Monday, March 30, 2009

Data Collection Begins for Anti-Transgender Hate Crime Victimization Survey

You don't have to be from Mass. to fill this out... if it applies to you, please consider doing it.

The Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts has uploaded a survey intended to gather information about the circumstances and characteristics of hate crimes motivated by gender identity or expression-related bias. Here is the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=IACDT0aZzL6SLF05P0y_2bQA_3d_3d

Responses are requested from transgender victims of hate crimes in Massachusetts and throughout the United States. Please forward this link to transgender people and organizations in the United States. The results will be used to develop better strategies to prevent and combat hate-motivated violence against transgender people.

For more information, please contact Don Gorton, Chairperson of the Anti-Violence Project at dgorton@verizon.net.

From the survey page:

This survey is part of a study of anti-transgender hate crimes being conducted by the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts. A Report will be published in 2010. The Survey results will be used to develop more effective law enforcement and prevention strategies for combating anti-transgender hate crimes. Please complete the questionnaire if you were the transgender victim of an assault and battery and you perceived that bias related to gender identity or expression was a contributing factor.

In 2001, the Massachusetts Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes issued a regulation defining “gender identity bias” as a covered category of hate crime motivation for purposes of the Massachusetts Hate Crimes Reporting Act (which is broader than the comparable federal statute.) Under the Hate Crimes Reporting Act, law enforcement agencies are called upon to report hate crimes to the Crime Reporting Unit of the State Police. Eight years later, not a single case of anti-trans bias crime has been reported to the Massachusetts State Police. Information about anti-transgender hate crimes is severely lacking, which is hindering the development of effective public policy responses.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dan Savage Sucks

There's no arguing about it. He is a racist, biphobic, transphobic asshole. See especially that last link for his wise words about fat people and victims of domestic violence. I stopped reading his column a few years back because of what he's said about bisexuality and domestic violence - it's not like this stuff is new. He has crossed the line far too many times for anyone to say, "Well, he says this stuff, but he's still a good sex advice columnist."
As Aviva at Bi-Furious! writes,

I suspect the defense we’ll hear, if any, is that Mr. Savage makes his living by snark. No one reads him for the sweetness and light. And that’s true, as far as it goes. But “snarky” and “offensive” are not actually synonymous — there’s a lot of overlap on the Venn diagram, but also a lot of area covered by things that are one and not the other... It’s the difference between me writing about what an asshat Dan Savage is as an individual, and him writing insulting things about entire groups of people. Believe it or not, it is possible to be sarcastic, amusing, and the ever-dreaded PC.

It's time to FTMFA (that would be, "FIRE the mother...")

An obvious local place to start would be to get his column out of Outlook Weekly. Seems to me he has no place in a newspaper that is supposed to serve GLBT people.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rascal Flatts Is Sort of Awesome

I'm pretty picky when it comes to musical tastes. I do love a lot of old country, and I enjoy most bluegrass. I don't like most modern country pop. I've never been a huge fan of Rascal Flatts. But here I am, promoting them in my blog. There are two reasons I am posting about them. One is that they recently released a single that they themselves stated can be interpreted as a song of support for same-sex couples. The song is called, "Love Who You Love." The other reason I am writing about them is that they are totally relevant in a Cbus blog - two of the three band members are from Columbus, Ohio.

Quoth the band:

“We actually have some gay people that work with us, and we have a lot of friends that are gay, too, and I know that this song has inspired them,” said singer Gary LeVox during an interview at CMT earlier this month. “I know that coming out was tough on their parents and on them and the whole entire family. For a long time, some of them didn’t get to hear ‘I love you’ from their dads or be accepted in that way. … It’s helped a lot of our friends.”

“That’s what’s cool about our music,” says guitarist Joe Don Rooney. “You can interpret (it like) that. If you get that — it’s perfect. If you are someone who’s gay or someone who’s straight, you still feel something from the song, and that’s what we want.”

“We don’t judge anybody’s lives,” says bassist Jay DeMarcus.

