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Barney Frank warns of “suspicious packages” May 18, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong.
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While US Representative Barney Frank (D, Massachusetts 4th) isn’t known as a security hawk, he’s currently warning employers to be on the lookout for “suspicious packages” in our nation’s bathrooms.  Specifically, packages on women.

Frank doesn’t offer any proof that these packages are dangerous.  He doesn’t offer any advice on how they should be found.  He just thinks they’re icky.

Frank’s version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as the Christian right has been claiming for years, is fully expected to force men with beards to use the ladies room.  But only if those men have vaginas.  (Vaginae?)  Because we’re sure that won’t cause any problems at all if the guys just explain it.  Every time they use the restroom.  For the rest of their lives.

New men's room signs

Get used to the new men's room signs

More importantly, it will prevent transgender women who have penises from using the women’s restroom or locker room.   No word yet on how it will prevent this, but we expect the bill will include emergency funding to the States to train penis-sniffing dogs.

Instead of using dogs to spot Terminator cyborgs, bathroom owners can finally use them to prevent innocent people from urinating safely.  “Urinating safely” here is obviously code for something sinister, because numerous studies have proven that transgender people are far more dangerous and more likely to rape and molest and generally creep people out than cisgender gays and lesbians, who will be protected by the bill.  The bill is not expected to solve the problem of straight couples doing it in bathroom stalls in every bar in New York on a Saturday night while lines form outside.

Rep.  Frank also wants to make sure employees have a “consistent gender presentation” in order to be able to sue for discrimination.  No one from Frank’s office has responded to our inquiry about whether this clause would ban lawsuits by effeminate gay men, butch lesbians, that guy from Phish, that guy from Smashing Pumpkins, Sir Elton John, the coach from Glee, guys with long hair, women wearing pants, or any one who’s ever been to a pride parade.

At the time of publication, his office also had not replied to questions about why he’s in charge of where people can pee, where he suggests his own constituents who currently have the freedom to pee should pee in the future, why he thinks women need to be protected from penises or, our personal favorite, who died and made him queen.  We will keep you updated on this developing story.


May 13, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in meta.
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Piece Apart is one year old today.

The Name Game May 10, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality.
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OK, white comedians, got it out of your system yet?  Good, because it’s time to stop making fun of Faisal Shahzad’s name.  There’s already 92 Google results for “Faisal goes west”  and it wasn’t funny the first time.

If an American citizen tries to kill vacationing civilians in Times Square and locks himself out of his car bomb, fails to detonate that bomb and then gets caught 53 hours later and the only way you can think to go after him is some fucked up, racist, ad hominem attacks about his name, then you’re the punch line here.  You’re the unfunny, uncreative, ignorant American slandering everyone in the world with a name that isn’t sufficiently Anglo-Saxon for you.  You the one mocking millions because this one guy was an asshole and you have the privilege to get away with it.

And that makes you a hateful, close-minded bully just like the people who inspired Shahzad.  You’re part of the problem.  So, please, shut the fuck up.

(By the way, I’m not a terrorist sympathizer or anti-American or defending Shahzad just because I’m disagreeing with you.  It’s just that your jokes are hackneyed and there’s nothing hilarious about “ethnic” names.)

Twitter April 24, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in meta.
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BTW, in addition to the RSS feed, find new posts on Twitter @PieceApart

I wonder what the white people think? April 24, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, we're only gonna die.
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Today’s new racist, xenophobic law in Arizona has led to a lot of white people on TV and online talking about race and immigration.  That never ends well.  The only time I open my mouth about race is to tell my fellow white folks to shut the hell up. Let’s begin with a visual aid, shall we?

Let’s say this line represents the discourse on race in this country:


This part:


That’s white discourse on race in this country.

Dear white folks:

Shut up and listen for a change!

No matter how elegant or smart or radical what we want to say or write about race, I can guarantee that a person of color has already said or written it much better.  There is absolutely no reason I should turn on cable news and see two white people debating race and immigration.  NONE.

No white person in this country is an expert on race.  We’re just not.  White privilege is like living with blinders on.

The two most important things we as white people can do to fight racism are to educate ourselves and act right.  In short, “know your place, whitey!”  It sounds harsh, I know.  We want to save the world and we want to “stand up for the oppressed” and all that kind of crap proves is that we’re going to fuck things up.  Taking responsibility for having privilege means not getting what you want for a change.

And we’ve already had 500 years of white discourse on race in America and this is where it got us.  It would be great if white people knew how to fix the mess we caused, but if enough white people were not actively being racist, not actively exercising privilege, not actively silencing people of color, it would change the world.

P.S. – None of this is original thought either.  It’s been said before and it’s been said much better.  It’s only being repeated here because sometimes privileged voices must be raised to shout down other privileged voices in order for the real conversation to be heard.

To Barney Frank, RE: ENDA April 21, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong.
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If he sells us out on ENDA because of his obsession with trans womens’ penises again,  I’m going to take a dump in box and send it to Barney Frank with a note saying, “I couldn’t use a bathroom thanks to you, so this shit is your responsibility.”

Does that sound too harsh?

