Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Matt Shepard Act Passes!

From People's Weekly World News

The US House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, Wednesday, April 29th with a bipartisan majority.

Supporters of the bill say it would provide local law enforcement agencies with additional resources to investigate hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

In addition, it would provide federal agencies with a means to participate in local hate crimes cases when local agencies can't or refuse to investigate serious bias-motivated crimes adequately. Funds would also be made available to local agencies for training purposes.

Two key provisions of the law would be to expand federally protected categories to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, pointed out that federal hate crimes statistics show that one in six hate crimes are committed against an LGBT person, and that number is on the rise.

"The nation cannot wait any longer to protect all of its citizens," said Solmonese. "We should all be able to walk the streets without fear."

Read the rest of the article here

Howard Stern on Queer Marriage

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Subject is Gay Male

Scott McKeen's article in the Edmonton Journal (Apr 24 2009) strikes a fascinating and complex balance between curiosity, perplexity, and responsibility. He interviews Mateo, who does not specifically identify as transgender, but who is currently on testosterone:

"Mateo works at my favourite coffee shop. He is sleight of stature and effeminate in nature. At first, I was a bit freaked out by his androgyny. But my classifying brain did its thing -- 'subject is gay male' -- and stopped worrying about it."

There's a really interesting collapse of binaries going on here. McKeen, at least, is willing to admit his honest feelings here, which seems more self-reflexively critical than just saying "I'm super-tolerant, I'm gender-blind." He doesn't know, really, how Mateo prefers to be read. And he doesn't know if he even
could read Mateo the way s/he might want to be read. He's not even sure that it's a horizon of possibility for him. Visually, he reads Mateo within his own, experiential index of what it means to be a gay male--effeminate, slight--and provides Mateo with subjecthood. To McKeen, it's not an especially limiting subjecthood. It's just the only one available, and seems to fit, visually, with what he's noticed about other people, maybe other queer people; but maybe also, included with that memory, is a patchwork of 1950s American cinema, D.H. Lawrence, Proust, Tennessee Williams, Musical Theater, and Felicity Huffman playing Bree in TransAmerica.

"He is not gay. Not biologically male. Not female, for that matter. At the moment, he is betwixt and between -- not this or that."

McKeen places Mateo's gender interiority alongside the context of "that," of a thatness, an abstraction that also substitutes as an exclamation: "What's that? What is that? What
is that?" Because the only thing to do, the only possible thing to do, in order to snuff out that fear of the anticategorical is to provide an identity. Just slap it together. Quick. Like drywall.

But there's also, in McKeen's writing, the willingness to expand vocabularies. The conscious flux of she and he. As if a personal grammar is being redacted, or even rewritten. There is more description in the piece than actual speech by Mateo. But McKeen does give Mateo a print forum in order to speak a claim to rights:

"Some people think their tax dollars are being spent on freaks who want to mutilate their bodies...[W]e aren't perverts, or whatever they see us as. We just want to be treated humanely. We just want to be treated as citizens."

This crystallizes the current governmental debate in Alberta around gender reassignment surgery. There are reasonable, ethical modifications to the body, civil modifications, civil piercings, and metaidoiplasties and skin inversions are not covered. They are not to be covered by Alberta Health and Wellness, because their coverage would actually result in a kind of epistemological crisis for the province. They would, to borrow a phrase from Butler, "become radically undone."

In
Light in a Dark Room, Jay Prosser describes some of the possible realities of GRS:

"It is almost impossible to develop a penis one can piss through without its developing disabling fistulas or complications. It is impossible to develop a penis with which one can have penetrative sex....[A]nd still one must choose between these ‘options,’ between either pissing or having sex—as if life could be decided between urinary or sexual function....[T]he end result will anyway leave severe scarring, the loss of flesh in the donor body part sometimes so shockingly large as to leave that part dysfunctioning. Literally, to have a penis one must give an arm and a leg" (172: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

In order to improve the safety and increase the availability of gender reassignment surgery, granting institutions need to invest funding within the process. In Canada, NSERC and SSHRC in particular need to offer more funding, not only for trans studies, but for research into innovative, safe, non-invasive technologies for personal gender expression.

