Laurie Toby Edison

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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’ve had this post in mind for a few days, but we wanted to hold it for today in sad commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

This year, Duanna Johnson and those who knew her are in our hearts. For those not following the story, Johnson was murdered in Memphis on November 10.

duanna johnson

Johnson had been brutally beaten in a Memphis police station in June in front of several witnesses and a video camera (film at the link). She was suing the city of Memphis for $1.3 million in damages when she was killed. Her lawyer says she was trying to leave Memphis and go back to her hometown of Chicago. According to him, Johnson was just about homeless trying to live in Memphis. He says the apartment where Johnson was living did not have power and he was helping Johnson buy a bus ticket to Chicago.

The community has responded. Angry Brown Butch says: I continue to be moved and thankful for the well-purposed outrage and generosity that so many people showed last week in donating to Duanna Johnson’s funeral fund. With the help of everyone who organized the fundraising efforts and spread the word, including Dan Savage on the well read SLOG blog, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition was able to raise all that Duanna’s family needed and more.

Johnson’s beating, her death, and the deaths that preceded it and spurred the Transgender Day of Remembrance are the direct result of vehement, violent transphobia, which is closely allied with vehement, violent homophobia.

This brings into sharp relief the ongoing issue of transphobia in the gay community. In particular, those of you who are not in England and don’t read Roz Kaveney’s extraordinarily cogent journal may not be aware of Julie Bindel, currently a regular columnist for The Guardian, a mainstream British newspaper. She is also a standardbearer for what she insists is not transphobia but simply telling the truth.

Here are some of Bindel’s choice comments on the subject:

In my opinion there is nothing ‘wrong’ with those who are currently seen as candidates for transgender surgery – they just don’t fit the gender stereotype. Surgery is an attempt to keep gender stereotypes intact. The diagnosis of childhood GID follows old-fashioned notions of what constitutes appropriate behaviour for those assigned to the sex classes of male and female.

In the same article, Bindel says:

Since the age of 16 I have been an outspoken and proud lesbian – often at significant personal cost to myself. I have been beaten up (and hospitalised) by anti-lesbian men, and my home was once firebombed by fascists when I was living in a lesbian relationship with a black woman. … Woman and lesbian hating opponents have taken offence at the fact that I speak out against rape, child sexual abuse, murder and prostitution of women. … Whilst I have not become desensitised to this abuse, I have understood it in the context of a proud and courageous battle against women’s oppression, dating back to the beginning of the women’s liberation movement. Thus, I feel I am well qualified to understand the meaning and implications of bigotry. To face abuse and threats from a group of people who name me as a ‘bigot’ and worse is nothing short of offensive.

Nonetheless, here’s something she said in one of her Guardian columns:

But I for one do not wish to be lumped in with an ever-increasing list of folk defined by “odd” sexual habits or characteristics. Shall we just start with A and work our way through the alphabet? A, androgynous, b, bisexual, c, cat-fancying d, devil worshipping. Where will it ever end?

and

I just want to be left alone. I am not in your gang, I did not ask to be, so please don’t tell me I am one of yours, and then tell me off for offending your orthodoxy.

Offense breeds offense. If Bindel chooses to disbelieve transpeople’s reports of their own life experience, not to mention lump bisexuals, intersexuals, transgender people, and those who question their sexual identity with devil worshippers, she’s hardly being careful with her terminology, nor does she seem to be concerned about who gets hurt … as long as it isn’t her.

There is no defense of the ways she has been attacked and harassed by homophobes. And there is no defense of the ways transpeople are attacked, harassed … and murdered.

Bindel is a lesbian journalist with a national forum. She isn’t responsible for the deaths of murdered transpeople; that ugly work is done almost exclusively by hateful straight men. Nonetheless, her denial of the reality of transpeople’s lives, coupled with her exclusionary attitude, legitimize the hatred of those who do violence against transpeople (and those who do violence against lesbians, women, etc., too). Every article anyone reads, every film anyone sees, which reinforces these attitudes makes it easier for the next police beating or street crime to happen … and to go unpunished.

Roz Kaveney says perfectly what Bindel refuses to see:

The same people want to kill us; the same people want to deprive us of civil rights; the same people mock us in the street or try to beat us up; the same people would rather kill their own children than let them be like us.

For many of us, the queer world is where we live and the culture of the queer world is where we breathe.

For me, being trans is an identity, but so is being queer – I was gay when I was living the life of an unhappy boy who knew she was a girl really, and I am a dyke now. I was queer even in the brief months when I was post-operatively shagging guys – I did not, I realized, go through all that to be some fucking straight.

I get as angry with trans people who think that the lesbian and gay world is nothing to do with them as I do with the gay and lesbian world that tries to exclude and sometimes defame us. Because to live in a cis-gendered heteronormative world as anything other than cis and straight is to be a target and thus a member of the same family and you don’t respect people who refuse to recognize their family.

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