In case you hadn’t heard, a Texas Christian fundie terrorist was just caught plotting to murder a lot of folks in my neck of the woods. While the group’s BS was taken down, I did find some of their stuff in corners of the interwebs:
Why do feminists, gays, liberals, anarchists, tyrants, atheists, socialists, and people with commitment issues run amok, and run the government? Why are immigrants let in constantly, when we call for border control? Why do these people make up almost the entire population? Why do we, the sensible, good, and godly people of this earth let this happen?
I have no problem with women. I am sexist, but I love women, I do not see them as mere sex objects at all… Strong-willed, hard working, traditional ladies that follow biblical gender roles are almost nonexistent anymore, especially in the younger generations. They simply do not exist, and anyone who thinks they should is seen by the those who run amok, and run the government as backwards, evil, ignorant, and otherwise unbearably foolish. But hereby I proclaim to you, these people are among the greatest order of fools.
We must fight. We must rebel. There is no other option now. Blood and bullets are the only two things that will change this world, short of divine action… Perhaps we’ll win, perhaps we wont. That is of no consequence. But we will fight, and we will destroy what is evil. We will take from the system, we will break the system. There aren’t many of us, but only a few are needed. We will not plea guilty, if we are detained, for we are only guilty of taking back what is ours. What was ours. – American Insurgent Movement “Manifesto,” March 26, 2014
I – and many of the people I know and love – would have qualified for being on this group’s hit-list many times over.
According to reports, he was captured with explosives.
No sooner did I fly back to Houston than I flew out to DC for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convening. I thought the event was kinda of awesome. Generally, what I get out of meetings like this isn’t found in sessions; rather, it’s found in the one-on-one conversations that happen. In nonprofit-speak, what I find most valuable is the “Peer TA” (technical assistance). It’s those amazingly insightful and fortuitous conversations that happen over coffee, while we happen to be walking somewhere or in the hallways of the hotel. Over the course of one night, I made some amazing contacts and learned the sad truth behind not one, but two different TERF opinion leaders.
The right to body autonomy and being free from oppressive gender stereotypes is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve noticed that the same hubris people who stand in the way of trans people are generally the same people who are standing in the way of the right to safe and legal abortion services for many of the same reasons.
The Pacific Justice Institute, the very organization that hounded a trans kid to the brink of suicide, is also an anti-abortion group. The Salt & Light Council, the very organization that went on the news to falsely claim that trans children were scurrying up and and over bathroom stalls so they could watch cis people use the restroom, is also an anti-abortion group. Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that went to Fox News with lies about what happened at Evergreen College, is also an anti-abortion group.
Consider the gender stereotypes these folks appeal to as they take an anti-trans/anti-choice stance:
In their anti-trans/anti-choice world, learning to be a good homemaker who pumps out as many kids as the males in her life wish is gender. People like me fuck with that world view. I’ve also noticed they believe that they – not you – get to contextualize your life experience. They’re happy to tell me that I’m a man while shouting a clinic patients, “No matter what you do, you’ll still be a mother; you’ll just be a mother to a dead baby!” I’ve noticed that the people – be they TERFs or fundies – believe that gender only ever = males controlling females. I’ve also noticed that on top of that, both will smugly privilege themselves to define your experience for you.
I therefore spend my Saturdays defending clinic patients as they attempt to access an abortion clinic because a person’s right to hold agency over their body (and not the other way around) is also a trans issue. I do what I do because the enemies of choice are the enemies of my freedom.
I’m a Clinic Escort, or as the people who try to mob, intimidate and shame people entering the clinic call us, “Clinic Deathscorts.” (BTW, “Deathscort” would make an awesome metal band name!) I generally stand at the front gate and try to keep the anti-trans/anti-choice crew from mobbing cars as they enter the clinic:
I was happy to learn that the president of a state NOW chapter will be doing a TransAdvocate interview, echoing these sentiments. Additionally, I was happy to see Planned Parenthood and NARAL give voice to these intersections of oppression as well.
Speaking of TERFs, the last post I did was back in December 2013 and was about Cathy Brennan trying to bully my local queer community magazine into covering up the fact that she worked with an ex-gay group in targeting a trans kid who was pushed to the brink of suicide. I’m happy to say that she failed to bully the magazine and the article remains as it was when it was published because the evidence supporting my account of what happened is kinda irrefutable.