As a queer person who doesn't identify as trans, I feel very uneasy making these arguments. I know that there is an intense divide between LGBQ Studies and Trans Studies. But queer academics, cisexual scholars, and straight allies need to 1) acknowledge their theoretical debts to Trans Studies, 2) stop crafting queer theory engineered for gay white men, and 3) try to join conversations on trans rights whenever and wherever possible.

Coverage on the GRS debate is still appearing in the Edmonton Journal, but the articles definitely dropped off after Apr 24. I've submitted a short piece. I hope others will do the same. Because, sooner or later, you're the one who's getting 'delisted.'







Friday, April 24, 2009

Rent Performed at Orange County High School

From The Advocate:

A student production of Rent at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., will open tonight, despite having originally been canceled by the school's principal because of objections to the play's gay content. Students wore rainbow buttons to support the musical, which were confiscated by school officials. However, after reading the script, principal Fal Asrani gave permission to go ahead with the production.

But the drama didn't end there.

Members of Fred Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church have planned to protest the school as classes let out Friday, and they will do the same at tonight's sold-out performance. The Newport Beach Police Department will also be there.

Orange County Equality Coalition will counter-protest Westboro Baptist Church, and a number of groups and community members also plan to attend in support of the students and school.

The groups are planning to gather at the high school at 2:30 p.m., and again in the evening. For more information go to the OCEC website.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Banco Provincia commercial

This phenomenal ad just appeared from Banco Provincia in Argentina:



It is pretty astonishing, not just for the emotional impact, but for the powerful and ineluctable ways in which gender, sexuality, and capital become affixed within the rhetoric of the commercial. There's the notion that Banco Provincia, in addition to simply acknowledging its transgender clients and employees, is actually exposing a kind of investment within the transgender community. "Tenés una vida, tenés un banco. You have a life, you have a bank." Life and bank are barely divided by a comma, which is like an articulated border. And the Argentinian "tenes," from "vos," is very specific, denoting a grammatical and national community: Argentinian transgendered people. (I didn't notice this at first, but my boyfriend pointed it out.)

Even if this is capitalistic mimesis in order to wring dollars from all sorts of overlapping liberal and queer communities, one has to admit, it's elegant. What Latin American queer histories, ontologies, and horizons of slanted subjecthood does this message of inclusion actually emerge from? What struggles does it resurrect and mediatize for Argentina in particular as a country?

There has to be a way to link this, even problematically, with the legal debate over funding transgender surgery in Alberta. And why shouldn't Latin American media influence provincial Canadian law, given the audiovisual currents that link both continents together already?

Ultimately, the battle over GRS in Alberta has the possibility--the strong possibility--of becoming a legal challenge at the level of the Supreme Court of Canada. And that could mean the national funding of transgender surgeries across the country. Even if Alberta activates its notwithstanding clause, declaring the nationwide ordinance to be ultra vires to existing provincial legislation, it can only stall the bill for a maximum of five years. Which means that, in 10 years or less, Canada could offer funding for transgender surgery, including pre- and post-operative social programming and counseling services, as a federal health benefit. This would be a first step in redefining the parameters of sexual and gendered citizenship within Canada, alongside the work already being done by trans and gender-variant activists around the world.

I hope.

Trans Rights WA State

From The Advocate

"Washington governor Chris Gregoire signed a bill on Wednesday to add protections for transgender people to the state's hate-crimes law.

Currently, it is a felony in Washington to threaten, damage the property of, or physically injure someone because of ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. The new measure adds "gender expression or identity" to the definition of sexual orientation."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Andrade sentenced

From The Advocate

Allen Andrade was found guilty on Wednesday of first-degree murder for beating 18-year-old transgender woman Angie Zapata to death.

Prosecutors billed Andrade, 32, as a homophobe who aimed to kill Zapata after they met on a gay-related dating site. While Andrade's attorneys argued that the murder was a pure reaction to finding out that Zapata was transgender, evidence shows that she was up-front with Andrade about living as a woman.

"Someone living like that needs to be held accountable," he allegedly said to his girlfriend at the time.

Zapata and Andrade spent nearly three days together before the murder. The two also exchanged nearly 700 text messages in the days leading up to her death.

