Normal Life by Dean Spade

Normal Life by Dean SpadeEverybody should probably go and get a copy of this book right now. The long title is Normal Life – Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Spade criticizes mainstream gay politics and suggests a more radical, less marginalizing politics that centers poor trans people of color. The book is amazing.

Best quotes:

“Lesbian and gay organizations have also generally followed a model of governance and efficacy based on private sector norms rather than social justice values. The most well-funded organizations have pay scales similar to the private sector, with executive directors often making three to four times the salaries of the lowest paid employees. Pay often correlates to educational privilege, which again means that the greatest share of resources goes to white employees from privileged backgrounds while the least goes to employees of color and people without educational privilege.” pg.67

“Trans populations are disproportionately poor because of employment discrimination, family rejection, and difficulty accessing school, medical care, and social services. These factors increase our rate of participation in criminalized work to survive, which, combined with police profiling, produces high levels of criminalization.” pg.89

“Three concerns about law reform projects permeate many sites of resistance. First, these projects change only what the law says about what a system is doing, but not its actual impact. Second, they refine a system in ways that help it continue to target the most vulnerable people, while only partially or temporarily removing a few of the less vulnerable from its path. And finally, law reform projects often provide rationales and justifications for the expansion of harmful systems.” pg.92

“The myth of legal equality in the United States is supported by the narrative that US laws used to exclude people on the basis of race and gender but now they do not. Supposedly, all is now fair and equal. However, our nation itself was built by the establishment of population-level systems of property and labor regulation that created and utilized racial and gender categories from the beginning. The population-level programs that were mobilized from their inception by explicit race and gender exclusions continue to do the work of distributing security and vulnerability along race and gender lines, just under the auspices of race and gender neutral criteria.” pgs.116-117

“[L]egal inclusion and recognition demands often reinforce the logics of harmful systems by justifying them, contributing to their illusions of fairness and equality, and by reinforcing the targeting of certain perceived “drains” or “internal enemies,” carving the group into “the deserving” and “the undeserving” and then addressing only the issues of the favored sector.” pg.124

“For those who have long articulated opposition to state incentivization and reward for heteropatriarchial sexuality and family structures and punishment for others, the idea that lesbian and gay people should seek marriage recognition rather than aim to abolish marriage and achieve more just methods of distribution is…problematic.” pg.126

“[O]ne might observe that the lesbian and gay rights agenda primarily operates to restore privileges of the dominant systems of meaning and control to those gender-conforming, white, wealthy gay and lesbian US citizens who are enraged at how homophobic laws and policies limit access to benefits to which they feel entitled.” pg.60

“We must not only refuse reforms that require dividing and leaving behind more vulnerable trans populations, but also try to assume that the most easily digestible invitations to be included are the very ones that bring us into greater collusion with systemic control and violence.” pgs.161-162

“[T]he legalistic approach of [law reform projects] has been linked to concerns about an unjust distribution of power and leadership, especially when the work is funded and directed largely by white, upper-class professionals who inevitably create an agenda that centralizes the concerns and experiences of people like themselves.” pg.172

“[A] challenging dynamic has emerged: social welfare has increasingly become dependent on private businesses and foundations. Corporate funders have become the sponsors and benefactors of social services… The situation translates into overreliance by many organizations on income from corporations and accumulated wealth stored in foundations.” pg.173

“Nonprofits serving primarily poor and disproportionately people of color populations are frequently governed almost entirely by wealthy white people with college and graduate degrees. Staffing follows this pattern as well, with most nonprofits requiring formal education as a prerequisite to working in administrative or management-level positions. Thus, the nature of the infrastructure in many social justice nonprofits often leads to concentrated decision-making power and pay in the hands of people with education, race, gender and class privilege rather than in the hands of those bearing the brunt of the systems of maldistribution… “This dynamic leads to the reproduction of the very same systems of maldistribution that organizations are purportedly targeting. Inside those organizations, white elites determine the fates of the vulnerable and get paid to make decisions about their lives while people directly impacted are kept out of leadership.” pgs.176-177

“Nonprofits are one way that wealthy people and corporations avoid tax liability. Most of the money that gets redirected out of the tax system by philanthropy does not go to social justice.” pg.179

Straight People Don’t Organize Around Their Sexuality…

The Book: Becoming a Visible ManSome excellent thoughts from Jamison Green’s book, Becoming a Visible Man.