Oh, and the ex-gay group Brennan worked with? They were recently officially identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to the TransAdvocate’s investigative work:
This is really what caused us to take a hard look at them last year was the wild exaggerations about California schools and the claim that a trans kid was supposedly harassing other kids, the one you found out to be baloney. We look at groups that demonize minorities in our society in a way that makes them targets for real hatred and often violence and that’s what we’ve seen here. – Mark Potok, SPLC speaking with me
While the SPLC has not yet listed Brennan’s group as a hate group, once Potok learned that Brennan was bragging about sending SPLC donations, SPLC stated that they will no longer accept her donations. Additionally, the SPLC opened an investigation into TERF movement and its leadership:
We’d very much appreciate any information you or your allies could provide of the major players, websites, etc., in the anti-trans world. We would like to take a look at this for a possible investigative story for our magazine, Intelligence Report. I’m especially interested in links between the groups. Any help will be greatly appreciated. – SPLC
Brennan’s group responded by claiming that the SPLC has liberal bias and that it’s not adhering to its mission.
Also, over the past couple of months I spoke at the Texas Women’s University as well as the University of Texas, wrote a small grant for the Trans Center, and have been spending a lot more time with my 80+ year old grandmother who’s not in the best health. In-between, I’m still an active member of the City of Houston’s HIV Prevention Planning Group, I’m co-chairing our county’s Ryan White EIIHA committee and I’m on the Board of the Wellness Center – a newly minted FQHC trans inclusive low/no-cost health clinic. Also, it looks like I’ll be designing the National HIV Testing site this year. Yay!
OutSmart magazine asked me to write a piece on the TERF phenomena. My 2500+ word article featured just two sentences that mentioned Cathy Brennan’s behavior. Cathy Brennan – a Maryland attorney, activist, leader and a public face of TERFism – is demanding that my article be edited so that it remains silent about her behavior in the modern TERF movement.
Brennan asserted that she’s hired lawyers to successfully go after other media outlets for their coverage of her behavior in the past. Brennan wrote, “Neither I nor any organization I work with has any connection to right wing organisations. It’s simply false.” She then claimed that the article needed to be “corrected” to promote the fiction that she’s not worked with the Pacific Justice Institute in targeting a Colorado trans kid, Jane Doe.
Here are the 2 sentences with which Brennan takes issue:
Recently, Cathy Brennan, an attorney who heads a particularly hateful TERF group, outed a trans youth at school and even went so far as to work with the ex-gay group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) in targeting a sixteen-year-old trans girl. Brennan’s group acted as PJI’s mouthpiece, joined them in misgendering her, and promoted PJI’s bullying.
Let’s fact check each claim made:
Cathy Brennan, an attorney
This is a fact. She’s licensed in more than one state.
Brennan outed a trans youth at school This is a fact.
Brennan went so far as to work with the ex-gay group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) in targeting a sixteen-year-old trans girl. Brennan’s group acted as PJI’s mouthpiece… This is a demonstrable fact:
Note that I did not say that she worked for PJI, nor did I assert that she (as Brennan falsely implies that I did) is “connected” to a right wing organization. In fact, I asserted that she worked with PJI in targeting Jane Doe. Brennan undertook every action which targeted Jane Doe voluntarily; PJI didn’t pay her to do what she did. Presumably, nobody paid her to work with PJI in targeting Jane Doe, that was something she did because she freely chose to do it.
Brennan either voluntarily contacted PJI or she didn’t. Which is it?
PJI gave her a narrative that furthered their goal of targeting Jane Doe or they didn’t. Which is it?
Brennan either voluntarily published PJI’s narrative over her social media networks or she didn’t. Which is it?
Brennan either issued PJI’s statement to the TransAdvocate (me) or she didn’t. Which is it?
Gosh, if there was only a way to somehow prove that Brennan did, in fact, do each of the above things…
A.) Contact PJI in order to fact check PJI’s claim for an article she published; or,
B.) Simply claim that she believed that my debunking of PJI’s narrative was “bullshit,” acted to obtain a statement from PJI which supported PJI’s narrative about Jane Doe, and then voluntarily engaged in promoting that very narrative?
Which is it? A or B?
Let’s get back to fact checking my last assertion: Brennan, “joined them in misgendering [Jane Doe], and promoted PJI’s bullying.”
Either Brennan joined PJI in misgendering Jane Doe or she didn’t. Which is it?
Either Brennan defended and promoted PJI’s debunked propaganda or she didn’t. Which is it?
Brennan may truly believe that reasonable people should conclude that her behavior represents the opposite of my statement: Brennan, the leader of a particularly hateful TERF group, worked … “with the ex-gay group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) in targeting a sixteen-year-old trans girl” and that Brennan’s group “acted as PJI’s mouthpiece, joined them in misgendering her, and promoted PJI’s bullying.” Maybe in Brennan’s reality this is what not working with an ex-gay group to target a trans kid looks like. Maybe for Brennan, having an ex-gay group issue you a statement which you then promote is what not being a mouthpiece looks like. Maybe for Brennan, promoting PJI’s ‘Jane-Doe-is-a-male’ narrative is how adults act to not misgender or harm trans kids. Maybe Brennan mistakenly thinks that PJI is a left wing organization instead of a right wing organization.