NY Trans Rights Bill

From The Advocate:

The New York State Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodations, access to credit, and other key areas. The Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act also would add gender identity and expression as protected categories in the state's human rights law.

GENDA passed the Democrat-controlled assembly by a wide margin for the second session in a row. This year, debate on the measure took 15 minutes, according to Gay City News.

The bill faces less certain prospects in the senate, where Democrats hold a slim 32-30 majority. Last year, when the chamber was controlled by Republicans, the bill died without being taken up.

Zapata murder trial

Borrowed from Dented Blue Mercedes:

It’s not really “murder” if the victim is disposable.

That’s the theme that keeps resurfacing when trans panic defenses are used to effectively stave off any chance of serious sentencing for the murder of a woman who happens to have a penis or a man who happens to have a vagina. We’re supposed to accept that the victim was asking for it, or even maliciously deceiving people in such a way as to deserve the outcome.

In watching comments to the Angie Zapata murder trial (yes, I know she was the victim, but she also appears to be the person on trial), Zoe Brain observes:

“It’s not enough that the killer go free: the victim’s family must pay compensation, and the victim “charged posthumously.”



More from Mercedes Allen's blog

Monday, April 20, 2009

Articles on GRS Surgery

Here are some links to articles documenting Alberta's decision to stop funding GRS surgeries, which can cost anywhere from $17,000 to $80,000.

As Lorne Warneke notes: "What it means to transgendered people is that they're going to have to pay for the surgery on their own, which means like saying you're going to have open-heart surgery, but you're going to have to pay for it."

Edmonton Journal, April 20, 2009
Xtra West, April 20, 2009
Edmonton Journal, April 15, 2009
Edmonton Journal, April 14, 2009
Vancouver Sun, April 13 2009
Xtra West, April 9, 2009
Edmonton Journal, April 9, 2009
Calgary Herald, April 9, 2009

GRS Alberta: Laurie Blakeman

Blakeman's Q&A, Alberta Parliament, Apr 14 2009:

Mercedes Allen

Discussing the delisting of GRS funding in Alberta:

My Quote of the Day

“I spent the longest time thinking, Oh, I’ve got to act a certain way,” he explains, referring to his less “out” days. “Fuck that noise. Fuck it hard. It feels so good to be able to say that.”

- Gavin Creel (Hair)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Alberta legislation

I have been thinking nonstop about the battle for transgender rights that's been going on in Alberta, since the Health and Wellness department decided to pull funding for sexual reassignment surgeries (April 7, 2009).

I'm trying to do more research so that I can write something about this as it's happening.

Here are some transgender resources in Alberta:

TransSource
Gender Identity Network of Alberta
OutReach U of Alberta

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Students blocked from LGBT resources

From the Advocate

Some 80% of Tennessee public schools use filtering software provided by Education Networks of America, which blocks LGBT-related sites in its default setting.

The ACLU gave the districts until April 29 to devise a plan to restore access for the 2009-10 school year, or face a lawsuit. The organization says that access to the content is protected under the First Amendment as well as the Tennessee state constitution.

According to the ACLU, the Internet filtering software blocks students’ access to the websites of well-known gay-affirming organizations such as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; the Human Rights Campaign; the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; and Marriage Equality USA.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alberta confirms decision to delist sex-change surgeries

EDMONTON (CBC) - The Alberta government will cover sex-change operations for those who have already been identified as needing the surgery, but the procedure will be delisted for new patients, Health Minister Ron Liepert confirmed Tuesday. The decision to drop coverage of the procedure was announced in last week's provincial budget and is estimated to save the government $700,000 a year.

---

This is killing legislation. The sheer unthinkability of a public willing to so thoroughly fuck over its own citizens. Directly following Prop 8. Since Prop 8 was adopted November 4 2008, that's--what--only six months between antiqueer legislations? Is that a record? It certainly wasn't in the 1970s.

Here is a link to the Transgender Canada forum, where discussion (and general fomenting) is happening.

Edmonton Transgender Support Line
Phone: (780) 488-3234





Beishung














Goodbye, Eve. Safe journey. We'll miss you.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Life and Death

From the Edmonton Journal article:

Dismayed and angry members of the transgendered community are preparing to launch a human rights complaint after the province delisted sex-change surgery from its funding coverage.

