Category Archives: Queer

Believe the survivors

A short note on the need of codes of conduct and ethical behaviour anyway:

One thing the #metoo (rightful) cabal makes clear is that sexual assault and misbehaviour takes place everywhere. From inappropriate touching (definitely also on #IEWarsaw2017, The ILGA Europe Warsaw Conference) to full blown assault.

Less attention gets the psychological violence people – again mostly (trans/cis/intersex) women – are subjected to. As feminists (of all genders, colours and classes) all over the world make clear: there is nothing new in this and it is *always* a power question. The perpetrator cannot get their way through consent and thus resorts to forms of violence.

There is also a lot of talk about responsibility. That reminds us directly of the “she gave reason” debates around dress, looks and puts the blame with the victim. It ties in with (cis) masculinist thought. Television talk shows doubt and debate the women, or even invite women who are “tired of the whole thing”. In the Dutch talk shows they were all white middle age cis women (also all or most straight). With a good career. White feminists – where white points at the target group more than skin colour per se. Who most probably have been targeted also, and maybe also were perpetrators on any level, as women are all but free from being abusers. 

The “lookism” element of “You must have asked for it by wearing a short skirt/biking alone in the night/not defending yourself” is blatant sexism and victim blaming. Plus it obfuscates the whole power element. Popular science author and columnist Asha ten Broeke wrote in her most recent column (https://www.volkskrant.nl/opinie/asha-ten-broeke-slachtoffers-van-misbruik-geloof-ik-dat-is-een-morele-kwestie~a4529748/) around the publicity that sexual assault finally gets, there is a problem with the reasoning the perpetrator is innocent until proven guilty. While being a good legal principle, the opinion that only a legal decision brings clarity and culpability is problemetic. Why this is problematic is twofold. First it is by definition a power question. Both the violence, the trespassing behaviour, and the legal process. Legal power should be equal for both parties but cuts to legal aid often weaken the position for women in court. Second there is the patriarchal culture in which we live that grants women or feminized persons less credibility.

Victims of sexual assault often don’t turn to the police. Out of shame, out of fear (the perpetrator often is not the man in the park in the dark). In the Weinstein case it now is known he went out of his way to convince the women not to do anything against him. The survivors are often scolded, treated with disbelief. Stigma is huge and support often limited, solidarity usually absent. Ten Broeke states in her column: believing the survivor is a moral obligation as legal proof in case of sexual assault and rape often is difficult, if the case gets to court at all. “The law is no substitute for morality”, Edward Snowden is quoted. Nor is moral indignation an alternative to legal procedures. On the contrary it calls for better laws and procedures to strengthen the victim’s position. And also here it is really important which thoughts think thoughts (Donna Haraway). Remember: law is never neutral. From which mindset do you approach reform? Why?What is your aim? The consequence of Believe the Victim is far stretching: it decentres the victor’s discourse, it lends credibility to the story of the assaulted, empowers them and thus corrects the power imbalance.

The law is no substitute for morality
(Edward Snowden)

In the beginning I referred to the recent annual ILGA Europe Conference. Because the queer community is not free of sexual or mental. Emotional abuse either. Many more are survivors than there are perpetrators, but given that abuse is about power and using extreme ways to get your way – be it emotional or physical – it happens there also. One person told they were touched on their chest in an appropriate way by an ILGA Europe (male) board member, and more extreme is what happened last year at ILGA World’s Conference in Bangkok. Thereit appeared neither the intersex community is free of this. An OII associated intersex man committed a full scale attack to a non-intersex female scholar and advocate and is still intent on destroying her advocacy work by spreading lies about her. And as a man, his story gets more credibility than hers. He has success, her work and credibility suffers from his hate campaign. I am sure similar phenomena also happen in trans organisations and movements.

Abuse is also a queer thing

As we stand for social justice, we need to realise this and put the interests of the victims before our friendships and loyalties. To be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the #ihave that also may be present as systems and structures work through people. And we need to #BelieveTheVictims (https://twitter.com/hashtag/BelieveTheVictims). That is a moral obligation. The more for queers who know self doubt and disbelief.

Of black women and elephants

Somehow elephants became significant in my life this year. And black women. Mostly through literature, but also in real life. The elephants through Alastair Reynolds novels, the Poseidon’s Children series. The women though the same Poseidon’s Children and through Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis.