Regardless of how Brennan chooses to justify her demonstrable behavior, there are facts to be known about these two sentences:
Recently, Cathy Brennan, an attorney who heads a particularly hateful TERF group, outed a trans youth at school and even went so far as to work with the ex-gay group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) in targeting a sixteen-year-old trans girl. Brennan’s group acted as PJI’s mouthpiece, joined them in misgendering her, and promoted PJI’s bullying.
Either my statements are verifiable or they are not… and if my statements are verifiable, what does that say about Brennan when she threatens a small LGBT magazine in an effort to make them promote the fiction that my statement isn’t verifiable?
Today, HRC has joined GLAAD in condemning the false reports of trans harassment by an ex-gay/creationist group, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI). The PJI is the organization at the center of an international effort to malign one transgender kid. Last week, the PJI issued the right-wing community talking points for use in their fight for their right to discriminate against trans children. In their letter, the PJI claimed that they were concerned that the school was helping a trans kid harass cisgender girls. Right wing media outlets jumped at the story without fact checking and inspired members of the right wing community to call for the death of the trans kid.
I’ve been talking with the family targeted by these hate groups – both ex-gay & TERF – and I’ve got to say, I feel disgusted by the entire thing. The girl that’s the focus of this anti-trans hate campaign is a beautiful talented young lady and the mother has a spine of steel. I feel horrified at what’s happened to their family.
In a PJI fundraising letter issued yesterday – replete with a huge red working donation button and hosted by attorney Cathy Brennan – PJI extolls their hard work in targeting the trans kid:
The fundraising letter was written by Brad Dacus of the PJI:
After it came out that the trans harassment story was a right-wing hoax, some media outlets began retracting the story. The Daily Mail tabloid deleted the story from its site and the Examiner retracted the story and apologized to the trans student.
TERF attorney Cathy Brennan promoted PJI’s fundraising letter to yesterday via her numerous social media accounts. Brennan’s PJI letter claims to have sent LGBT forces scrambling:
For her part, Brennan created a page that promotes the ex-gay organization’s claims. However, she went a step further than most and outed the trans kid:
The “Cristan Williams” link in the above image takes you a page Brennan created for me on her rapist/incest site. She used my photo and underneath it asserted that I’m a man and that I have a history of harassing cisgender women. Brennan, like PJI offered no evidence to substantiate their claims of harassment.
Both PJI and Brennan seem content to pretend that this is about something other than the life of a transgender child. ADULTS have made reprehensible claims about this kid – directly inciting violent intent – without evidence to back it up. After their smear campaign lead to public calls to hunt, beat and kill the trans youth, Brennan released the kid’s name.
The lies being spread through the “news” are just horrible. I want to be able to let people know I haven’t done anything to harm any being and I am a human with feelings too. I just really hope from all of this comes good & allows more minds to become accepting & open.
– The trans kid PJI and Cathy Brennan are targeting
I think the right-wing and TERF attorneys mistakenly believe they’re fighting for a cause when what they’re doing is publicly beating up a trans kid.
This is the image the trans youth shared with her friends for Spirit Day:
I’ve spoken with the School Superintendent, the family that’s being targeted, family friends and have published honest statements by people who are familiar with the day to day life at Florence High School.
[PJI is] so pathetic. My mom asked me about this whole thing when she saw it on the news, and I told her. She even said they were being dramatic.
- A Florence High School cisgender female student familiar with the issue
I have to believe that adults, in their blind crusade to stop trans equality at seemingly all cost, have lost sight of the fact that they’re talking about A KID. Worse, they seem indifferent to the fact that kids like the one they’re targeting attempt suicide at a 51% rate.
PJI gloated in their fundraising letter:
PJI urged school officials to immediately identify any factual allegations they considered to be disputed. School officials have yet to respond to this invitation, but Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti instead gave an interview to a transgender activist in which she was defensive of the school’s actions and dismissive of some of the allegations. This interview was seized upon by advocates, who claimed it somehow proved the story to be a fabrication. Under intense pressure, several news sites took down or retracted their stories rather than investigating further. Not so fast, say PJI attorneys.
“Transgender activists are in full damage control mode because they know how explosive and damaging to their cause this story is,” noted Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “The central issue in this case—a high school’s decision to give a biological teenage boy full access to teenage girls’ bathrooms is both disturbing and not seriously disputed. It is very revealing that the Superintendent is seeking sympathy from transgender activists instead of addressing the serious concerns raised in our letter.”
Yup. I did pick up the phone and call the school. Did you?
Yup. I did talk with the family. Did you?
Yup. I have talked with family friends and people who live in Florence, Colorado. Did you?