"It's a matter of life and death," said Jamie-Lynn Garvin, a 47-year-old who has been living as a woman for the last two years and was on a waiting list for a sex-change operation (although her funding hadn't yet been approved).

"That's the only light at the end of the tunnel for me. I felt like I was in the wrong body my whole life."

One day after Alberta Health and Wellness announced it would end approximately $700,000 in annual funding to cover the surgeries for about 16 people each year, Garvin was surfing the Internet, looking at options to legally challenge the 2009 budget cut.

The sex-change procedures cost anywhere between $18,000 and $70,000 and are largely performed in Montreal, the only place in Canada to offer them.

---

This PISSES ME OFF. I'm not trans or genderQueer, I admit it. I'm a gay man who's engaged by trans histories and issues, which I teach as a professor and try to write about as a novelist. So I'm an outsider commenting on a queer community. But trans discrimination also affects a broad spectrum of queer and marginalized communities. No government should have the power to define sex and gender through discriminatory legal terms.

As Garvin makes plain, it really is a matter of life and death. Access to affordable gender modification technologies--surgery being only one option among many--should be written into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Far, far more funding needs to go into projects for advancing surgical and alternative procedures for trans folk, and these projects need to be helmed, administered, and advanced by other trans folk who actually have the community's interests at heart. Is there some reason that the Canadian government can build a robotic arm floating in space, but we can't figure out a way to build a working dick for an FTM trans person? Are doctors actually concerned by postoperative risks for MTF surgery, such as fistulae, and are they trying to come up with safer procedures?

SSHRC and NSRC both need to fund more research into transgender histories, cultures, and medical technologies, including non-invasive alternatives to surgery. Queer folks need to clamor yell, and shit-disturb in order to make this happen, since discrimination that affects one marginalized community always affects a spectrum of queer enclaves as well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Queer Science Fiction

Ever since I started research for my dissertation, which was on gay and lesbian fantasy and science fiction literature, I've been thinking about the role of queer studies and queer realities within 'speculative fiction' as a genre. I can remember reading Diane Duane's "So You Want To Be a Wizard" for the first time, when I was around 11 years old, and thinking it was so interesting that two grown-up male wizards (Tom and Carl) lived together in a house. They had pets and a mortgage and a life together, and Duane never described them as a couple, but for a kid like me, I think the spark of recognition and curiosity was definitely there and needed no explanation. When I was older, I discovered Duane's "Door into Fire" series, replete with bisexual characters, and I was amazed that she managed to publish this in the late-1970s. Until I started reading Samuel Delany, which made me realize how much amazing queer sf/fantasy had already been published.

The first fantasy book I read with an openly gay character was Mercedes Lackey's "Magic's Promise," featuring the queer teen wizard, Vanyel Ashkevron. Delany's "Neveryon" books, published earlier, were more racy in their preoccupation with queer sexuality and BDSM, but Lackey actually managed to write a gay love story between two teen boys, published by DAW in 1989. I'm still not certain why more fantasy critics aren't talking more about Lackey's contributions to both heroic and urban fantasy, especially her Diane Tregarde mysteries, which were really the first urban noir fantasy novels that appeared as mass-market paperbacks.

I've been wondering lately what the obligations are of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans novelists who work within the medium of fantasy. Some writers, like Samuel Delany, Nicola Griffith, Larissa Lai, and Chaz Brenchley, engage powerfully and adamantly with the politics of sexuality in their novels. Other fantasy writers, such as Tanya Huff and Fiona Patton (who are married) include prominent queer characters in their work but are fairly quiet from a political standpoint, preferring to create visible queer characters without aligning themselves with specific causes or movements. Some queer writers of science fiction deal primarily with straight characters and hetero storylines, but include marginal queer characters as well in their work. I've noticed, in the past 5 years or so, more and more loving same-sex dedications in fantasy novels, nods to partners, lovers, husbands and wives.