 

cover of Blue Remembered Earth, with a blue earth in the background, trees and people below it in the foreground

Xenogenesis (also known as Lilith’s Brood) is a complicated and very readable story about post-nuclear conflict earth from which humans are salvaged by an alien species, the Oankali, that are partially humaniform but also with tentacles and orifices where humans don’t have them, tentacles that are senses and with which they can see, feel and even heal. Ooloi are their third sex/gender relatives who are perfect healers, fond of cell malformations like cancers. The first person to be awakened is Lilith Iyapo, a black woman who then is to awaken other humans. The books touch important issues like autonomy, colonialism, hierarchy and conflict prone behaviour. Lilith is the First, the Mother, la Chingada, the Guide1. Communities of Resisters, are founded by humans who don’t want to be protected against radiation and disease (one of the first things the Oankali do). They shiver at the idea of mating with an Oankali in between, losing their human essence. Better to be fallible and human than to be hybrid. Bands of Resister men plan raids on villages to steal the most human looking children and take women for their communities. Of course racism and sexism are rampant in the Resister community. When the stage has been set, the books tell about the trouble and joy of constructing a new world plus a pure human civilisation on Mars where Resisters can be fertile and try again. In the last part the trouble of a human Ooloi construct, Jodahs, is related, a healer with all too human inclinations for falling in love with the grossly imperfect humans.

According to Blue Remembered Earth and its successors On the Steel Breeze and Poseidon’s Wake, in Kenya, it was Geoffrey Akinya who started out with scientific experiments to see what the elephants of his herd saw, through implants and a second viewer possibility, an inter-species brain share. This was still pretty primitive but a robot inhabiting figment of his grandmother Eunice Akinya succeeded to cognitively enhance them and thus create Tantors who could count, add, divide and later even reason. In Poseidon’s Wake there is even a group of Risen, renegade Tantors who became hostile towards their enhancers, the humans. Not really strange considering the ages old onslaught of elephants for their tuskers.

Line of African elephants walking in the savanne

While the story begins a bit troublesome, with a human who (first) enhances the elephants slightly for his own ideas, later they become intelligent and even space faring. Regularly the perspective shifts to the Risen’s perspective. When matriarch Dakota uses the humans for her own goal conflict arises but in the end both get a better understanding of each others perspective.

The novels are great because the main characters are black women and elephants. The men are less significant. When at a certain moment in time a message from outer space reaches a new (extra-galactic) human colony, it is sent by Eunice to her granddaughter (in a lesbian relationship), not her grandson. The women make the greatest discoveries and there are third gender characters indicated with “ve”, “ver” and “vis”. Like the main scientist, Travertine. And the emphasis is always on the characters acts, not their gender or sexuality.

Alastair Reynolds (well known for his Revelation Space space opera) knowledge of cutting edge science and black and women centered non-binary inclusive books are a delight to read, the more in these conflict ridden times.

In these conflictful times with strong racist tendencies the books are a delight to read as a depicting how things can be different. Both set after almost humanity destroying conflicts, they imagine a different better life. Though in order to get there humanity needs to confront another type of elephant also: the elephant in the room. Because almost all but the Marxist inspired left (anarchists included here) fail to see the the issue is with the unholy trinity of patriarchy, racism and capitalism. Generally people find themselves rather progressive in rejecting neoliberalism, SOGIE2 discrimination and racism. Their alternative is a vague sort of less painful capitalism; a capitalism losing its edge. A liberal capitalism, a capitalism light because we went too far. It hurts too hard at home also, too much in their face and neoliberalism doesn’t willful its promises. These opinion makers and politicians need to go back to school and study some political economy, plus feminism, anti-racism, human rights. Crises are endemic to capitalism, without them there is no capitalism. Apart from the revolutionary left no one has sound ideas how to transition away from capitalism, way from patriarchy so all non cis men (and even they) will have a decent life. Transform into a really post-racial society where ideas and structures that institutionalise raciality belong to the past. A world where respect for animals, people, plants, all nature is part and parcel of life. The 2 degrees of the Paris Agreements are too high and we are getting there far too soon. The solution – although it needs more detailing – is there: socialise the means of production (labour, ground, capital, information) and start working towards a quick transition to an ecosocialism that is inclusive of all ‘minorities’.

That is my desire for 2017 and if you want to participate, you are most welcome.

1For a great article on these books see https://muse.jhu.edu/article/521541
2SOGIE: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression

How did we get where we are?