Yup. I have talked with Florence business owners about this issue. Did you?
Yup. I did produce evidence relevant to your fact assertions. Did you?
In the real word – especially when we’re talking about possibly destroying the life of a kid – you had better have some evidence to back up your claims. In the real world, you can’t make a wild assertion and then claim that it’s true because people are ignoring you.
PJI admits that they know there was an investigation and that claims of harassment were deemed false. They say so in their fundraising letter. If they know this, why do they persist in going after this kid?
What’s their endgame, here?
Oh, that’s right. The ex-gay group tipped their hand to their true purpose in the last paragraph of their original press release:
Apparently the life of this Colorado kid is mere fodder in their larger war against Californian protections for school-age trans kids.
And still more fact checking
If you notice, the PJI fundraising letter lists a number to call if you have any questions. The letter directs you to speak with Brad Dacus. Brad is the guy who, in August 2013, claimed that protecting trans kids would lead naked boys, assisted by the state, taking showers with naked girls:
Me: Hello? I’m Cristan Williams. I’m with the TransAdvocate. I’ve written a few stories about what you’re doing with regard to the Colorado trans youth. A letter was passed on to me yesterday from you guys and listed you as the contact.
Brad: Are you left wing or right wing or…
Me: Um… no. I’m not writing for a political party, I’m writing about transgender issues, specifically what’s going on with the trans kid you’ve been writing about.
Brad: Right, so it’s progressive…
Me: Um… well, no. It’s not about endorsing a political party or anything like that. So… your letter, do you have time to talk about it?
Brad: I don’t have much time, but you know who might talk to you about that is Matt McReynolds. And that would be 916-857-6900. I think he’ll be able to answer your questions better than I.
Me: But, that’s the number I called to get you.
Brad: Right. Call it and ask for Matt
Me: Alright, well… thanks for talking with me.
So, I call Matt:
Me: I’m Cristan Williams. I’m with the TransAdvocate. I’ve written a few stories about what you’re doing with regard to the Colorado trans youth. Brad asked me to talk with you.
Matt: Well, I don’t really have time to talk.
Me: Okay. Is there a better time?
Me: … Okay. Monday would work.
Matt: Yeah, that would allow me time to organize a conference call so that we can talk with you.
Me: *chuckles* Sure. No problem. What time? I’m central. You?
Matt: We’re pacific. How about 1:30?
Me: That sound perfect! While I have you on the phone, would you just let me know if you’ve ever talked with the family you’re targeting?
Matt: … I’m gonna… I won’t be able to comment on that.
Me: Gotcha. Sure. Okay. Then we’ll talk Monday then, I suppose.
Me: Okay. Thanks for speaking with me.
Ugh! I know the drill on Monday and I’ve about had my fill of anti-trans attorneys who seem to think it’s fine to behave like this. This isn’t a game. This is the life of a trans kid. Where YOU come in
So, I need your help and no, unlike PJI, I don’t want your money.
This is as real as it gets. I need your help in holding PJI to account.
I think it would be a powerful statement to ask PJI serious, hard hitting from a community of people who stand against their obdurate behavior.
What are the serious questions you’d ask PJI on Monday during our interview?
What sort of questions do you want them to answer?
I would like to represent the community’s voice in my call to PJI Monday. So, please… share with me the serious, hard-hitting questions you want PJI to answer.
Yesterday, I posted a few stories on the TransAdvocate about an anti-trans lie that was spread by ideological media outlets. The story goes that in small-town Colorado, cisgender girls were being sexually harassed by a trans teen in the school restrooms. The Pacific Justice Institute, a right-wing organization, had issued a press release casting the easily identified trans youth as a predator, roaming the halls of the school unchecked and endangering the fair woman-folk of the small town. The school identified in these reports has only 1 out trans student. Of course, this narrative played well with both right-wing and tabloid media outlets and soon, this trans kid was maligned by an international media machine.
None of the news outlets did any fact checking and that’s where I stepped in. I called the town’s school superintendent and found out that the story was a lie being pushed in the media by a right-winger with an anti-trans agenda:
After it came out that the story was a right-wing hoax, some media outlets began retracting the story. The Daily Mail tabloid deleted the story from its site and the Examiner retracted the story and apologized to the trans student.
I want to share with you a sampling of the violent intent Fox News’ lie has incited on their site:
I want you to put yourself in the trans teens shoes for just a moment. Think about what she’s going through. What would you be going through if you were the kid’s mother?
There’s a reason the trans population suffers this level of violence. There’s a reason why 51% of bullied trans school kids try to kill themselves. Social violence begins with social oppression. Organizations that facilitate hate by lying about the trans population have very real blood on their hands.