“Transsexual people are everywhere: in corporate board rooms; in prisons; in academia; on HIV wards in hospitals; on factory floors; preaching from pulpits; litigating in court rooms; working as nurses, artists, managers, research scientists, sex workers, software engineers, architects; sitting near you on an airplane or in the movie theater; and riding on the subway. We are in schools as students and as teachers or administrators. Some of us are very old, some are very young, most are everywhere in between. Some are attractive, beautiful, handsome; some are average; some are unattractive; we are all human beings.” Pg.214

“[S]traight people don’t organize around their sexuality unless they’re intent on separating themselves and protecting themselves from anyone different from themselves.” Pg.157

Catholic Church Evicts Hate Crime Victim

So this happened:

Alexis Alison Lancaster, 39, was approached at an RTA Red Line station and verbally harassed with antigay slurs as she excited the train on November 19. [T]he suspects… beat and kicked the victim, allegedly stealing her cell phone and leaving her bruised and unconscious.

Then Lancaster did some of her own police work, but alas:

Lancaster says she was able to track down her cell phone with the use of its GPS, but that police were not interested in following up.

And as a result of this hate crime:

Following television news coverage of the attack, Lancaster was evicted from the apartment she lived in for 13 years. The apartment is owned by the Catholic church.

Smooth move, Clevand Catholic leaders.

H/t ES

NYPD Chains Transwoman to Fence for 28 Hours

Oh yes they did

A trans woman says that when she was arrested for a minor subway violation, NYPD officers belittled her, called her names, asked about her genitals — and kept her chained to a fence for 28 hours. Now she’s suing. And it turns out she’s far from alone.

…She also says officers not only refused to call her “she,” they instead referred to her as “He-She”, “Faggot,” and “Lady GaGa,” and asked her “So you like to suck dick? Or what?” Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor “theft of services”) she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave.

At least the woman who experienced this treatment, Temmie Breslauer, is standing up, speaking out, and of course suing.

The Anti-Violence Project gets a shout out in the article.

H/t ES

Canadian Law Makes It Awfully Hard to Travel if You’re Trans

I appreciate this op-ed by Kyle Knight at the Huffington Post.

Trans people are often denied basic rights by governments around the world, including “western” or “first world” governments. Governments force trans people to carry inaccurate ID and prevent them from making sure the gender/sex marker reflects their true identity. At any point in one’s life where one must show identification, problems quickly arise.

Why government is in the business of enforcing gender categories, I don’t know, but apparently the state has a compelling interest, like fighting terrorism, or some such nonsense.

H/t KB

A Public Service Announcement to the Straight World

Dear straight people,

Please stop outting your LGBTQ friends to prove your “tots down with the gheyz” cred.

Referring to a friend by name and appending, “my lesbian friend” or “she’s bisexual, you know” is outting.

Discussing someone’s gender transition is outting. Do not say things like “I knew him when he still went by Jessica.” Or “I was really there for her during her transition. You know she’s trans, right?” That’s outting.

And most definitely, without a question, NEVER OUT YOUR QUEER FRIENDS IN A PUBLIC FORUM without explicit permission from the person concerned. Even if you’re doing it to “help”, whatever that means to you.

Have I had some recent ridiculous experiences from people who “just wanted to help”? YES.

What for you is showing that you are down with the cause, is for us endangering our housing, employability, our family relationships, and even our personal safety. What for you is a casual click on the “Forward” button or an interesting conversation-starter is the stuff of our lives, and can have actual consequences in a transphobic and homophobic society. Hell, in many parts of America it is still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, for chrissake! Hate crimes happen in the most liberal of cities. Queers aren’t safe anywhere, and the decision whether to be “out” or not must be left to us to decide, based on our own assessment of each situation.