Country music is often associated with ignorance in general and conservative politics in particular (and so is the Midwest - more on that later). It's not true at all that country has to be associated with those values. Both historically and in the present day, there are many country musicians who have/have had more "liberal" politics and many who support LGBTQ rights.

It seems too common that people say they like "all types of music except for country, rap, and/or metal." I'm kinda ashamed to admit that I used to be one of those people. I'd like people to look beyond what they think they know and explore music that might be outside their comfort zone. My appreciation for country music grew as I learned more about its history, and as I experienced more of it besides the shiny polished version currently blandly blaring on Clear Channel radio. I also came to love country more as I learned more about Appalachian culture and started to appreciate my family's Appalachian roots.

When I know more about musicians' personal politics, it can affect my taste for their music in a positive or a negative way. I still don't like 95% of country pop. You won't find any Shania Twain or Taylor Swift in my CD player. But maybe I'll give Rascal Flatts a second chance. And even if I don't like their music, I certainly, seriously appreciate what they are doing with this song. They have a huge listening audience and a great amount of visibility. I know as a musician that the universal language of music has the potential to change hearts and minds. I feel that this song has the chance to make a difference for some people and I'm truly grateful to Rascal Flatts for taking a stand. And I'm truly proud that not one but two members of their band hail from the city I currently call home.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Framing Radical Queer Politics Discussion/Potluck and Hootenanny for HellRaisers

I will definitely be attending this and I hope you can make it too.

Hootenanny for HellRaisers
Sat. March 28th
Free the Planet House
2408 Medary

Political Discussion Potluck at 7 PM
Topic: Framing Radical Queer Politics

Co-Sponsored by:
Arawak City Bash Back!

Hootenanny for HellRaisers is a monthly networking party for anarchists, radical queers, feminists, eco-warriors, social & racial justice activists, autonomy builders, collective starters, and our allies... even the occasional spineless liberals with good hearts :) We'll have a distro table as well... so bring any materials your group may have to share.
All are welcome who agree with the following points of unity:
-Rejection of racism, classism, patriarchy, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism and other forms of hierarchy.
-Direct & Participatory Democracy: organizing within structures that promote autonomy, solidarity and grassroots involvement.
-Embrace a diversity of tactics model including a commitment to not condemn any action on the grounds that it is illegal alone.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Opinions of Radical Queer Action Against Red Cross

Radical queer activists in the Twin Cities recently put up fake blood drive flyers to protest the Red Cross's homophobic policy of not accepting blood from men who have sex with men. Upon hearing of this action, Autumn Sandeen from Pam's House Blend wrote two blogs about it (first and second). I usually enjoy what she has to write, but this time around I was really offended by her posts (and some people's comments). The following is what I wrote in reply.

I personally have mixed feelings about this action. It did get people's attention and it brought to light the policy of the Red Cross. But it's also true that the poster was potentially damaging. For instance, Fritz brought up a good point in saying that it could make people doubt whether future blood drives are legitimate.

I can see where the activists are coming from in the use of Jennifer Gale's name. I am not sure that was an appropriate action to take. However, the attitudes that keep men who have sex with men (and people who have had sex with "MSMs") from donating blood are the same attitudes that lead to the death of people like Jennifer. Even if I did end up disagreeing with their use of her name, I can also still appreciate the radical queer activists' reasoning relating to churches being named for saints.

I feel as if the Red Cross/FDA policy might as well say, "No f*****s allowed." Their policy flies in the face of science and everything we've learned in the past few decades about HIV/AIDS. The fact that the FDA and the Red Cross know the facts and still have this policy is inexcusable. Even if the Red Cross opposed the policy in 2006, that means... it took the Red Cross until 2006 to oppose the policy. Three years ago.