Discrimination and lack of equal civil rights is damaging to the mental health of transgender and gender variant individuals. For example, gender-based discrimination and victimization were found to be independently associated with attempted suicide in a population of transgender individuals, 32% of whom had histories of trying to kill themselves, and in the largest survey to date of gender variant and transgender people 41% reported attempting suicide.
The APA joins other organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, in endorsing strong policy statements deploring the discrimination experienced by gender variant and transgender individuals and calling for laws to protect their civil rights.
The American Psychiatric Association:
Supports laws that protect the civil rights of transgender and gender variant individuals.
Urges the repeal of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender and gender variant people.
Opposes all public and private discrimination against transgender and gender variant individuals in such areas as health care, employment, housing, public accommodation, education, and licensing.
Declares that no burden of proof of such judgment, capacity, or reliability shall be placed upon these individuals greater than that imposed on any other persons.
The hate group that started this mess tipped their hand to their true purpose in the last paragraph of their press release:
Apparently the life of this Colorado trans kid is mere fodder in their larger war against Californian protections for school-age trans kids. I guess any harm the Pacific Justice Institute causes to this Colorado trans kid is acceptable when they’re fighting for their right to discriminated against California trans kids. For those who stand against trans equality, apparently this is what adult morality looks like… And let’s be clear, Fox News stands with the Pacific Justice Institute:
Unsurprisingly, Cathy Brennan, opinion leader in of the Trans Exclusionary RadFem movement has, of course, chosen to side with Fox News and the Pacific Justice Institute:
Worse, Brennan volunteers to serve as the mouthpiece of the right-wing organization:
Brennan, an attorney the LGBT Bar Association disavowed…
… links to the original right-wing letter asserting that the trans kid is a predator. In the letter, the anti-gay hate group asserts that the transgender youth is sexually harassing cisgender girls and that the school is part of a trans conspiracy to endanger cisgender women. Brennan has uploaded the Pacific Justice Institute’s letter to her site and is featuring it without noting that the allegations are false or that the news media who’ve investigated the claims have removed the story.
The letter Brennan offers asserts:
The trans student, “has made sexually harassing comments towards the girls”
The school has, “threatened students with penalties ranging from charges of hate crimes to dismissal from school sports” for asking that the sexual harassment stop.
Brennan apparently shares the reality in which the Fox News community exists. In their apparent reality, public schools are part of a trans conspiracy to weasel into restrooms where they’ll be free to carry out their nefarious purpose and if you challenge their reality, then you too are part of the conspiracy.
2011 study of 6,450 trans people: “A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, with rates rising for those who were harassed/bullied in school (51%)… It is part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender nonconforming people within foundational institutions such as the family, schools, the workplace and health care settings, every day. Instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing discrimination and violence on themselves.”
On Cis Homicide:
In the US: The homicide victimization rate for both cis males and females was at its highest in 1980 was (at its highest 16.1 homicides per 100,000 for males and 4.5 homicides per 100,000 for females. By 2008, the rates for both groups had fallen, reaching 8.5 homicides per 100,000 for males and 2.3 homicides per 100,000 for females. U.S. Department of Justice
On Trans Homicide:
America: “Hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent. Our best estimates indicate that one out of every 1,000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate crime. This estimation is based on data collected by the national organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance track the number of transgender people killed each year in hate-based attacks using media articles, community reports and other publicly available data. By this count, they estimate that at least 15 transgender people are killed each year in hate-based attacks, although we believe the number to be higher based on transgender people’s common fear of going to the police and widespread misreporting. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates approximately 14,000 homicides in the country each year. Based on these figures, we can estimate that approximately one out of every 1000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate-based crime.” – HRC
Internationally: Even if the Brazilian trans population is 50,000 strong, they would still make up only .0003% of the population. Even so, 1 in 10 Brazilians murdered is probably trans. The trans population in Brazil averages 10 trans murders a month. About 1 in every 5000 cis Brazilian are at risk of homicide. If the trans population in Brazil is actually 50,000 strong, about 1 in every 500 trans Brazilians are at risk of homicide.
1/2 trans folks raped:
50%: Courvant, D., & Cook-Daniels, L., 1998. Transgender and intersex survivors of domestic violence: Defining terms, barriers and responsibilities
59%: Clements, K. SF Department of Public Health, Department of Public Health. (1999). The transgender community health project: Descriptive results. San Francisco: San Francisco.
54%: Kenagy, G. (2005). The health and social service needs of transgender people in Philadelphia. International Journal of Transgenderism, 8(2/3), 45-56. doi: 10.1300/J485v08n02_05
46%: Kenagy, G., & Bostwick, W. (2005). The health and social service needs of transgender people in Chicago. International Journal of Transgenderism, 8(2/3), 57-66. doi: 10.1300/J485v08n02_06
1/4 trans folks beaten:
37%: Clements, K. SF Department of Public Health, Department of Public Health. (1999). The transgender community health project: Descriptive results. San Francisco: San Francisco.