It is not our responsibility to be always out, loud and proud, to educate you, your hater friends, or general haters-at-large. By forcing the additional burden of always explaining and educating upon us, you actually further marginalize us. No, I do not want to be a fun little lesson for your friend who is skeptical of my basic human worth and dignity. I do not want to educate your homophobic father about why I deserve basic human rights, while at the same time weathering his insulting questions.

Here’s a thought: if you want to be an ally to the LGBTQetc community, respect our autonomy and decision-making. Respect our privacy. Trouble yourself to explain to your friends and relatives why treating human beings as human beings is morally, ethically right, because you believe it is. Listen to what queers want. Ask permission, respectfully. Have a goddamn backbone. Put yourself out there, instead of hanging your queer friends out to dry.

The Czech, very pissed off

Pakistan Recognizes 3 Genders


From Politics Daily:

Late on Wednesday, the Supreme Court in Pakistan ordered that the government officially recognize a separate gender for Pakistan’s hijra community, which includes transgendered people, transvestites, and eunuchs. The court told the federal government to begin allowing people to identify as hijras when registering for a national identity card.

From Reuters India:

“It’s the first time in the 62-year history of Pakistan that such steps are being taken for our welfare,” the [hijra] association’s president, Almas Bobby, told Reuters. It’s a major step toward giving us respect and identity in society. We are slowly getting respect in society. Now people recognize that we are also human beings.”

Apparently, India also allows limited opportunities for people to identify as a third gender.

There are several ways that allowing another gender identification on forms of ID will help hijras and others participate more fully in Pakistani society. The official recognition legitimizes them in the eyes of some. It will allow them to appear in census data. It will be easier to get jobs, find housing, and enroll in school. They can vote.

I find this policy solution an interesting alternative approach to queer rights as opposed to the western one of maintaining a strict gender binary and trying to fit queer people into it no matter how ill-suited. Instead of the “we’re just like you!” approach of mainstream LGBT organizations, this seems to be an approach of carving space for an identity irreconcilably different from the options offered by the binary. Though simply creating a catch-all “other” gender category is somewhat simplistic a solution, I am heartened that it is at least an official state recognition that gender is non-binary, that the binary is not all-emcompassing of human gender experience and expression.

Could an official recognition of such a thing even be thinkable in the West, or in America specifically? I think we hold so tightly to our tradition of gender binary thinking that there is no intellectual room yet to move policy in this direction. I’m having fun though imagining how groups such as Focus on the Family would react to a campaign to add an official third gender category.

I wonder what real life effects this offical recognition will bring to Pakistani hijras and other non-binary individuals. Net good effects, net bad? I hope to follow up in the future.

Conservatives Scared of Imagined “Terrorist Transvestites”

Rob Long, at the Wall Street Journal, is concerned that the world may no longer be able to protect itself from terrorist transvestites.

His hilarious fear stems from a UN report notable for its nuance and sensitivity towards people who find themselves marginalized due to their gender expression.

Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur, wrote a report for the UN General Assembly titled “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”.

In it, he makes ‘controversial’ statements like:

Gender is not synonymous with women but rather encompasses the social constructions that underlie how women’s and men’s roles, functions and responsibilities, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, are defined and understood. This report will therefore identify the gendered impact of counter-terrorism measures both on women and men, as well as the rights of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. As a social construct, gender is also informed by, and intersects with, various other means by which roles, functions and responsibilities are perceived and practiced, such as race, ethnicity, culture, religion and class. Consequently, gender is not static; it is changeable over time and across contexts. Understanding gender as a social and shifting construct rather than as a biological and fixed category is important because it helps to identify the complex and inter-related gender-based human rights violations caused by counterterrorism measures; to understand the underlying causes of these violations; and to design strategies for countering terrorism that are truly non-discriminatory and inclusive of all actors.

Continue reading

The Exciting Times V.2

Crap loads of interesting stuff going on in this here world:

Trans Methodist Minister Finds Acceptance from his Congregation. Via Box Turtle Bulletin.

Acting Like Native Americans Is a Cult German Hobby.

Canadian Christianists Oppressed by the Teaching of Religion in Public Schools. Don’t worry, that doesn’t make sense to me either. Essentially, it appears they are angry their children are learning that religious besides Christianity exist.

