There’s something very wrong going on.
A shocking new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African-American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino…
Go read the full article/interview on NPR.
This kind of issue is exactly why feminists have been using intersectional analysis for years now – to look not just at gender and how it oppresses people of all genders, but how race, class, and other axes of identity cause one person to go to rehab and another to be sentenced to life in prison – for the same “offense”.
I don’t know where to start to fix it, but I’m very pleased that the ACLU did this study – the full title of which is A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolence Offenses – so that maybe we can start to examine how and why we are imprisoning people for life who did so little wrong.
& To close this year’s Trasngender Day of Remembrance, a note from Mara Keisling of NCTE on what the day means, why not “tranny,” and what next:
The Day of Remembrance, which we commemorate tomorrow, is a time of mourning for transgender people, a time to honor the lives tragically cut short by another person’s hatred or fears. It is also a time to look at how we can have fewer and fewer deaths to commemorate on this day in years to come.
Each year as I look at the names and faces of those we have lost, they touch me profoundly and they also call me to a renewed commitment to the work ahead of us. We have to use every tool available to us to stem the tide; one of those tools is federal law.
A full year has passed since the passage of the first federal law to offer protections to transgender people-the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. While the law certainly won’t end the problem of hate crimes, it does provide new avenues to address violence when it occurs. For the very first time, the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement officials have been authorized to take action to address the violence that transgender people face. And, while it’s easy to be cynical about the government, there are people in law enforcement who are truly and deeply dedicated to working with us to address the violence.
We’ve been at the table with the FBI and other departments as they’ve worked to update their training programs to include explicit information about gender identity and change the way they record information so we gain vital knowledge about the extent of the problem. I know, paperwork doesn’t seem like it will do anything. There is something very important about seeing the word “transgender” there in the manuals and forms because it means that the federal government is making a record and taking notice of the horrific violence we as a people face. It is information they can use to prosecute a crime and ensure that local law enforcement takes violence against us seriously. It will also help formulate violence prevention programs.
But there’s also something awful about knowing that those forms will record the terror of victims of hate-motivated violence. Law enforcement officers will note down the weapons used, the damage done and the derogatory words that are said to harm a transgender person-someone’s child, or partner, or parent, or loved one.
One of the reasons that we don’t use the word “tranny” at NCTE is because we’ve heard too many stories of violence. We know that when someone hears that word, it often heralds the beginning of an attack. And words matter when we look at hate crimes; the language used is, in fact, part of how we determine if something is a hate crime, because words are one of the weapons used to hurt the target of the violence. Because in a hate crime, damage is done to hearts and spirits as well as to bodies-and sadly, that’s the perpetrator’s point. We hear regularly, especially over the past few weeks, from transgender people who tell us that “tranny” is a word that feels hostile and hurtful to them. We shouldn’t use words that cause pain to others, especially when the word is one that, horrifyingly, transgender people hear as they are being bludgeoned. We have to use our words differently than that.
This week, the Department of Justice brought federal hate crimes charges under the new law for the first time, against white supremists who attacked a developmentally disabled Native American man in New Mexico. Disability was one of the other new categories added to the hate crimes laws, along with gender identity. It is a reminder that violence to any of us hurts all of us.
There are many more cases that are currently in the midst of the legal and investigative processes that have to happen before charges are filed. Each of these cases makes a statement that hate crimes are intolerable and illegal.
But we also have to keep our eye on our goal-ending violence against transgender people. We do this by educating people about the realities of our lives and by asserting our human rights to express who we are and to live in safety. To make this a reality, we have to build a climate of acceptance, free of derogatory words and angry fists, and filled with respect for the differences among us.
This is sickening:
He was told there was a party at a brick house on Osborne Place, a quiet block set on a steep hill in the Bronx. He showed up last Sunday night as instructed, with plenty of cans of malt liquor. What he walked into was not a party at all, but a night of torture — he was sodomized, burned and whipped.
All punishment, the police said Friday, for being gay.
What the fuck is wrong with people?
There’s a great piece today in the NYT by Barbara Ehrenreich about the criminalization of the poor.
But will it be enough — the collision of rising prison populations that we can’t afford and the criminalization of poverty — to force us to break the mad cycle of poverty and punishment? With the number of people in poverty increasing (some estimates suggest it’s up to 45 million to 50 million, from 37 million in 2007) several states are beginning to ease up on the criminalization of poverty — for example, by sending drug offenders to treatment rather than jail, shortening probation and reducing the number of people locked up for technical violations like missed court appointments. But others are tightening the screws: not only increasing the number of “crimes” but also charging prisoners for their room and board — assuring that they’ll be released with potentially criminalizing levels of debt.