43%: Kenagy, G. (2005). The health and social service needs of transgender people in Philadelphia. International Journal of Transgenderism, 8(2/3), 45-56. doi: 10.1300/J485v08n02_05
37%: Transgender Law and Policy Institute’s “Transgender Issues: Fact Sheet”
The mere mention of the “cotton ceiling” should send rapey shivers up your spine. If you’ve not heard of it here’s the lowdown from feminists:
Transgender cotton ceiling rapists hold male-only (Planned Parenthood sponsored) seminars, write books, host lecture tours, and endlessly spam lesbian websites and blogs with rape and murder threats over lack of male “inclusion” in lesbian social gatherings, lesbian organizing, lesbian events, lesbian music festivals, and – most importantly- lesbian bedrooms. 1
Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances. We believe that no means no, that a woman’s right to say “no” to sex at any time is sacrosanct and that no explanations should ever be requested because none is ever necessary. The name of the workshop proposed is “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women.”
- Petition against the cotton ceiling2
Activists want to force lesbians to consider them as sexual partners. 3
Sounds really horrific, doesn’t it? Transwomen, full of male-privilege, feel that lesbians must submit to having sex with them or else they’re transphobic. Right? I mean, multiple lesbian feminists are all saying the same thing. Even Cathy Brennan has a cotton ceiling tag. Certainly these self-identified lesbian feminists wouldn’t lie, right? Certainly these self-declared feminists wouldn’t purposely misrepresent cotton ceiling in an effort to make ciswomen fear trans people, right? RIGHT?!?
[Cotton Ceiling commenter] you are a male sexual predator, enabling your male predator brethren. Which is why you and all your Cotton Ceiling buddies creep me the fuck out… These dudes in dresses are trying to guilt-trip you into sleeping with them, and name-calling you if you don’t. There is nothing wrong with not liking penises or male bodies, and preferring female bodies. To say otherwise is lesbianphobic. 4
Horrific, isn’t it? Planned Parenthood held a workshop to teach transwomen how to make lesbians have sex with them. I want to reread the previous sentence and think about that for just a moment. Then reread the rhetoric about the cotton ceiling. With a straight face, these self-identified feminists asserted that Planned Parenthood taught transwomen how trick lesbians into sex.
Seriously. And you know what? A lot of people believed it.
Here’s the reality:
There! See it? It says right there in the description: Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling will explore having sex with lesbians who don’t want to have sex with trans people! It says it right there… oh wait… it doesn’t say that at all.
Can you guess how many attended this, the workshop-heard-round’-the-feminist-world? Was it…
250 workshop attendees
150 workshop attendees
75 workshop attendees
50 workshop attendees
25 workshop attendees
10 workshop attendees
7 workshop attendees
If you guessed 7, you’d be correct. Let that sink in for a moment. All of this over a workshop with 7 people.
Care to guess what they talked about?
Would it really surprise you to know that what they talked about was body image and shame?
Seven people met to talk about body image and shame and Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) claimed that Planned Parenthood was organizing a meeting to teach trans people how to rape lesbians… and many, many people believed it. Were you one of the folks who believed that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape?
I want you to pause for a moment and think hard about the notion that TERFs are pushing: transwomen support corrective rape.
Here, let me break down the basic TERF rhetoric:
TERF: Teh cotton ceiling is all about teaching trans people how to rape lesbians!1!!
TERF: Yeah, Planned Parenthood gave a workshop to teach trans people how to rape lesbians! No means no!
Dupe: That sounds a little strange to me…
TERF: Don’t believe me? Google any of the many, many, many TERF blogs that freaked over the Planned Parenthood workshop! #rapeculture
Dupe: Well, I did hear about how transwomen want to hang out in the women’s restroom…
TERF: Yup, it’s all about rapey rape culture!
Dupe: Yeah, I guess tranwomen are kinda rapey…
TERF: I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! Spread the word!
Dupe: I’m totally blogging about this!
Think about all the fear and enmity TERFs managed to generate over the Cotton Ceiling during this past year. They took a small meeting about shame and body image and purposefully twisted it to dupe people into believing that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape tactics and MANY people believed it.
TERFs did what they almost always do. They equivocate in their arguments:
Original workshop description:
Participants will work together to identify barriers, strategize ways to overcome them, and build community.
TERF Petition to stop the workshop:
Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances.
Workshop supporters have suggested that “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling” is intended to facilitate a discussion about the social construction of sexual desire. Even if this were the case, being a lesbian is not a prejudicial social construct to be overcome by expanding lesbians’ limited political consciousness around trans women’s “gender identity.”
