked away in the attic of my brain. However, after some days had passed I started noticing differences. One was that flowers captivated me like never before. Throughout most of my life I cared about no flowers besides red roses and carnations, but suddenly the purple flowers that line my street made my turn my head like they were Amber Heard. This change, while welcome, was nothing compared to the change in my emotional experience. It was not the euphoria I experienced in October, but my mood was noticeably elevated independent of external influences. Before it was as though I was hearing a continuous series of dissonant sounds that was always present, no matter how favorable the circumstances were. Now a symphony has replaced the dissonant sounds, and the harmony has soothed me even when I am at my lowest. I feel as though for the first time in my life I know contentment.

It will be a rare post in which I substitute discussion of my delight over purple flowers with my usual rage over social injustice. For one thing I think long-time readers would think my blog had been hijacked. More importantly, my happiness is all the more reason for me to fight the oppression of trans women. I should not have had to wait thirty-three years punctuated by self-injury and hospitalization for depression to experience what most cis women will know their whole lives. What’s more, for various reasons many trans girls and women who would benefit from hormone therapy have not yet started receiving it. Maybe they live in fundagelical Christian homes, where their parents hope to “pray away” their daughters’ gender identities instead of giving their children the respect they deserve; maybe they are locked away in one of the vast majority of US states that deny trans prisoners hormone therapy; maybe economic circumstances prevent them from buying what ought to be freely available; or maybe transphobic feminists have convinced them that they are infiltrators or worse, if they transition. Whatever the obstacles are, we cannot smash them too soon. Every woman deserves to have the emotional stability that I have now.
faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
This is an account of some of the experiences I had while trying to organize with the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC) in 2009. The main reason I am writing this now is the same reason that I participate in trans activism: I want to see the day when no new names are read at Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils. During my brief stint in CDMC I survived a number of instances of transphobia and misogyny, including the decision of one of the members to put me in a potentially life-threatening situation. Whatever else might be said about CDMC, I do not know any member of the collective who would deny this. Indeed a member of CDMC recently sent me an apology on the behalf of the collective. Even so, if anyone were to have visited CDMC’s web presence at any point during the nearly two years that passed before CDMC so much as apologized, they could have been excused for thinking not only that CDMC welcomed all trans people but also that trans people were part of the collective’s decision-making process. If CDMC’s words are not a narrative, they at least implicate a narrative—a narrative that has no room for a trans woman who was effectively driven from the collective and has yet to see justice. As long as trans people are at risk of entering CDMC unaware of its history, I cannot afford to remain silent.

My story begins on April 14, 2009. If this date seems familiar to you, faithful reader, it may be that you remember it as the day I came out to myself as a woman. On that day everything fell into place for me. The reason I had long felt inclined to call myself a lesbian was that I was a lesbian or, as I prefer to say now, a queer woman. Feeling celebratory, I wanted to find other queer women to express my pride with. The Dyke March was by far my favorite part of Pride Weekend (the weekend when ITAPBLGQ folks in Chicago and many other cities around the world commemorate the Stonewall riots, which mark the beginning of the modern queer rights movement), so I felt I would be a good match for the collective. I was not naïve, however. I knew that there had been a history of transphobia in Dyke Marches in general and the Chicago Dyke March in particular. So I decided to look at CDMC’s web site, hoping to find its policy regarding trans people. This is what I found on its Myspace page (and what can still be found on CDMC’s Facebook page and Wordpress blog):

Chicago Dyke March is a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, and transgender resilience.
Though I found this encouraging at the time, it was perhaps my first clue that CDMC had a structural problem. I might have just come out to myself as a woman, but I had known for more than four years that I was not a man, and so I had already long been involved in queer and trans activism. On at least one occasion the Queer and Trans Caucus of the Chicagoland Anarchist Network, one of the groups I worked with, had had a very visible presence in Dyke March. Despite this I had never once known a CDMC member to invite members of the groups I worked with to help with the planning. Indeed it seemed to me that the general perception among the activists I worked with was that the collective was only open to dykes. But with hindsight being better than foresight I quickly sent the collective an e-mail, asking to be involved.

Trouble arose almost immediately. The less severe of the two problems I had when I had first joined CDMC was that, well, I had not joined CDMC. Though my e-mail address was on CDMC’s listserv, available for all thirty or so subscribers to see, no one ever told me when meetings were held. The only reason I was able to attend my first CDMC meeting was that someone outside the collective told me the meeting time. So I went to the meeting, informed the members who were present of the problem, and I gave one of them my cell phone number. After this I continued to miss a number of meetings, because as before no one was telling me when they were being held.

When I was finally added to CDMC’s listserv, it seemed that I had hurdled the obstacles to my involvement just in time. A discussion arose about the Radical Cheerleaders, who had been unfurling an unwelcome mat for trans women and transfeminine people by various means, including the use of the slur chicks with dicks in one of its cheers. Though some red flags were raised during our initial conversation, I left the following meeting feeling that, if nothing else, everyone who had been present at the meeting understood that it is only for trans women and transfeminine people to reclaim transphobic, misogynistic epithets. What I did not know at the time was that one of the members present at the meeting—I will call her Rose—had already forwarded the entire listserv discussion about instances of transphobia at Dyke March, including my name and e-mail address, to two cisgender members of the Radical Cheerleaders. It would be weeks before I knew the extent to which my initiation into Dyke March was a baptism of fire.