As more Americans become this kind of poor, maybe we’ll finally pay attention.
(h/t to Kate Bornstein for tweeting it)
One of the things I’ve always liked about Vanessa Edwards Foster is that she doesn’t lose sight of the goal: actual equality. I agree with her that our standards are low when it comes to justice for the trans people, and their families and friends, who are murdered. I agree that “manslaughter” is not murder, and that shooting at someone who is basically a sitting duck in a car can’t possibly have been an accidental killing.
But what I don’t agree with is the vitriol directed at the LGB leadership of the organizations that called the ruling on Teisha Green’s murder a victory.
Our standards are low because we are too used to seeing no justice at all when it comes to people who intentionally hurt and kill trans people for being trans. There are too many cases that break your heart. There are too many families who have had to hear the most hateful bullshit about their trans loved one. There are too many cases that are simply not solved, nor investigated.
But that the jury came back to rule her death a hate crime is a good thing.
What bothers me about the politics between the LGB & T is that there are plenty of other gay bashings and hate crimes experienced by the LGB that the trans community pays little attention to, such as Sean Kennedy’s. If you want an example of an absolute failure when it came to our legal system, that’s it. It’s horrific. Every time I see that young man’s beautiful face, and think about his parents’ loss, I wonder where exactly the trans community has been in raising awareness of that horrible injustice. No, he wasn’t gender variant. He was a young adult who was out and proud about being gay. But he’s dead just the same as Teisha Green is, & for the same reason: someone hated him for what he was.
Do we know Michael Scott Goucher? Richard Hernandez? Satendar Singh? Ryan Keith Skipper? Jeremy Waggoner? Daniel Yakovleff? These are the names of gay men who have been murdered for being gay in the last couple of years. I didn’t know most of their names.
Community goes both ways. We all have more than enough mourning to do.
Please read this update from NCTE on the status of the Hate Crimes Act that was voted on in the US Senate yesterday.
From the Empire State Pride Agenda:
Today, the trial begins for the murder of Lateisha Green, a 22-year-old transgender woman who was tragically shot and killed in Syracuse on November 14, 2008 just for being transgender. The Pride Agenda expresses its deepest sympathies to Lateishaâ€™s family and outrage that transgender New Yorkers continue to be targeted for violence and discrimination based solely on who they are.
This morning, the Pride Agendaâ€™s Director of Public Policy & Education, Ross Levi, will speak at a press conference in Syracuse, along with other local LGBT leaders, about the trial and the need for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. And throughout the trial, our friends at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) will be in Syracuse, working with Lateisha’s family to ensure that the public learns as much as possible about Lateisha’s life, the tragic circumstances of her death and the tremendous violence that transgender people continue to face. You can learn more about Lateisha Green and stay updated on the trial through these organizationsâ€™ great resources, including an online resource kit, Twitter, Facebook, and the GLAAD Blog.
No family should ever have to suffer such a devastating loss, and no one should ever have to fear that their life is in danger simply because they are transgender. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re calling on the State Senate to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would include gender identity and expression in the State human rights and hate crimes laws. Weâ€™ll keep you updated as developments on GENDA happen.
To follow what’s going on via Twitter, check out @Andy_Marra or TLDEF, or hashtag #justisceforteish
Contact Your Senators About Hate Crimes Bill
We have good news: The Senate is likely to vote on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, S.909, as early as next Wednesday, July 15. As you may remember, the companion bill, H.R.1913, already passed the House of Representatives this past April after NCTE’s successful lobby day. With a final push, you can help to make this important bill become a law.
This bill expands the coverage of existing hate crime laws to include crimes not only based on race, color, religion, and national origin, but also bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s actual pr perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
On Wednesday, July 15, call your senators toll free at 866-659-9641 between 9am and 5pm ET. Continue reading “From NCTE: Final Hate Crimes Push”
In the light of all the LGBT violence this past month, the news that Sean Kennedy’s killer was releaed from prison early – for good behavior? – is like insult to injury, salt in the wound.
Why take the death of a young gay man seriously? They’ve treated this crime all along as if the kid broke a fucking window — not that he caused the death of this poor handsome, well-loved and much-missed young man.
Heartbreak. Heartbreak all around.