Text of a talk given at the MERLINKA queer film festival in Belgrade December 10, 2015

HOW DID WE GET WHERE WE ARE? INTERSECTIONAL QUEER TRANS ACTIVISM FROM A DUTCH PERSPECTIVE

I have been asked to give a talk on the progress we made in the Netherlands, on the level of LBGTI rights, and what remains to be done. I interpret this as: how did we get where we are?

That means that the first question is: where are we actually? And who is this we that are somewhere?

I argue that the we that has arrived in supposedly LGBT Valhalla, in the Netherlands, is in the end only a pretty privileged group. Although officially all their rights also apply to those excluded. I will show that a legal approach – however needed – always fall short without a focus on what society we need. It will always fall short without anti-austerity, anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-war politics.

The rights that formally apply to everyone in the country are not in reach of everyone. If you are a trans* person of colour in the Netherlands, and in many other countries, you are supposed to have trouble with your family, and you are supposed to be of a Muslim background. Which means they will pit you either as the enemy and call slurs to deny your humanity including your being, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex. Or they accept you happily as theirs – usually as their token trans or gay of colour – and pit you against the others who are thus even more black than before. You as a trans*  person of colour however are suddenly white and semi-privileged. But only partly because you still won’t have a job because of racial discrimination. And when you complain that you have issues in your own community the white people fail to respond. Mainstream LGBT organisation COC does a good job in lobbying and capacity building for minority sexualities and also do lots of trans* political work. The trans* organisation is not capable to do it. As a mostly lobby organisation however their possibilities to garner cultural change are limited. Only under-priviliged minority groups are dong real community building now.

EQUALITY

The Dutch constitution posits all laws apply to everyone equally. Which is not self evident anymore since a couple of European countries adopted strikingly discriminating constitutional clauses.

In Serbia and Poland marriage is only between a man and a woman. Which is naive at best and will create unwillingly male mothers in same sex relationships. Women who thanks to a social life prior to their newly acquired and acknowledged gender are the fathers to their child. And fathers who, thanks to giving birth before legal gender change, also are the mothers of their child. This is a pre-queer genderfuck, unwillingly created recently by naive heteronormative lawyers. So, queering cisnormative discourse, I would incite those MP’s and lawyers to keep on doing this. They bring the world we wish of female fathers and male mothers (next to the more traditional male fathers and female mothers) closer than we could hope for.

Ah, yes. That is an issue still of course. We cannot marry. Well, actually, if we can convince our partners to stick with us, we will have de facto same sex relationships. Of course you can try to prohibit that also, but any lawyer with some sense in their brain will object to that for you endanger the stability of the legal system. So in that case also property rights for partner and children are arranged for.

HISTORY AND OURSTORY

Let me look back in time to tell you about the struggle that we had to get where “we” are, “as a country”. I love this “as a country”, as a nation state. Because it assumes and imposes a collective identity that must be created and maintained, enforced. With all mythology of what being your nationality constitutes. For Serbs you have to be strong, militaristic, war mongering, heteronormative. For the Netherlands its means being a welcoming, trading, gay and tulips loving country. I consider it one of my tasks to tear the rosy pink glasses, with which you look at my crazy country, off your nose.

In the 1960s the Netherlands also knew anti-gay fights. We still have anti-gay violence, and even more anti-trans violence. Actually “gay” did not yet really exists as an identity in the 1960s, most were homosexuals. Yes, words matter. The 1970s saw more and more homosexuals on the streets. I even walked the dogs of a homosexual or gay couple I knew through my parents (I was young and the dogs were big and strong). I was unaware of everything and gay or trans or whatever: fine with me. But homosexuals were in those days still getting conversion therapy and even electroshocks. And suicide was high, an uncle of mine took his life because of homophobia everywhere and surely also in himself.

Trans people finally got a place for medical attention in the 1970s and structurally from the 1980s. Legislation was adopted in 1985 and trans people had to undergo psychological screening, cross gender hormone therapy and genital surgery that made them infertile and preferably changed them “as far as possible” to “the other sex”. The reason why there is relatively low level of transphobic violence in the Netherlands (notwithstanding five killings in twelve years), has to do with this medicalising. We have a medical, even psychiatric condition, we cannot help it, and you are not to beat up mentally ill people. Plus we have a tradition of repressive tolerance. Also of the bad. See Black Pete. As long as you don’t scream too loud we keep it under cover. By the way, in my talk I mostly analyse. I do empathise with all struggles, also of cis straight people, but for that, and how to get forward, we have the discussion and personal talks.