Sometimes I find myself asking: is my writing 'too gay?' What would that even mean, and where does that internal criticism come from? Is there a certain 'gay quota' for literary characters that, once it's reached, will allow for no more interesting or substantive roles? I try to balance queer and straight storylines in my own writing, but every time I introduce another a queer character, there's always this anxiety. How will s/he be received by a straight majority audience? Do I need some kind of tacit approval from my publisher? Can gay sex scenes in fantasy/sf be as 'hot' and as 'explicit' as straight sex scenes? How hot is too hot? If my straight protagonist sleeps with a woman, does that make her a bisexual tourist, or an experimental person, or an open-minded, sexually aware woman, or am I just doing it because I want to write selfishly about queer eroticism?

Fantasy is a divided genre, driven by patriarchal forces of violent cartography, imperialism, power, magic, and warfare; but it's also, over the past 30 years, been seriously revised and inflected by radical feminist and queer writers. It's not as easy as saying, 'Okay, in one corner you've got Ursula Leguin's "Tombs of Atuan," about a woman's sexual awakening, and in the other corner you've got LOTR, which might actually be about hobbits having sex anyways.' But I still often find myself drawing this artificial distinction. Most fantasy crit that I've read deals more with the structural poetics and mechanics of overlapping genres than with the necessary study of actual mass-market paperbacks. The simple truth for me is that, without a battered, rain-damaged copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles that I skipped class in order to read during middle school, I definitely would not be the queer man I am today. So fantasy, as kind of gay studies, as a reflection on gay studies and literature, can be a life-saving genre. How, then, to convince more fantasy writers to include queer characters in their work?

To me, it's simple. Fantasy has a queer readership. Lonely boys and girls and transkids are reading these books, hiding in bathrooms or under bleachers or in some other safe space that they've struggled to reclaim for themselves. I distinctly remember a point in my life, maybe when I was around 10-12 years old, when the only viable book to read in order to prove that you were a 'real' boy was sword-and-sorcery fantasy, since it was so masculine, so pure, so exciting. If more queer characters populate these books, then not just queer readers, but straight and questioning and imaginative kids from multiple backgrounds and communities might come to these books, open them, see these characters, and be moved by them. For this to happen, two things are necessary.


1. Gay writers of fantasy and sf have to include more gay characters in their works, and have to become more actively political about their sexuality. Think you're 'not political' as a queer person? Well, Prop 8 is just the beginning, my friends. Sooner or later, legislation is going to fuck you where it hurts, where you live, close to home. All we can do is create a powerful cultural, literary, and imaginative response to the forces that want to annihilate our intimate lives.

2. Massively popular writers of science fiction and fantasy need to include more queer characters, as well as characters of color, characters with disabilities, characters who aren't just rich white straight lads and ladies fighting crime in exciting noir cityscapes. Even David Eddings, writing his Malloreon series in the mid-80s, had a queer character (Sadi). He was a eunuch, a castrati, but he was also interesting, funny, smart, charming, and ultimately ethical. I remembered that when I was reading Eddings, long before I'd come out. Laurel Hamilton has done a lot to introduce alternative sexualities into the genre of urban fantasy, but too often, these are seen simply as occult 'alternatives.' Two werewolves in bed, two vamps and a human, and everything's all mixed up. Let's see a loving pack relationship between two women, two queer wizards cohabiting, another Vanyel Ashkevron, a queer Harry Potter. And please, please, can we see Harry Dresden kiss a guy? No tongue necessary, just a peck, to remind us that he's living in a magical city, surrounded by amazing occult people, friends and enemies, all with different sexualities and cultures.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Revamp

The blog is going through changes. I want to focus increasingly on literature and LGBT politics. What's the queer canon? What makes queer science fiction? What does fantasy writing have to do with issues of immigration, citizenship, and capital? I'm going to provide reviews of science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as links to critical theory, fanfiction, and other clusters of popular culture.

I'll be posting links to journals, libraries, archives, and other research sites pertaining to queer politics and cultures of the fantastic. As a writer and academic, I'm interested in punk and DIY cultures, zinesters, radical print networks, digital protest literatures, writing by queer teens, marxism, and social history.

My work lately focuses on the history of novels written for gay teens, queer-feminist science fiction and fantasy, cultures of childhood, urban gay and lesbian history, and online protest media focusing on the passage of proposition eight in California (repealing the state's same-sex marriage ordinance.)

A question I'm exploring currently: how can we read the variety of protest media that emerged online as a result of the passage of prop 8, including blogs, youtube performance pieces, artwork, and critical writing?