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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.


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

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.


What about Duanna Johnson? November 15, 2008

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in pressure gage.
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Fuck it. For a few hours there, I was thinking about going to the gay marriage protest this afternoon at City Hall. But fuck it.

I keep waiting to see when the mainstream media will finally notice Duanna Johnson’s brutal murder. But no one seems to care.

If Duanna Johnson had been a white gay male like Matthew Shepard instead of a trans woman of color, half of those signs at the protest would be about the murder of a white gay man who was suing the police and had gotten two cops fired over the victim’s videotaped beating. They’d be chanting the victim’s name. A picture of the nice young man would be plastered all over the news. Vigils would be held around the world.

So, where is their outrage for her?

Where are the marches for her?

Why don’t they care when a trans woman is dead? When another trans person of color is dead?

Fuck your marriage. What about her LIFE?


I believe the “T” is silent, Madam Speaker November 11, 2007

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong.
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Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D – CA, 8th) on November 7th speaking on a non-transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):

“Let me also add that it is the pride that we take in that diversity, it is the pride that I take in the gay, lesbian,bisexual, and transgender community that brings me to the floor today to urge a ‘yes’ vote on this important legislation.” *

* Emphasis mine

From: http://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/speeches?id=0091