In the meantime, through a tough going on, dealing and wheeling with politicians and several non-religious governments, we have won many rights, most recently the one of all-female parenthood without adoption. Until recently the second mother had to adopt her child. With men we still have issues. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals are protected under general anti-discrimination law, trans people not. Yes, partially, under the sex clause. However to think that works, is naive. Because it does not protect us, aggressors do not see us as women or men, but as freaks. So we are not yet there and in politics the idea is slowly that we have reached everything important.

WHO IS THIS WE

And that brings me to the question “who are ‘we’”? Because when we look at queer rights, trans rights, intersex rights, how effective the protection of people of color is in the Netherlands, we see a gaping abyss. Intersex people, those born with a sex variation, people whose sexed body defies our dichotomous norms that there are only male and female bodies, have NO protection against heteronormative surgeons and endocrinologists. Trans people need psychological scrutiny to concur they are of sane mind in this wish. Only then can they go to the civil registry to change names and gender. Doctors and politicians are still scared shitless of autonomous trans people who without any scrutiny change their gender ad lib. Heaven forbid the bomb under the cisheteronormative system is thicker than blood, starts infecting the majority. Then, if you are a person of color, you are to suffer doubly, both under your cultural heritage and the white cishet system. Pardon, gender dysphoria.

WHAT TO LEARN FROM ALL THIS

I think it is important to learn you need patience and a good inclusive and intersectional strategy. Inclusive of your own minorities, inclusive of people with the right ideas although they may not belong diectly to the LGBTIQ community. For the it is of utmost importance to understand and act after the adage “Nothing about us without us”. Stand with sex workers. For many of us sex work is sort of a passage rite. A period of incredible vulnerability. Talk with Romani people how they are segregated and do not get rights. Many of the trans sex workers in the Yugo region are Romani people and they are shunned by the others. So in a an even worse situation than other trans people. Talk with immigrants about their struggle, see where you can help. Where they can help us. Talk with your intersex activists. Learn how the cisgender heteronormative system works, how it screws up all of your lives. Also that of the cisgender heteronormative people themselves, because they are not in the position to experiment with other ways of living, they are caught even deeper in the Matrix. Poor straight people. I pity you. Our Utopia is polymorphous perverse world where love and sex are no commodities anymore. Where we can frolic and fuck at work – but only with consent. Our future is a stateless queer ecosocialist society. It is a long road and we will know loneliness and bombs on the road, but remember: you never fight alone. Hasta la victoria siempre, comrades!

Destroy the cis-tem (on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2015)

Tonight I want to talk you about the “cistem”, about the role of some  “feminists” in the cistem. And for that I need to explain a lot of other things first. Like who is trans*? And who counts as trans*?

transfeminismI will give you a bit of basics on trans* and trans* people, because usually not even most trans* people directly know everything. Maybe a bit of a comedown, but we are not all experts. Some people just want to live their life.

  • Trans people are those who change their legal gender because that other option fits better.

  • Trans people dress up, cross dress. Sometimes seriously, sometimes less seriously. Some identify as cross dressers, some don’t. And some don’t dress up at all.

  • Trans people are those who choose medical assistance to get their body (better) aligned with their identity. But many don’t do that, for various reasons, including lack of access to (affordable and good quality) trans health care.

  • Gender identity is the deeply felt personal conviction of being of some gender, and that is not by definition male or female.

  • Gender theory is evil, gender studies less so.

  • Gender diversity is global and of probably all times.

  • Some trans people are bitchy and others are stupid or dumb.
    Just like with cis people. But definitely more beautiful 🙂

  • More than 40% of trans* people have pondered suicide.

  • Since 2009 more than 1,700 trans* people have been murdered. In Europe Turkey and Italy are the worst. The Netherlands had two killings last year.

  • Some of our worst enemies call themselves feminists

  • We write trans* with an * to include all diversity within trans*

Terminology

We have to be careful with terminology. Careful with male and female, because these are not neutral terms. They contain many assumptions. And when you are not aware of that, you easily end up with the wrong feminists.

It seems we are all born with gender identity, probably in a rudimentary form. Actually I don’t think that is so important. We are human beings and thus endowed with rights. Also if we would not have any gender identity. Probably I am only preaching to the choir when I say that gender or gender identity is a social construction. The debates around this just change on how that works, hardly on the fact. Except that Judith Butler made clear how much sex and gender are a Siamese twin. There is no gender without sex, and sex without gender is incomprehensible.