US Representative Barney Frank (D, Massachusetts 4th) is selling out the transgender community on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) again.  He spearheaded the effort in 2007, then backed by Senator Kennedy, and trans activists and bloggers are hearing the exact same language from him as the House prepares to take up the issue again.

It’s been well-documented that, like the Christian right, he’s obsessed with trans women using women’s bathrooms, “penises in showers,” and claims that “If you insist on the right for unrestricted access to bathrooms – we lose.” He’s stated that he’s crafting the language in secrecy.  The only reason to do this so privately is if he’s planning to make huge “concessions” on this point to the right, although it would seem he’s in agreement with the right on this anyway.

Most importantly, since the bill currently under discussion is intended to apply not only in the federal public sector but all the way down to the private sector locally (as long as the employer is not a religious institution and has more than 15 employees)…

Barney Frank’s plan could strip away current protections for his own constituents and others in the 12 states and other localities that already have trans inclusive laws.

Let me say that again, slowly, despite earlier gains on the basis of Title VII legal interpretations and legislative wins in the District of Columbia and California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont and in cities like New York and Philadelphia, Barney Frank’s top-secret negotiations might sell out current trans protections with a new law that gives moderate protections to gays and lesbians but could leave trans people segregated or simply barred from restrooms where they work.  Some of these people are his own constituents.

Barney Frank is bad for trans people.  So, sure, call your representative and demand trans inclusion in the ENDA bill, but also contact Barney Frank and tell him that we won’t forgive so easily this time: (202) 225-5931

Bits and Pieces April 12, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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Some things I’m thinking about but don’t have a great deal to write about:

1.) The disproportionate number of women who were targeted and threatened by right-wing extremists following the passage of healthcare reform. Women don’t make up any where near half the democratic caucus, but seemingly accounted for about half of threats.  Dear media, can we talk about this?

2.) Robert Reich’s Fiefdom of the Boomers. Former Clinton Labor Secretary Reich’s proposal to prevent the coming collapse of entitlement programs under the glut of retiring Baby Boomers looks a lot like a return to feudalism!  His plan is to convince the (generally conservative) Boomers to support increased immigration as immigrant workers will pay into entitlements supporting aging Boomers and help reverse the trend of a shrinking ratio of workers to retirees.

I’m all for plans to tear down borders or defend immigrant rights, and I kinda love how much of an eff-you this would be to younger xenophobes, but wow, holy bold-faced cynicism using immigrants and the coming debate on immigration reform! Also, unless we’re gonna swing wide the gates to a huge number of people and then actually pay all those immigrants fairly, this isn’t a real fix at all.  But ‘Foreigners keep out, unless willing to support our aging Me Generation’ will look nice on a copper plaque.

Reich doesn’t seem to mention those immigrants becoming citizens and getting the same entitlements after they help us out of this jam.

“I respectfully dissent.” April 11, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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The retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court  really got me thinking about how people of my generation have come to expect the Court to look a certain way: at least one justice with no religious affiliation; always four or five women; at least two justices who were never legally married, one of them lesbian or gay.  We’ve almost come to take it for granted.

Oh, wait!  That’s what the Court would look like if it actually represented the population of the US.  Silly me.  I forgot that it’s nearly impossible in this country to hold office if you’re not religious (despite the fact that 17% of the country isn’t), or single (despite the fact that a quarter of adults never legally marry), or queer, and well, we can’t even manage to get an accurate estimate of the queer population because that’s so damned controversial.  Sure, it’s true that two thirds of the justices are Roman Catholic while only one in four Americans belong to that faith.  Never mind that there are ten times as many people with no religious affiliation as there are Jewish people in the US.

Because, obviously, the Supreme Court, the most small “c” conservative branch, doesn’t represent the population of the country.  It represents the power structure of the US.  Hell, all the remaining justices went to Ivy League law schools and half went Ivy League for undergrad as well.  Every one of them was a US Appeals Court judge, half from the DC Circuit alone.

Politicos left and right are fundraising and gearing up for another vicious confirmation battle.  And believe me, I know how crucial it is, I know how urgent it is, but at the same time, I can’t help but think that if Obama nominates any one other than a liberal lesbian atheist who never attended Harvard and isn’t a federal judge, it’s not going to do anything to improve the make-up of the highest court in the land.  The best we can realistically hope for is a woman who’s probably to the right of Stevens.

Who knows? Maybe Scalia will take another hunting trip with Cheney soon.

What really ticks me off April 10, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality.
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There’s a lot going on in the controversy around Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.  I’m a trans woman.  I’ve seen the film.  I’ve discussed it with some smart people.  Let’s try to break it down.

1.) Boycott = censorship? Nope.  A boycott is a boycott and some people are calling for just that.  Other people are calling for it to be censored though.  While it’s true that censorship requires an amount of power that the trans community lacks, the organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival do have that kind of power.  If the organizers are convinced or coerced or just plain shamed into pulling the film, the result is still censorship.

Censorship is bad.  It’s always bad.  It’s bad precedent.  It’s bad activism.  And it gets used to suppress our voices all the time.  If you don’t get why oppressed people should always be opposed to censorship, well, I just don’t have the time or energy to try to convince or educate you.