We’re sad to bring you the news of another brutal attack on a transgender woman, this one coming during the height of LGBT Pride month. On June 19, 2009, at approximately 2:30 am, Leslie Mora was walking home from a nightclub on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens when she was accosted by two men who brutally beat her with a belt. They stopped only when a passing motorist threatened to call the police.
Throughout the attack, Leslieâ€™s assailants called her a â€œfaggotâ€ in Spanish. The attack left Leslie with multiple injuries, including bruises all over her body, and stitches in her scalp. Police called to the scene found Leslie nearly naked and bleeding on the sidewalk. They also recovered a belt buckle from the assailants that was covered in blood.
We want you to know that we’re working with Leslie to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack are brought to justice.
The full story, along with other resources, photos of Leslie Mora, at TLDEF’s site.
Call your reps now and tell them to vote YES on the Hate Crimes Act – HR 1913. NCTE has a ton of info up that you can use when you call, and the number to call is 866-346-4611.
Last night, Representative John Conyers of Michigan re-introduced The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, H.R. 1913. This would be the first-ever federal law to provide protections for transgender people. It is identical to the hate crimes bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2007 and includes the language that transgender advocates requested. It is also the first transgender inclusive bill to be introduced during this Session.
In his comments introducing the bill, Rep. John Conyers stated, “Hate crime statistics do not speak for themselves. Behind each of the statistics is an individual or community targeted for violence for no other reason than race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Law enforcement authorities and civic leaders have learned that a failure to address the problem of bias crime can cause a seemingly isolated incident to fester into widespread tension that can damage the social fabric of the wider community. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 is a constructive and measured response to a problem that continues to plague our nation. These are crimes that shock and shame our national conscience. They should be subject to comprehensive federal law enforcement assistance and prosecution.”
Representatives are heading home to their districts for spring recess from now until April 21st. It is vital that you call them in their district offices to urge their support for this critical piece of legislation. Those who oppose this legislation will be active during this time-we need to be as well so that members of Congress are hearing from those directly affected by this legislation. Please take this important step to help address the violence faced by transgender people.
To find your Representative, visit our webpage or go to the House of Representatives webpage at www.house.gov and enter your ZIP+4 to find your member of Congress.
WHAT THE BILL SAYS
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913, would:
- Extend existing federal protections to include “gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability”
- Allow the Justice Department to assist in hate crime investigations at the local level when local law enforcement is unable or unwilling to fully address these crimes
- Mandate that the FBI begin tracking hate crimes based on actual or perceived gender identity
- Remove limitations that narrowly define hate crimes to violence committed while a person is accessing a federally protected activity, such as voting.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is supported by nearly 300 civil rights, education, religious, and civic organizations. The bill is also endorsed by virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country-including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, and thirty-one state Attorneys General.
For more information:
- Read the specifics about this legislation from the Library of Congress, go to their website and search by bill H.R. 1913
- View our fact sheet about the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and read additional information about hate crimes on our website.
& That’s exactly why I love NCTE: all the info you need to do what you need to do.
On May 16, 2007, Sean Kennedy, a 20-year old gay man, was attacked on the streets of Greenville, South Carolina. He died of his injuries later that night. Yet, because of the lack of hate crimes legislation, his attacker may be eligible for parole in February!
Sean was a brave young man with a bright, infectious smile. But his life was cut short and justice left unserved. Â Now, PFLAG is joining with Seanâ€™s mother, Elke Kennedy, and asking all of our members to write to the parole board and urge them to rule that Moller must serve his complete sentence for this heinous, anti-gay crime.
Because South Carolina â€“ and many other states- lack protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, Moller was able to plea-bargain to involuntary manslaughter charges (considered a â€œnon-violent crimeâ€) and received a suspended five to three years sentence for his crime. Because of the credit he received for time served before sentencing, his full sentence means that he will be free in September 2009. And he is also eligible for parole in February, which means that he will have served only 8 months of his full sentence for Seanâ€™s death.
The parole board is currently conducting a review on whether to grant Moller parole. It is critically important that they hear from our community, and that we each send a strong message that it is unacceptable to grant such early parole following a brutal anti-gay murder!
Please join us in writing a letter to the parole board, and ask them to deny Stephen Mollerâ€™s parole. If you have the time, please write a personal letter by hand or by computer, as those will be the most effective, and if you knew Sean or his family personally, please include that information.
Continue reading “Don’t Let Him Get Away With It”
’50 Under 30′ Youth Hate Crimes Report Re-Issued: Almost 20 New Victims; Re-Titled ’70 Under 30″
WASHINGTON (December 4, 2008) — The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition’s 2006 hate crimes report, “50 Under 30: Masculinity & The War Against America’s Youth” has been updated and re-issued. Because of the nearly 20 new murders, the new title has been changed to “70 Under 30.”