Already in the 1970s feminism started to dismantle the patriarchal idea of a direct coupling of body and role. The famous statement that biology is not destiny. In the 1990s this was taken radically further and now again. The important contribution, that trans* has for feminism is showing ever more clearly that having a certain body is not a prerequisite for certain identities and expressions. I think that trans* nowadays makes very clear, how much patriarchy and moral conservatism hate autonomous people self determining the identity that lives in their body.

laverne

Kyriarchy

What cis and trans* feminists of any gender have in common is an elevated interest in dismantling patriarchy, or kyriarchy if you want. Only some – mostly white middle class cis women – forgot to read on since the 1970s. They still stick with the idea sex is immutable and gender is only roles.

And actually you may not be free from that either. Hopefully just because you don’t know better for never having messed with it. Maybe the easiest way is to just say what I and many other trans people expect, above all in feminist circles.

  • An easy one: we have pronouns, like you. If you don’t know for sure, ask us how we want to referred to as. Don’t assume either he/she not ze/they/xie. Better ask, than fuck up. Because of endless misgendering we are a bit sensitive about it.
  • We take the bathroom we want to take. Because it is the one indicating where people of our gender should go. Or just because it is the first toilet door on the left. Who cares.
  • Just like everyone we have a right not to be harassed wherever we go, including the right or wrong bathroom. What’s a wrong bathroom anyway. Maybe one that is defunct.
  • If I identify as a woman – however my body and especially my genitals may look – I have the right to shower with the other women. Naked. Also if I still have my native “male” genitals.
  • Nobody has the right to harass someone. For whatever reason. So support your trans sisters if they would have trouble because they don’t look not cis enough. Not being used to things, is not a reason to protest or to question someone’s identity.
  • Same applies in reverse: trans men are men and actually everyone is the gender they say they are. Same with me, whatever body parts you see or I have, they don’t define me.
  • Just that you have a womb (if you have one) doesn’t make you more a woman than someone who does not.

The biggest and I think simplest link between trans* and feminism is that trans* people are being confronted time and time again with social sexism and ingrained misunderstandings about bodies and roles and identities. Where even science starts to agree with us, not only the social sciences. There are more than two sexes, some five or nine. And there are a zillion of gender identities and expressions. Feminism states already from the beginning that biology is not destiny. Except for some people of course when you were born with a penis. Then biology is destiny. All of a sudden. And then the genitals and the gonads and chromosomes suddenly make the woman, doing away with all complexity of bodies and genders. In that sense I consider them quite silly.

And of course trans* feminism is multi-coloured and anti-racist – as all serious feminism should be. We don’t want to repeat the arrogance of 1980s mainstream white feminism that kept out women of colour and anarcha-feminists. Something improbable anyway these days: current feminism strikes me as becoming (finally)  rather inclusive of colour. Still feminism still is a complicated question, also in the students’ movement. Issues as colour, ableism and class need to be addressed everywhere all the time (Vrankrijk being not accessible to dis_abled people and non-smokers is also a feminist issue).

TERF

Some history or herstory on TERFs, the Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. And some names. Actually the TERF story can be done away with by logic and opening up. Because it is logic fallacies and myths.

As so many things, it started more or less in the USA. In the 1970s. With a certain Janice Raymond. She wrote a book advocating for her vice, titled “The Transexual Empire : the making of the she-male”. Under the guise of scientific freedom and the freedom of press, the book itself is just semi-scientific rubbish as there has been before and has been afterwards, like Michael J. Bailey’s “The man who would be queen”. However, Raymond did not just write a book, she actively campaigned at then president Ronald Reagan for the closure of all gender clinics in academic hospitals and non-financing of trans friendly therapists, by which she actively and willingly endangered the lives of many trans people. Also her ideas directly or indirectly instigated a troupe of lesbian “avengers” on the trail of trans sound engineer Sandy Stone who worked at Olivia records, a radical lesbian record label. Stone was out and had the full support of the crew, but had to got into hiding because of the lesbian killers on her trail. If you don’t take my word for this, check the interview that Transadvocate had with Stone.