From there all a TERF need do is appeal the transwoman-rapist meme the radical right pushes while referencing the TERF petition and sit back and enjoy their malevolent handiwork.
Back when all of this began, trans folk were really clear about what the cotton ceiling was about:
Or as a cisgender dyke organizer put it:
The idea of the “cotton ceiling” is intended to draw attention to how even in spaces that are politically and socially welcoming of trans women, transphobia often retains its influence on how we understand who is sexually desirable and who isn’t. It’s no different from other politicized criteria for desirability—people who are, for instance, fat or disabled are also often welcomed into queer women’s space but not seen as desirable compared to those hot slim, muscular, able-bodied sorts. This isn’t our fault—our entire culture tells us what’s sexy and what’s not, 24 hours a day, and that definition is terribly narrow. But it is really easy to forget how much influence advertising propaganda and social pressure can exert on what gets us wet and hard, and to let the mainstream’s terms dictate our desires. 5
If a small group wanted to talk about how ableism affected cultural notions of beauty and/or desirability, would feminist circles tolerate TERFs going on a yearlong campaign, claiming that those who aren’t able-bodied want to force lesbians to have sex with them?
In a culture that devalues and oppresses trans people, why is it not appropriate to discuss how these cisnormative beauty standards impact notions of desirability, how these biases relate to the fetishization of trans people and how all of this impacts the perception of trans people in queer spaces? Why is it not appropriate for transwomen to ask themselves how this affects the way we see ourselves and/or how this affects the way others view us?
Why don’t TERFs want trans people to have this discussion?
How would such a conversation affect the anti-trans TERF narrative they’ve been pushing for decades?
because the fact of the matter is that unlike born-women, who have everything (literally, everything) to lose from rape culture, transwomen have at least something (everything?) to gain. to a transwoman, cutting off her dick and turning it (inside out) into a fuckhole between her legs makes her feel better. from transwomens own mouths, we know that these fake fuckholes alleviate transwomens suffering. turning their dicks into extra-large condoms for other men to penetrate (or not, whevs…thats my hat-tip to the internet “lesbian transwomen”) actually tamps down their anxiety, and feelings of dysphoria. 6
Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example 7
[Transsexual surgery] could be likened to political psychiatry in the Soviet Union. I suggest that transsexualism should best be seen in this light, as directly political, medical abuse of human rights. The mutilation of healthy bodies and the subjection of such bodies to dangerous and life-threatening continuing treatment violates such people’s rights to live with dignity in the body into which they were born, what Janice Raymond refers to as their “native” bodies. It represents an attack on the body to rectify a political condition, “gender” dissatisfaction in a male supremacist society based upon a false and politically constructed notion of gender difference.
Recent literature on transsexualism in the lesbian community draws connections with the practices of sadomasochism. 8
This should be a simple issue. How could our oppressors – men – possibly become us? How? Just by saying they are? By the male medical industry and doctors making money off this game, declaring that they can turn men into women? Would you agree with these men if they claimed to be a different race than they are, a race they are in a position to oppress? Would you believe them if they claimed to be of a different species? Why not?
If you do accept them as Lesbians, would you (as a Lesbian) want to be lovers with one? Why not? If you are hesitant to say “no” to their claims and demands, in spite of what you feel inside, why? What is it that makes you agree to something that doesn’t feel right? Does it remind you of other times when it was hard to deal with a man who refused to take “no” for an answer? 9
How would a serious discussion about our transmisogynistic culture, and its influence over notions of beauty impact anti-trans TERF messages?
How does shutting down this discussion benifit the TERF narrative?
Does it benifit the anti-trans TERF aims and goals to not only stop this discussion, but to colonize it in such a way that feminists would instinctively view the discussion as being an inherent part of rape culture?
“Transwomen” are not and can never be women or Lesbians – they are simply men, trying to steal our identity and culture… One way to begin to fight their oppressing Lesbians and women is to refuse to give them what they want. At the very least, PLEASE stop calling them “women” in any form, and stop using female pronouns for them… they act like typical men and intimidate and guilt trip – everything is about them. And the hell with any Lesbian who gets in their way. Some have also learned what to say to sound believably female, but if you question a bit further, they revert quickly to male bullying techniques. As for those who do have surgery, men do a lot of bizarre things for sexual gratification, such as strangling themselves to have more exciting orgasms, which has resulted in some unintentional suicides (such as that by David Carradine.)
As Janice Raymond says, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating their body for themselves.” It’s actually reminiscent of the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” 9
I think there’s a reason TERFs have put so much effort into colonizing this discourse. I think there’s a reason that they framed their colonization of trans discourse as rape prevention and I think that reason is plain to see.