Baptist Preacher Says of Gays: “I Hope You Get Brain Cancer”.

Actress Openly Discusses Her Schizophrenia. I think it is awesome she wants to be public about her mental condition. Yay!

Islamophobia Claims a Life in London. The elderly Ekram Haque was killed by a gang of whites in front of his 3-year-old granddaughter.

Sudanese Journalist Convicted of Wearing Pants. Lubna Hussein’s subsequent actions show true courage and solidarity. Holla!

The Wall Street Journal kindly reminds us that Christians are terribly, terribly oppressed in America. And are totally not the dominate majority who enjoy state privileges that non-Christians could never dream of.

Justice for Lateisha Green

Yay! From the Examiner:
Lateisha Green

Activists and family supporters cheered the July 17 verdict in the trial of Dwight DeLee, accused of murdering Lateisha Green, a 22-year-old African American trans woman of Syracuse, New York.

DeLee was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime in Green’s murder. Although Green was transgendered (born male with a female gender identity), the hate-crimes finding was based on anti-gay bias, indicating the DeLee saw Green as a gay man. New York has no hate-crimes statute that covers gender identity or transgender status.

See the Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund press release.

The Justice for Teish Facebook page.

See the kinda weird AP article.

Cis Is Not an Insult

For those of you not familiar with the terms “cisgender” or “cissexual”, here is a reference.

Check out this post at Questioning Transphobia. The post addresses a piece written by a cisgendered gay man who claims the term cisgender (i.e. non-trans) is offensive. A popular blog that I usually enjoy, Pam’s House Blend, has decided to bow to these claims and ban the words cisgender and cissexual, as well as any comment that supports their use.

Cis is not an offensive prefix, nor an insult.

There is a subset of white, well-off gay men who want the LGBT movement to reflect their needs and desires, their rage at being one privilege short of absolute privilege, and who despise the fact that the LGBT movement wants them to make space for the different needs of trans folks, bisexuals, gay men of color, poor gay men, lesbians, and other queers. They don’t want to be saddled by the greater struggles these other groups face. They want to leap that one hurdle that separates them from joining the most privileged group in the world, and the rest of us hold them back. So a small group of white gay men are pushing back against inclusiveness, against the idea of having our own house in order, and against trans respect and equality.

I know most of you gay white men out there are not like this. Those who are, are not part of my community.

Headline Choices

What’s the difference between these murder headlines:

Immigrant Murders Woman

Muslim Murders Wife

Transgender Woman Murders Husband

And these ones:

Wife Murdered

Man Murders Young Actor

Woman Arrested in Murder of Area Woman

All of these murders took place in the UK or the US. In the second group of headlines, all of the perps or accused perps are white, cisgendered US/UK citizens.

So why do editors decide not to mention the race, religion or trans status of white murders in headlines? Why do they deliberately include that information only for people with some sort of minority status (immigrant, black or brown, trans, Muslim, etc.)? Does it make the story more “sensational”? If so, why? If not, than for what other possible reason would they include that information?

The effect of emphasizing what makes minority murderers different, not like us, while declining to emphasize the identities of white, Christian, straight, non-immigrant murderers, (who are more like “us” i.e. the majority), is to make it appear to the general media-consuming public that these minorities are more likely to commit crime, and/or that their minority status has something to do with the murder.

What would happen if every time a white person murdered, their race, religion, citizenship status, and trans-status were included in the headlines? Let’s try it out.

Straight White Man Murders Wife

Christian Citizen Murders Woman

Cisgendered White Woman Murders Husband

White Christian Man Murdered Wife

Straight Citizen Murdered Young Actor

Cisgendered Christian Woman Arrested in Murder of Area Woman

Interesting effect, isn’t it?

Trial Dates Set in Angie Zapata Murder

Angie ZapataFrom the Colorado Anti-Violence Program:

Trial dates have been set for the murder of Angie Zapata. The eight day trial begins on April 14, 2008 and takes place in Courtroom 11 of the Weld County Courts at 901 9th Ave in Greeley. We would like to provide as much community support to her family and friends as possible by packing the courthouse during those days. If you are interested in coordinating rides to Greeley from the Denver-Metro area, please contact Kelly Costello at 303-839-5204 or

About Angie Zapata.