Even while Rose hid her indiscretion, it quickly became apparent that problems remained. It turned out that the inaction I encountered when I had tried to join CDMC was not isolated. Any time a trans woman contacted CDMC turn-around time was slow. I developed a strategy for those occasions when a trans woman reached out to us: I asked the other members what the collective’s policy was regarding the issue at hand, waited twenty-four hours for a response (which I would never receive), and then act unilaterally to address the problem. But when I was the trans woman with a concern, who was there to help me? Finally I called out various members for their cissexism; backlash ensued. After reading the content of Rose’s response I felt the need to point out to her that tranny was a transphobic, misogynistic slur, even though I had already done so not long before. I went to the next meeting thinking that we would discuss cissexism, but the double-than-usual turn-out was more interested in discussing me. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to disclose that she had betrayed me, Rose talked about the cis woman tears she had shed. It was in this gaslit setting that I agreed to take a step back from criticizing members of the group. If I have only one regret from my time with CDMC, it was that in that moment I sewed shut the lips of the only member of the collective who was transgender and the only member of the collective who had consistently taken initiative in confronting cissexism and sexism.

After the meeting a week passed before Rose finally disclosed her betrayal. The revelation was not to be found in an apology or in an expression of sorrow but in a message to the collective’s listserv in which Rose blithely announced that the Radical Cheerleaders had found a replacement for the term chicks with dicks—namely, tranny chicks. Only one member bothered to respond; she proposed that the matter of the privacy violation be dealt with in a closed committee meeting where neither I nor any other transgender person would be present. Out of concern for my safety I left CDMC.

I have seen some stellar displays of solidarity since Chicago Dyke March 2009. However, other Chicago activists have distinguished themselves by supporting CDMC, even after it had repeatedly shown that it was more interested in being actively involved in trans people’s oppression than in our liberation. Affinity allowed CDMC to use its space to prepare for Chicago Dyke March 2010. Since then the Creative Justice Coalition has had a fund-raising event for CDMC. I wrote to a prominent member of Affinity on March 23, 2009 to inform her of the threat CDMC posed to trans people’s safety; I never heard back from her. I wanted to ask members of the Creative Justice Coalition why they were enabling my oppressors, but an extensive search for any contact information the group might have has left me empty-handed. I can only conclude that many Chicago activists have a long way to go before they can rightly call themselves allies to trans people.

As for CDMC, it remains to be seen whether the collective’s actions will follow its words. Fortunately not everyone in Chicago has been content to wait two years for justice. This is another story that needs to be told.

faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Lately I have been thinking about the value of trigger warnings. Writing about the use of the phrase trigger warning to indicate that content triggers others, Katherine of The Body Electric writes, “It rests on a massive set of assumptions about what might trigger survivors.” As someone who often finds it empowering to watch depictions of violence that would trigger others but can be triggered by seemingly innocent phrases, I could not agree more. Katherine also points out that trigger warnings have been used to “infringe upon the rights of others”, referencing a post in which Lisa Harney notes that trigger warnings have been used to justify barring trans women from women’s spaces. Taking all this into consideration, it is obvious that there is a problem with the way I have been handling triggers so far.

With that in mind I have decided to draft a new policy on potential triggers, based so much on Katherine’s that I am rejoicing in the fact that copyright law only protects content and not ideas:

  1. I will write the first paragraph of each post in such a way that the reader can easily determine the content of the rest of the post.

  2. I will construct hyperlinks in such a way that the reader can easily determine the content of the resource I have linked to.

  3. I will follow the internet convention of letting the reader know that material is NSFW or contains depictions of violence.

  4. I will tag or categorize all satirical content as such.

  5. I will not hold commenters responsible for content that is potentially triggering. However, I will hold commenters responsible for abusing or insulting me or other commenters.

  6. I will leave it to the reader to determine whether content is potentially triggering before they proceed.

  7. As I strive to make this an accountable space, I will welcome comments that let me and commenters know when we have said something insensitive.
Edited on the 29th to fix a typo.

faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Potential trigger: This post gives a brief description of an act of violence committed against a trans person.

It’s been hard to write for the past few days. On September 14th I read a report from Transgender Europe that said that from January to June of this year 93 trans people were reported killed. (I found the report via Helen of Questioning Transphobia.) This means that every other day a trans person is reported killed, which is pretty remarkable when one takes the small size of the population of trans people into account. Considering that a disproportionate number of the trans people who were killed were women or transfeminine, this should be of concern not only to those of us who fight for trans liberation but also to those of us who fight for women’s liberation. One reason I’ve been disinclined to speak is that experience has shown that no matter what trans women say, cis feminists by and large fail to acknowledge that our concerns are feminist concerns.

But mostly what’s been keeping me from writing has been dread—the dread of facing each day knowing that there’s a greater than fifty percent chance that it will be reported that someone like me has been killed. And who knows how many of us get killed without anyone hearing about it? It is difficult enough to think about just one of the killings. Consider, for example, the trans person who was killed in Chihuahua on April 3rd. Ze was decapitated while ze was still alive, and hir head was discarded one kilometer from hir body. What kind of hate does it take for one human being to do that to another? Thinking about the question leaves me feeling inadequate. I can tell you what happened, dear reader, but I can’t hope to express the horror.

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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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