Fast forward to now: “theoretical” TERFness seems to be an Anglo-Saxon game. The biggest trans* haters live in the UK and in the US, and all are cis white middle-aged lesbians. Janice Raymond doesn’t do trans* anymore, she only does sex work-hate now. But the Big TERF is Cathy Bug Brennan, a lawyer at the Maryland bar. She is one of a bunch of active doxxers. “Doxxing” is revealing the name and whereabouts of trans women who often don’t use their daily names online. By doing this Brennan and friend Gallusmag endanger the lives of many trans women – and enjoy it. By the way, since October 28, 2014 we know who GallusMag or GenderTrender is, we have a picture of her. Her name is Linda V. Shanko.

In the UK we have Julie Bindel, Sheila Jeffreys and some others, also Germaine Greer who tried to get rid of a trans woman astronomer at Cambridge university. I know of no famous Dutch transhating feminists, but there certainly are a couple of them.

The nicest things they do or say about us is misgendering us, but they also engage in doxxing and talking us out of existence. Calling us male lesbians, men’s rights activists … they are in favour of so-called “bathroom bills” that exclude and forbid trans girls and trans women to use the women’s bathroom. Forbids them to pee actually, because you don’t go into the men’s room. They are a bunch of fanatic hating racist cis women (not all lesbians) that corner trans* women and endanger their existence because we need to stop living.

Dutch trans negative feminism is mostly cis women who are scared for trans women flagging their penises in their face, when in the bathroom or in the shower. That is what we do, it is our greatest pastime: waving our mighty tranny dicks into a cis woman’s face. Right. Complete and utter bullshit.

Cotton ceiling

An important misappropriated issue trans women are facing is the so-called “cotton ceiling”. So-called radical feminists blabber they are forced to have sex with trans women, because these are women and of course all women want to sleep with all other women. Analogous to the glass ceiling this describes the virtual isolation and lockout of trans* women where it concerns sexuality and relationships. It’s about the intersection of desirability and with transphobia and transmisogyny. The cis-academics among you all love us for research. But you never love us. Trans people are in almost all environments radically not loved.

And when, then it hardly goes beyond the underwear. Of course I must not bear the sins of a single researcher on all the others. #notallresearchers, #notallwomen, you know. And #yesalltrans people. My own experience appears to find collective recognition. So nowadays I only hang out with some of them, who happen to be my friends and quit trying to fuck my way into academia 😉

I would actually say: try us out. Not as in taking a trial subscription, but open up to us, explicitly. Be revolutionary and love a trans/inter person! Confront the unknown. We have to do it every time when we engage with a cis person. I do not want your acceptance, I want your transformation and don’t take “later” for an answer. You can help, you should help. The recruiting office is open after the discussion.

This is the text of a talk I gave on the occasion of March 8, 2015, International (Working) Women’s Day, in Casco, Utrecht.

The Right to Life for Trans* Persons, and Why Normal is Boring

Vreer Verkerke

Guest post on darafhoffmanfox.com

I have been asked by Dara Hoffman-Fox to write a piece for her site as a genderqueer gender educator and human rights advocate for the rights of trans* and inter* people. And I gladly comply with her request.

[Before I continue, a short orthographic notice: I write “trans*” and “inter*” without meaning to refer to a footnote, but the asterisk implies the vastness of trans and inter(sex/gender) identities and expressions.]

Dara’s eyes fell on this part of the vision page on my professional website:

We aim to break through (apart?) stereotypes around gender, gender identities and gender expressions. This goes for both trans people and non-trans people. The cisgendered (i.e. non-trans) are also entitled to be free from stereotypes about their way of life. We do this through gender education.

This Thursday trans* people and friends, partners, allies all over the world will pay attention to Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day started 16 years ago in a reaction to the murder of Rita Hester from Allston, MA.

As still is the case in the United States (10 killings this year), and in Brazil (the country with again the highest count of trans* murders with 113 this year) most victims of murders are black trans* women of African-African heritage, which makes this, apart from a gender issue, also a race and class issue.

Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project counted 226 killings worldwide this year only. Since the start of the project in 2008 we have counted 1,612 murders against trans* people. The Americas are the most dangerous place to live for trans people, surely for trans* people of color. This year 176 killings, with high proportions for tiny countries as Honduras (10 people). But also the Netherlands knows a trans related killing this year.

For trans* people, nowhere is really safe.

The Western societies we live in and its influence sphere have a political and economic system that systematically favors white (middle and upper class) heterosexual cisgender men. All cis men in the end. But also cis women. Think of the incident in the Baltimore McDonald’s where a trans woman was heavily attacked by a group of cis girls.