H/t Questioning Transphobia.

What the Different Owe to the Normal

Blogger Shiva made a thought-provoking comment in a discussion on Bird of Paradox:

it seems to basically say “oppressed/marginalised people can be treated as property” (to be “borrowed”, something must be “owned”), and simultaneously that an explanation of difference is something that the “normal” have a right to demand at will from the “different” (a term commonly used in the autistic liberation movement is “self-narrating zoo exhibit”).

Thanks to Questioning Transphobia for drawing my attention to this discussion. Go over to Bird of Paradox for the original context, or Questioning Transphobia for additional ruminations from a specifically trans angle.

I find the phrase “self-narrating zoo exhibit” both powerful and useful. Many of us who have, shall we say, non-mainstream identities, whether identities as queer, trans, Muslim, disabled, Native, Jewish any combo thereof and etc, know exactly what this phrase means.

We know what it feels like for others with some sort of privilege we lack to expect, nay demand explanations for our very personhood, or our right to membership in humanity.

When I worked with the refugee community, I fielded a lot of requests from grad students who wanted to interview refugees for their theses. Their plan:

1. The refugee service agency gives them the private contact information of their clients.
2. They set up interviews with these clients to compel them to relive some of the most horrific moments of their lives.
3. Grad student success! They write up a compelling, moving theses, get published, and land an amazing position at a prestigious university.

What’s missing here? Oh yeah, the fact that refugees are PEOPLE, not exhibits to be researched. Not only that, but the recently-arrived refugees who my agency worked with were in incredibly vulnerable situations. New to the country, little or no English ability, few financial resources, survivors of unimaginable trauma, often suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues. Did the grad students really think we’d just give out their contact info and let them milk refugees for all the juicy details of how they watched their fathers die, their mothers get raped, their houses burned?

What were the refugees supposed to get out of this little exchange? Oh, nothing. The students never even gave a second thought about that, they just assumed the refugees would be honored to get attention from them. The students never considered volunteering, developing real relationships and trust, donations of any kind. It was to be a one-way transaction for them, and the understaffed, underfunded service agency was to facilitate it, and the refugees themselves were TO LIKE IT, GODDAMN IT!

America was giving them shelter, so the refugees should be expected to explain themselves. Again. And again. And by themselves, we all know that we mean: the juicy violent horrible stuff, not their personalities and their likes and dislikes.

Whew, sorry, the anger is coming back. Well, belately I now know what I would have said to those annoying grad students. Refugees are not your self-narrating zoo exhibits, bitches! So shove your thesis where the sun don’t shine!

Just Some Dead Queers of 2008


Just some queers and perceived queers who were subject to hate crimes and/or murder in 2008. Learn more about their stories by clicking on their names.

Taysia Elzy & Michael Hunt

Milton Lindgren & Eric Hendricks

Leeneshia Edwards

Ebony Whitaker

Duanna Johnson

San Francisco Lesbian

Simmie Williams

Jose Sucuzhanay

Lawrence King

Angie Zapata

Wayland Union High School Student

Nathan Runkle

Moses Cannon

Lance Neve

Tony Hunter

Jimmy Lee Dean

(“…suspects later admitted robbing Dean because they thought a gay man would make an easier target.”)

Here’s why hate crime legislation is necessary and not just an ’empty gesture’ as some have called it:

1. When hate crimes against certain groups are reported as such, the data can be tracked, aggregated, trends followed, and problem areas specifically addressed.

2. A hate crime has more victims than the primary person(s) who experienced the violence and abuse. A hate crime has as its secondary victims everyone else who belongs to that category that made the primary victims into targets. A hate crime against an individual who is perceived as LGBT has the effect of putting the whole LGBT community in a state of heightened fear. It establishes a precedent of attacking LGBT people because of their perceived queerness for other homophobic individuals who might tend towards violence.  Therefore, a murder as a result of a hate crime has wider negative effects than a murder that was  not a hate crime.