Frankly, Autumn, your posts on this topic are potentially alienating to queer activists both young and old. You say that the radical queers' words are insulting and then you insult them repeatedly. That's not the type of thing that makes me open to what you said. Your point would have been better taken (and would have been something I could respect) had you written a less inflammatory and more respectful response. Even if you strongly disagree with the activists' action, there's no need to insult them. Don't bring yourself down to that level. How productive is it to sit around and call people names? This comment also applies to Fritz - who I believe still wrote something much better than what Autumn wrote by sharing examples of ways to improve Red Cross policy. Finally, like many other problems that we must face, there is not necessarily one correct way to approach it. Different tactics and different angles can have different results. The history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer movement(s) are not without radical action. Radical action is not always negative and does not always have negative results. Nor is it always best as a last resort.

As a young queer activist myself, I want to work to make change in an effective way. Sometimes I see that path within the system. Sometimes that path lies outside of it. There are many failures in our history and our modern day from trying to work within the system (JTI, anyone?). I would even argue that the erasure of bisexual / trans / queer people and people of color from many mainstream GL(bt) organizations' political campaigns is related to some degree to trying too hard to look "normal" and to work within the system. That's why I have so many mixed feelings about those groups, the marriage movement, etc... and this action.

The bottom line is that you're not going to get people to listen to what you have to say by throwing around hateful language. And please stop acting like the situation is black and white. If you want to criticize the way these people did what they did, and to get your message across, do it in a way they - and others - might actually want to listen to.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Registration for Lobby Day for Equality 2009 is now open

From Equality Ohio:

For the last three years, HUNDREDS of Ohioans have visited their elected officials to talk with them about equal rights for ALL Ohioans regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Mothers, fathers, families, clergy members, students - straight and gay, young and old - they took a day off from school or work to come to Columbus for Lobby Day.

The Equal Housing and Employment Act (EHEA) will be reintroduced in the Ohio House of Representatives soon and this is the best chance ever for it to pass. When it passes, this will be the first pro-equality bill ever enacted at the state level in Ohio. But make no mistake, the EHEA will not pass if we don’t work for it. Bring your story to the Ohio Statehouse on May 13th to make a difference.

You can register here. Facebook event page is here (note that an RSVP at the facebook page will not register you - you must go to the previously linked site).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Religious student orgs get exemption from university nondiscrimination rules

Law students from the University of Iowa have begun a petition encouraging the administration to restrict funding to a campus organization that bars gays or anyone who supports "advocacy of a sexually immoral" lifestyle. My first thought was, "It makes me sad that another Big Ten school is funding a student organization like that." My second thought was, "I'm so glad that doesn't happen at Ohio State." I learned in the process of forming comBIne that all student groups must include a nondiscrimination clause in their constitution before they are approved as an official student organization. While I was investigating whether or not the University of Iowa has a similar policy, however, I discovered that OSU actually has an exemption to the constitutional nondiscrimination policy:

A student organization formed to foster or affirm the sincerely held religious beliefs of its members may adopt a nondiscrimination statement that is consistent with those beliefs.

What?! I can't believe I didn't notice this or think about its implications earlier! How come a religious organization gets a special get-out-of-bigot-jail-free card? What makes religious belief any different from or more valid than strongly held political or social beliefs? Why should any other organizations have to follow the nondiscrimination clause inclusion policy if religious organizations can get the easy out?

People have the right to believe what they want. But a university is not a free-for-all speech zone. Nor should it be. A university is not a public forum. It is not a place where anything goes. It is a place that you must apply to in order to gain the privilege of attending. It is a place that is supposed to foster intellectual development. Of course we should encourage the discussion (and examination!) of all points of view, but it's perfectly and entirely within a university's rights to say that something is unacceptable, and to create rules and policies that it believes foster the best environment for learning.

I'm not anti-religion. To the contrary. I'm a Jew. I attend religious services most weeks and on holidays. Though my definition of God may be different than some, the fact remains that I believe in God. Finally, I was not born into this faith - I converted. I came to it based on belief.

And so I say as a person of faith and as a Buckeye student leader: To permit a student organization's discrimination simply based on religious belief is wholly unacceptable. Pun not intended. These organizations receive university funding. Why should they get a break from the rules that the rest of us have to follow?