Women, cis or trans or intersex suffer under this patriarchal system. We trans* and gender-non conforming people are the first ones cis male anger is taken out at. That is criminal and against all human rights, amongst which the most basic one: The right to life. The system creates specific forms of masculinity and femininity and thinks trans* people have no place in that.

There are, however, possibilities to make life for trans* people easier. On the legal front slowly we are getting to possibilities for gender recognition without the need for medical intervention. And several health clinics over the States provide services to trans* people without the need of a pathologizing mental health diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (DSM-IV and ICD-10) or “Gender Dysphoria” (DSM-5). Health centers like of Callen-Lorde in New York City, or Howard Brown in Chicago, or Tom Waddell in San Francisco.

As trans* people we are very often frowned upon and people have absolutely no clue about us, our lives, our joys and our issues. Helped by crazy sensational TV programs or impertinent questions by many other talk show hosts we are the gender weirdos. Living la vida loca. Prejudice and lack of knowledge. If we could, we would for sure. Even for well off trans people life isn’t ideal.

And as a non-binary trans person (a “Nobi,” as I call it) I have more and more trouble in understanding all those normatively gendered people. Personally I have lost my gender ages ago and I am not really inclined in finding it again. I am a happy multiple/multi-gender.

On good days I can be fascinated by how the “normal” people do. Gender stereotypes – the way most “men” or “women” behave – are fascinating. If you’re not confronted by them. If the normatively gendered people don’t bother you for going to the wrong bathroom or looking too male for a woman, being too much a sissy for a “Real Man.”

I guess my being different makes me great for educating people on gender diversity. I see all those weird gender expressions by the majority of people and can explain our “weirdness” to the normal people. Because gender stereotypes are nasty things everybody suffers from. Even – and mostly – for those enforcing them. Because they miss out a whole lot of opportunities for more (gender) freedom. Sometimes I feel so sorry for them. Not sure they care, but still.

Cis and trans* women know quite well what it is to live under gender stereotypes. Cis women are to marry and take care of the kids. Sexual and reproductive autonomy is not accepted. Of course there are lovely cis men (even straight ones!). Only, in the morals of power, women’s autonomy is heavily fought over. Abortion clinic after clinic is forced to close, because the idea that a woman has a choice over her pregnancy is anathema.

Many times trans* people will have to comply to a similar moral scrutiny and only if you are “really” a woman and thus willing to sacrifice your fertility then you are allowed to change the gender marker on your birth certificate and their ID papers.

So yes, surely trans* people actively suffer under gender stereotypes and we shouldn’t. The situation is partially better with you in the USA, partially way worse. Not that The Netherlands or Western-Europe for that part is even remotely near trans* heaven. Trans* utopia is nowhere, not even in Argentina with its great legislation.

I feel a bit sorry for complaining so much, instead of immediately bringing you the Gleeful Gender Gospel. There is so much trouble and it so strongly interconnected, that I have to pay attention to it.

But as I say, the non-standard life, being gender non-conforming can be great. And the good news to the cis people over here is: you don’t have to become trans*. Usually I really advocate for people to become trans, to really change their gender identity and gender expression from the one belonging to the gender they have been assigned a birth to something completely different. It can be a great time. Like the book Dick For a Day in which the (female) authors fantasize what they would do if they had one.

But you don’t have to. Secretly we are pretty happy to be exceptional, to be “living la gender loca,” so to say.

In my workshops I dissect the working of gender norms, how they are very productive in enabling only certain gender roles and identities and how others are then violently or friendly.

Dear cis people, open up, be straight but not narrow. Really, being a soft open-minded man who understands his own feelings and that of others, who can deal with emotions in a sensible way, is more an asset to a better world and to better relationships than you may think.

You have got nothing to lose but your gender chains.

People (sensible people at least) will love you. Prissy peers may not, they may try to keep you inside the snake pit, but that has to do with your leaving the group, breaking group discipline or doing what they don’t dare to do. The problem with group culture often is that it only works with group discipline. Find yourself a best friend, of whatever gender, to support you.

You don’t have to become trans* to change your gender. Look at the Gender Identity Map from the Impact Project. There are so many possibilities for gender identity and expressions…No need to stick with what you learned in school or from your peers.

There is life out there. Don’t despair.

My biggest complaint around standard gender expressions and people living them is that it is so utterly boring. Who the hell wants to be a healthy, organic whole when you can be a brilliant, injured fragment, after all. This whole investment in wholeness, the whole expectation of living neatly in boxes (even round ones) so doesn’t comply with my jumpiness. I consider it so unhealthy.