3. The label of hate crime breaks the silence that often surrounds violence and abuse towards oppressed and marginalized groups in society. It publicly names this particular kind of violence for what it is, which is of course essential if we want to look for real solutions to stop it. This is discussed in some of the links above… Indiana has no hate crime law, so LGBT advocates don’t know how prevalent hate crimes are, or which crimes against LGBT individuals were motivated by their LGBT status.

Something else to note: location, race, and socio-economic class seem to have important effects. A disproportionate number of those killed lived in conservative communities, were people of color, and were low-income. These parts of the victims’ identities intersect with their queerness, perceived or real, to create an identity, a personhood, that marked them as targets. Do their killers and harassers figure that by choosing victims who are doubly- and triply-marginalized they will be able to get away with their crimes? They certainly have enough precedent to think it’s a good bet. Or does possessing intersecting marginalized identities just create so much hate in would-be attackers that where one “offensive” identity would have been bearable, two or more is just temptation too great to resist?

From the Brooklyn Eagle via Pam’s House Blend:

The vast majority of brutality against gays is carried out by young men, usually acting in groups, said Riki Wilchins, executive director of Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, a Washington nonprofit that works in schools to address discrimination.

Their victims most often are other young men with feminine demeanors or transgender women, said Wilchins. “These assailants are looking to eradicate and exterminate something that enrages them, and that is what makes them hate crimes,” he said.


Stapel attributed the increase in part to more people reporting incidents, but she believed there actually could have been more assaults because 2008 was an election year.

“Election years are always violent years for us because of wedge issues,” Stapel said, referring to ballot measures this year banning gay marriage in California and Florida. “With increased visibility comes increased vulnerability to LGBT stereotypes and violence. We’ve seen some of the most violent hate crimes that we’ve seen in a while.”

Do prominent anti-gay measures have the effect of creating more hate crimes against LGBT individuals? Do these measures send a message to society that queers are lesser people, second-class citizens, not quite as deserving of respectful treatment as “regular” folks? If we believe our laws are supposed to reflect our society’s values, then I would say that anti-gay laws definitely send a message that it is okay to treat LGBT people as “less than”. If we already have fewer rights before the law, some individuals inclined towards violence and hate will feel that violence against a gay person will be analogously less serious before the law than violence against a “regular” person.

Your thoughts please. Respect for the humanity of Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans people is a requirement if you want to post. If I missed any anti-LGBT hate crimes, please post them in the comments!

Check out these great resources: LGBT Hate Crimes Project and LGBT Hate Crime Reports




Here’s the words of blogger TransGriot, aka Monica Roberts:

When I hear or see that ‘Gay is the New Black’ slogan, it just irks me, especially considering what I’ve observed over the last decade as a African-American transgender activist.

When we hear people say that, I and other African-Americans, both GLBT and non GLBT, see a movement comprised predominately with a leadership of white moneyed gay men who wish to compare themselves to the Civil Rights Movement but consistently ignore or fail to apply the fundamental lessons of that movement.

Via Feministing.

101 101

Curious people have a lot of questions, and below you will find lots of answers! I decided to compile some of the awesomest basic resources (101s) out there on the internet about -isms and social justice so that you can find most of what you need in one easy post. So here are some resources about important topics like feminism 101, anti-racism 101, ableism 101, and so much much more! It’s my own 101 101.


What is Womanism? Posted by Trula Breckenridge

Definition of the word “Womanism” from A Feminist Theory Dictionary

Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

Shakesville’s Feminism 101 page


Talking About Race

Resist Racism’s Racism 101

Alas, a blog, on How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism



Ableism, Accessibility and Inclusion by Heather De Mian

Some info about Ableism by Greg Wolbring


Size Acceptance 101 on Case Gordita

But Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy? on Shapely Prose

Size Acceptance 101 on Shamless


A resource from Questioning Transphobia: How to Check Your Cis Privilege

Trans 101 on T-Vox

Trans and Genderqueer 101 at

The Bilerico Project’s Homosexuality 101

Heteronormitivity 101


Intersectionality 101 on Illvox

How to Fuck Up by Teh Portly Dyke

Please add all those I missed (there must surely be many) in the comments!