I submit to you that TERFs do not want the trans community to have this discussion and they certainly do not want the cis community to question where they picked up their views – good/bad/indifferent – of trans people. I believe that such a discussion would further isolate TERFs from the rest of the feminist world.
Today Phyllis Frye (America’s first out trans judge) and I met up with Nikki Araguz at the 13th District Court of Appeals for the hearing on how Texas will view the transitioned status of trans folk. For the uninitiated, here’s how we got here and why this case will likely affect YOU.
Court began at 2:00 in the afternoon. The court was made up of a 3 judges and since this is an appeal of the case Judge Randy Clapp (R) ruled on, no new evidence could be added. The court was made up of Chief Justice Valdez (D) and Justices Rodriguez (D) and Longoria (D). The panel consisted of 2 women and 1 man. The ex-wife had brought in a ringer to argue for them (presumably) since her last lawyer was recently barred from practicing law due to ethics violations. The ex brought in Lawrence P. Wilson of Christian College who actually quoted the Christian Bible (chapter & verse) in court today.
Things went about like I thought it would.
The Justices grilled each side fairly well. Marriage was mentioned a few times, but the majority of this proceeding focused on whether Texas will recognize the transitioned status of trans people.
Here’s a basic recap of what the ex-wife’s lawyer had to say:
God created man and woman; it says so in the Bible. Matthew 19:12 isn’t real (yeah, I added that last bit, but he did assert that god made only man and woman).
For as long as there have been humans, we’ve never had difficulty in knowing what is a man and what is a woman.
Yes, intersex people are real and they have no bearing on anything I’m saying.
These new-fangled questions of sex and sex changing have never come up before in America and I’m saying this because I’m completely ignorant of Peipho v. Peipho, 88 Ill. 438 (1878) and I don’t know anything about the 1879 Lawrence & Lelia Payne marriage (yeah, I added that last little bit because he actually did make the assertion that these trans issues are new to America)
You can’t turn a man into a woman anymore that one could turn a table into a chair (Yup. He really said that.).
“Sex changes” aren’t real because we can’t legislatively point to the exact moment when a man becomes a woman.
It ain’t natural.
Also, the chapter of Genesis in the Bible.
DOMA applies… or maybe not. Yeah, it does, but not really… Just in a small way… Or not. Basically whatever Scalia said is what I think.
Here’s a basic recap of what the good guys had to say:
Our expert witness – the witness the other side raised no issue with – is on record saying that Nikki is female
The other side offered no expert witness testimony
Back in 1999, none of the justices in the Littleton v. Prange case agreed with each other, except that they all agreed that the Texas Legislature needed issue guidance on the issue of “sex changes.”
In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a law (Texas Family Code § 2.005(b)(8)) which states that if you can show proof of a “sex change” you can be issued a valid marriage license.
Full faith and credit (the 14th Amendment) applies because California recognizes Nikki as female on her original birth certificate.
If you’re gonna quote Scalia, then I’m going to quote Kennedy.
Here’s a basic recap of the questions the Justices posed:
So, we can pick and choose whether or not we hold other state’s birth certificates valid?
So, the question is, are we going to rely upon a scientific understanding of sex and gender or are we going to rely upon a Biblical standard? Biblical you say? Riiiight.
It sounds as if you’re contesting the expert opinion about Nikki’s sex. You’ve not done that before today. Do you have expert testimony to offer? No? Okay. Right, we know you can quote sharia law the Bible. Thanks.
What is the difference between sex and gender?
Are you suggesting that courts and not medical experts should decide who is and is not a woman?
You’re asking us to decide if Nikki Araguz is a woman. If we rule that she is not, do you have any idea how many marriages that would affect here in Texas? No? Okay. It would be a lot.
We don’t know when the Justices will issue their opinion. I believe that we will prevail and I think the bad guys will appeal to the full 5-panel court and I think they’ll lose again. They’ll then appeal to the Texas Supreme court which is made up of anti-gay activists. We’ll lose in that court and then we’ll appeal to the US Supreme Court. If the US Supreme Court hears it, we have a shot. If they won’t, Texas trans people will lose our legal transitioned status because the Texas Supreme Court ruling will become the law of the land and set a very dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly be used against trans folk in other states. If it goes to the Supreme Court and we lose, all trans and intersex people lose. If we win at the Supreme Court, we all win and win big time.
I’ve been fighting a cold for the last few days and by the time court was over, the rooms around me were swimming and all I wanted to do was lay down. Nikki married her new husband on the steps of the court building after the case was heard, but I was so shaky that Phyllis and I went ahead and left, so I didn’t get to see Nikki exercise her constitutional right to marry the man she loves. After around an hour, my head stopped swimming.
I’m glad to be home and in bed, but before I went to sleep, I wanted to post a quick update since I know a lot of you are watching this case closely.