Yes, I can associate healthiness etc. in a positive sense. Of course. But not default lives. Default lives are – on the political level – bad and dangerous. They are responsible for the zillions of trans related killings. Fitting in is unhealthy. But falling out may be dangerous.

The forces of normality are strong, the need to find your own way is bigger.

So here’s to the crazy ones, with their shiny gender and their sparkling identities. May we live long and prosper. With lovely, friendly cis people who love us dearly and don’t invest so much in being “normal.”

Author Bio

VreerFrom the perspective that there are more than two sexes and more than two genders, that being trans or gender-non conforming is diversity instead of an aberration, Vreer Verkerke of Vreerwerk does gender education and human rights education with students, sex educators, lawyers, politicians in The Netherlands and beyond.

Dag voor Trans zichtbaarheid – Int’l Trans Visibility Day

Vandaag. 31 maart. Sinds 2009.  Internationale Dag voor Trans Zichtbaarheid. Geen VN-dag (die hebben nog niks voor ons, al zegt de assistent van de Hoge Commissaris voor de Mensenrechten dat Transgender Gedenkdag wel die status van VN-dag zou moeten kunnen hebben). Gewoon uitgeroepen door een transpersoon in MIchigan, VS. Omdat er zo weinig positiefs was voor trans* mensen.

Vandaag is het dus  internationale dag voor trans zichtbaarheid. Dus voor alle trans-hoe-of-wat-dan-ook mensen, alle gender-non-conformen en gender-variante personen: HIeperdepiep hoera dat wij er zijn. Dankzij ons is de wereld mooier en raarder. Trans-zijn is Goed. Vandaag (en alle andere dagen wat mij betreft) trekken we een lange neus naar wie ons liever niet ziet: de zon is ook van ons. Wij weten dat je kunt vliegen als een vlinder.

vlinders op bloesem

 

Today is international Day of Trans Visibility. A 2009 Rachel Crandall invention. Already taken up in many places over this world (and maybe others?). Congrats to all of us trans*, GNC, gender variant people. Happy Day also for those who live with us and celebrate with us. Let us change this world for the better. And don’t let anyone tell you are not beautiful.

Transgender Gedenkdag 2013

Today is Wednesday November 20, 2013. The fifteenth time that Transgender Remembrance Day is held. ?The eighth edition in the Netherlands. Here it was started by then Queer Collective “The Noodles”, later on by Transgender Network Netherlands. This is the second local edition, done by United Trans Activists for Change. Coming Saturday a national ceremony will be held in Nijmegen. Continue reading

Trans Remembrance Day 2013

Ieder jaar herdenken we rond 20 november de trans* mensen die gedood,vermoord zijn. Onze broeders en zusters, onze brusjes en zoertjes. In Amsterdam doen we dit op het Homomonument. Dit jaar weer op de 20e zelf, om 18.30 uur. Dan verzamelen we bij het Homonument, en daar kun je een fakkel en een roos krijgen. aan de roos zit een label met de naam en de plaats van overlijden van een vermoorde trans*persoon. Na een toespraakje en wat muziek leggen we de rozen op het laagliggende deel van het Homomonument. We spreken dan ook de naam en omstandigheden van overlijden van de betreffende persoon uit zodat iedereen het kan horen.
Na afloop kun je door naar Vrankrijk waar de wekelijkse queeravond wordt gehouden. Die staat deze keer ook in het teken van Transgender Gedenkdag.

Kun je niet in Amsterdam op de 20e, dan kun je op de 23e nog meedoen aan de nationale herdenking in NIjmegen¢. Zie daarvoor de betreffende website.

Gedenkdag Amsterdam wordt financieel mogelijk gemaakt door het Trut-fonds.

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Trans murder monitoring map 2013
Every year around the 20th of November we commemorate the trans* people that have been killed, our brothers, sisters, bristers  and sothers…

In Amsterdam we do this at the Homomonument with roses and by sharing the names of those who left us this year through violence, or sometimes through self chosen death.

The program starts around 18.30h. Like last year a short speech will be held and then we will call one by one the names of those who left us. There will be 100 roses with names and we will have torches. We will continue until the last flower has been laid. Afterwards Vrankrijk is open for the regular queer night. The WTF! night will be also in the theme of TDOR. This event is possible thanks to the kind cooperation of Trutfonds that supports us!

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