Said GenderPAC Executive Director Riki Wilchins, “It’s sad to see so many new murders so quickly. We had hoped to only need to update this report every few years or so, but the pace of violence has surpassed our expectations.”
The report highlights the continuing vulnerability to assault that individuals face if they are young, of color and gender non-conforming. It also underscores the limited resources for safety and support many of them have.
Continue reading “70 Under 30”
My friend Shirene, who I met while I was researching My Husband Betty, and at a SPICE conference to boot, has contined to work with wives who have just found out their husbands are crossdressers. She wrote this letter recently to one such wife, and I thought it was worth sharing here, for any husband who might want to use it to help come out to his wife, or for any wife who has just found out.
I don’t necessarily agree with how she simplifies certain issues – like the “crossdressers are heterosexual” meme – but a lot of the rest of it is a good “talking down” for a new wife who might be completely panicking.
Hi.Â I hope you donâ€™t mind receiving a letter like this from a stranger, but my husband isÂ transgender also and I know that if I could have received a letter such as this when I found out, it would have made it easier on both me and my husband. My name is Shirene, Iâ€™m 43, we live in S******, IL and Iâ€™ve known about Shayla since â€˜98.Â Weâ€™re at 555 555 5555.
I will admit itâ€™s somewhat of an adapted form letter so please ignore the things that donâ€™t apply to your situation and please excuse the things Iâ€™m telling you that you already know. Continue reading “Letter To a Wife”
Ann at Feministing posted about this really good article from The American Prospect about trans activism in the heartland and a companion article about gay activism’s slow adoption of trans issues.
Many would view the politically red heart of the country as a harsh, unwelcoming, and vaguely dangerous place for the transgender community. When we think of states like Nebraska and Wyoming, we don’t think of M.J. — we think of people like Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepard, both killed in vicious, nationally publicized hate crimes. But the truth of the matter is far more interesting, inspiring, and instructive. Away from the coasts and the urban havens, a vibrant transgender-rights movement is slowly emerging across the mountain and plains states. Through increased visibility, community building, legislative outreach, and face-to-face public education in churches, schools, and neighborhoods, trans people are building a foundation for equality in some of the nation’s most conservative regions.
(A big thank you to the women at Feministing for their coverage of transgender issues. They do a great job of it, and it’s such a relief to see my fellow feminists speak up about trans stuff.)
People who here we’re from New York often assume things are better here, but if you take a look at the Transgender Day of Remembrance lists, you’ll see how many trans people were murdered in big cities, including San Francisco (Ruby Rodriquez, 2007) and New York (Sanesha Stewart, 2008). The assumption that big liberal cities are “safer” is fine until you run into that one asshole.
Stay safe, people.
Reason #5: Vote for Obama because he was one of the earliest co-sponsors of the Matthew Shepard Act, which provides hate crimes protections for all LGBT people nationally.
& Here’s his closing argument, a speech Obama gave in Canton, Ohio, a few days ago. If you have been listening, it’s a good re-cap of his ideas and platforms, and if you haven’t, then this is it, in a nutshell.
Dorothy Samuels wrote a great Op-Ed for The NYT on the whole issue of Wasilla charging rape victims the cost of their rape kits and forensic exams.
In the absence of answers, speculation is bubbling in the blogosphere that Wasillaâ€™s policy of billing rape victims may have something to do with Ms. Palinâ€™s extreme opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape. Sexual-assault victims are typically offered an emergency contraception pill, which some people in the anti-choice camp wrongly equate with abortion.
My hunch is that it was the result of outmoded attitudes and boneheaded budget cutting.
Mine too, but that’s still not an excuse, and we deserve an explanation. As Tony Knowles said:
â€œWe would never bill the victim of a burglary for fingerprinting and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence,â€ said Alaskaâ€™s then-governor, Tony Knowles. â€œNor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.â€
And in case you’re wondering if there was any Federal effort to keep states from charging the victims, here you go:
Thatâ€™s why when Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, he included provisions to make states ineligible for federal grant money if they charged rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies needed to conduct them. (Senator John McCain, Ms. Palinâ€™s running mate, voted against Mr. Bidenâ€™s initiative, and his name has not been among the long list of co-sponsors each time the act has been renewed.)
This is probably the best example of why having a woman in office means almost nothing if her policy is blind to the needs of women.