2.) It sucks when queers spend their energy fighting each other. While we were discussing the film, a really smart guy asked why we were all there arguing about some movie instead of doing other activism like maybe around any of the recent real life hate crimes against trans people.  My answer is basically that it’s safer and it’s easier to trade flames with another queer online than it is to take to the streets and become a target for cops and transphobes.  But all the time we waste yelling at each other, protesting each other, even making shitty movies about each other with unchecked privilege, it’s all just wasted energy and it sucks.

3.) The film equates violence by trans women in self-defense with the hate crimes of their attackers. Long before the standard role of the trans woman in media was that of the victim, it was that of the villain.  Dating back to Frankenstein Created Woman and Heinlen’s I Will Fear No Evil, on through Myra Breckinridge, Dressed to Kill, Sleepaway Camp and, famously, Silence of the Lambs, right up to today’s TV shows like Nip/Tuck and NCIS.  In the common horror trope of the trans woman slasher, a knife is a clumsy metaphor for a penis and plays on men’s completely irrational fear of being raped by trans women.

Far from being liberating, the revenge fantasy in this film plays into this tired old trope and only further instills in the cultural consciousness that trans women, when they’re not to be pitied, are to be feared.  Sadly, Ticked-Off Trannies isn’t even the first to portray trans women as simultaneously the victim and the villain, but it’s still pretty messed up.

4.) Most of the people arguing about this haven’t seen it, don’t know what they’re talking about and should probably tread lightly.

5.) Tranny 101: Half of the people arguing about this are actually still arguing about A.) who gets to use the word “tranny,” B.) if the word is offensive, and/or C.) the difference between trans women and drag queens.  Now these people I can help.

Google the word “tranny.”  No, really, do it.  Over 18 million results.  Almost all of them porn featuring trans women.

Now, ask yourself if you’ve ever been called a tranny in a situation where you feared physical violence.  Ever seen that happen to some one else?  Who gets called a tranny with hate, with malice, as a slur, as an epithet?  It’s almost always trans women.

So, is it offensive? Hell yeah.  Who gets to say it?  Mostly trans women.  Why?  It’s inextricably linked with trans-misogyny.  If you’re not a trans woman, you should probably question if it’s your word to reclaim.  Mostly, though, it boils down to this: Before transitioning, I’d been called a “fag” by some one who was punching me in the face, and I’ve been called a “fag” after transition too, but I wouldn’t use the word now because it doesn’t feel right; it’s not my word.

By the way, saying you’ve heard trans women use it for each other doesn’t give YOU permission to use it.  Neither does the fact that lots of other people use it who shouldn’t.  I’m totally up for having a completely civil conversation with trans men who’d like to discuss their use of the word, but I think we can all agree that when Israel Luna uses the word “tranny” it’s just as bad as the 18 million other exploitative Google results.

As for the difference between a trans woman and a drag queen, sometimes there isn’t any, sometimes there’s all the difference in the world.  Some women I know used to identify as drag queens but would be insulted to be called drag queens now.  But that whole discussion is best left between drag queens and trans women.

That’s what really ticks me off.  The way every one else talks for trans women and about trans women until the few voices of our own out there mostly get lost in the din.

There’s a scene in Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, a film by a cisgender man, where a trans woman (played by a trans woman) has been left unable to speak following a brutal hate crime.  And that was, unintentionally, the only poignant moment of the whole trashy flick.

Other queers speak for us.  Our friends and partners speak for us.  Other trans people speak for us.  The result is that when trans women speak for ourselves, we’re often in the minority and a handful of voices, often the most privileged or just the loudest and willing to take up the most space, are left as the de facto voices for all of us.

Trans women don’t have a canon of films yet.  Even when the role of a trans woman is played by a trans woman, it’s almost always speaking some one else’s words in some one else’s film.  Maybe there will be room for films like Ticked-Off Trannies after a few feature-length non-documentaries by trans women about trans women have been made, but right now, Israel Luna is just one more voice taking up space that few if any trans women have access to.

Yes, he showed us trans women playing trans women.  Yes, he showed these women just talking.  He also put his words in their mouths to tell his story.  As an exploitation film, it’s predicated on the reality that trans women can’t get other parts in other films.

On the other side of the controversy, though, GLAAD is no better.  When several groups of trans organizations here in New York City asked GLAAD for a liason, they had to send us a cisgender man because they didn’t have a trans person to send.  While he was personally a great guy to work with, the fact remains that GLAAD, like most big, influential gay and lesbian organizations isn’t really inclusive of trans people or trans issues.  So, when GLAAD supposedly takes up our banner and asks for a film to be censored, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

If the filmmaker or GLAAD or most of the people arguing about this film and fueling this contention would step back and allow trans women’s voices to speak for trans women, none of this in-fighting would exist right now.  I can’t help but feel solidarity with the trans women who acted in Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives and I’m sickened by some of the things I’ve seen or heard people say about them.  This was supposed to be their 15 minutes and I know they worked damn hard to get here.

Even in our own controversies, trans women are still just bit players.


About Vancouver February 16, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in pressure gage.
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