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Trans People Say: End Economic Inequality, Solidarity with the 99%!

originally posted to the DC Trans Coalition blog

The DC Trans Coalition has decided to formally endorse and offer our support to the Occupy K Street-DC movement. We also encourage all of our members to attend today’s protest gathering at 4pm at Freedom Plaza and marching to the International Monetary Fund.

The Occupy Together movement started in New York City as Occupy Wall Street, which began on September 17th. The protests have grown progressively larger as increasing numbers take to the streets in nonviolent opposition to a society in which 1% of the population controls a quarter of all income. Inspired by this model, similar occupations are occurring in dozens of cities across the country, some being attended by tens of thousands. The demonstrators have highlighted that the current economic crisis is caused by corporate greed, and demand jobs and resources for oppressed people. In DC, Occupy K Street protesters have been in McPherson Square for several weeks.

As a whole, socially-marginalized communities (such as low-income trans people and trans people of color) suffer the most directly from poverty and are the most likely to be impacted by inequalities that arise from economic injustice. The DC Trans Coalition’s major priorities — as decided upon by our grassroots base through community forums and consultations — are creating inclusive, accessible jobs and services for all marginalized people in the District. We thus stand in solidarity with the grassroots Occupy Together movements.

Additionally, we especially encourage everyone who is able to attend the march that will take place today shortly after 4:00pm, leaving from Freedom Plaza, through McPherson Square, and ending at the International Monetary Fund. Today’s march was started by a group of women, queer people, and people of color in order to highlight the connection between multiple forms of oppression, both at home and globally. For this reason, DCTC especially wishes to express our full support for this action. It is critical that we recognize the links between our oppression and the oppression of others, and that we all work together to end inequality.

See you in the streets! For more information on OccupyDC and today’s march, see below.

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Discussing the Causes of Violence Against Trans Women

originally posted to the DC Trans Coalition’s blog

Violence against trans women does not only exist as individual hatred or bias-motivated crime. It comes in many forms and for many reasons. Trans women are systematically placed in circumstances where we are more likely than others to experience multiple forms of violence.

In order to end violence against trans women, it is important to understand that more than just personal prejudices are at fault. Other kinds of oppression like racism, laws like the criminalization of sex work, economic forces like poverty and gentrification, and many other forces are also at play.

Wednesday, DCTC’s Sadie Vashti spoke about violence against the transgender community with the Latino Media Collective. The interview was broadcast on the radio, but you can also listen to it anytime at this link. (The interview begins about 1/4th into the clip.) In order to be more accessible, click below to read an abbreviated transcript broken into headings by topic.

Note: The views expressed in this interview belong only to Sadie. DCTC is a collective of many people with a variety of views. To learn more about our official organizational principles and stances, see here. Also, this interview was conducted before the most recent attack on a group of trans women by an off-duty MPD officer.

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Next Generation Award article about me in Metro Weekly

from Metro Weekly

by Yusef Najafi
May 11, 2011

It was just before Christmas of last year that Sadie Ryanne Vashti sent an email to her mother asking if she could return home to see her younger brothers and sisters.

As Vashti expected, the answer was no.

”That was so hard for me because I love my siblings and hearing…that I was a threat to them was really hard,” she says.

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DCTC Condemns Alleged Anti-Trans Assault by MPD Officer

originally posted at the DC Trans Coalition

Like many of you, we were concerned and disheartened to learn of the alleged attack on a trans woman by an off-duty MPD officer on December 1.  This afternoon, we released a statement condemning this violence, and calling for swift justice for the victim, Chloe Moore, as well as a renewed commitment from MPD to make sure that all its officers comply with the law.

If you are ever a victim of violence or mistreatment at the hands of a law enforcement officer or other first responder, we encourage you to contact us at 202.681.DCTC or email us at dctc@dctranscoalition.org.

Our statement is below.

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Trans and Queer People Have Always Shared Community, Get Over It

Today I was on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5 FM (a local National Public Radio affiliate) to discuss issues facing LGBT youth. You can listen to it here: “LGBT Youth: The Personal and Political,” and see some of my thoughts and reflections on the show (especially how some cis gays reacted to my being on the show) below.

I was proud of my response to the transphobic cis gay guy who called in to question why trans people are grouped together with cis LGB folks. There is some truth to what he said. I, too, feel that trans people need our own movement/community. I often think that trans people have perhaps as much at stake in other struggles besides gay ones, like the sex workers’ movement, feminism, or the struggles of undocumented people. Sometimes, instead of seeing ourselves as part of  ‘the LGBT community,’ it would even make more sense to see ourselves as part of those communities.

I think that the “LGBT” banner can obscure the unique needs of trans people, and we just get ignored. Plus, it confuses the rest of the world into thinking “trans = extra gay.” But why focus only on our differences? We — trans folks and cis GLB folks — have a lot in common, too. We have an opportunity to build mutually supportive communities based on similar histories and shared challenges. We should be natural allies, if only cis GLB people would recognize their own transphobia and cis privilege.

Not to mention that a lot of trans people are part, and always have been part, of gay/queer communities. Many trans women who used to identify as gay transition later, but keep their connection to the community. Some folks seek out the gay scene long after they’ve started living as trans. Also, plenty of trans men are still entrenched in lesbian/queer women’s communities. Whether homo/cisnormative cis gays like it or not, we share histories, spaces, friends, resources, and networks.

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Against Criminalization: D.C. must rethink impact of policing sex work on marginalized communities

originally published as an Op-Ed in Metro Weekly Magazine

On the weekend of Sept. 25, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) raided a hotel in Northwest in a prostitution-related sting. MPD has confirmed that six arrests were made on charges of soliciting prostitution.

Every week, the D.C. Trans Coalition (DCTC) receives complaints involving police harassment. Many of these reports come from transgender, transsexual or gender-non-conforming (hereafter trans) individuals, especially trans women of color, who are involved in, or believed to be involved in, sex work. Due to transphobic and racist police bias, many trans women are harassed and falsely arrested for sex work (the crime of ”walking while trans”).

Whether they are sex workers or not, however, is besides the point. No one deserves this degree of persecution and violence. While most survivors of policing abuses are unwilling or unable to file formal complaints, we continue to receive a consistently high volume of contacts from individuals who have been assaulted and/or verbally ridiculed by police. Many are treated inhumanely while in custody, despite MPD’s own General Order prohibiting such abuse.

A soon-to-be-released study by the National Center for Transgender Equality notes that 71 percent of trans respondents had experienced harassment and disrespectful treatment by police officers, and 45 percent were uncomfortable reporting crimes to police. After the most recent raid, DCTC was approached for advice from trans community members who are fearing for their own safety in the face of similar sweeping police actions. No one should have to live with this fear.

Due to discrimination, trans people are more likely to experience poverty, housing instability, unemployment and underemployment than cisgender (non-trans) people. Many engage in criminalized activities, including sex work, in order to survive. We are disturbed and frustrated that the solution most often employed by the D.C. government is to over-police and to arrest our community members rather than connecting these individuals to jobs, services and public assistance.

Since sex work is illegal, sex workers are denied protection with basic labor practices and human rights standards. If attacked or assaulted by a client, there is often no legal recourse. Marginalized groups such as trans women are among the most vulnerable. This becomes terrifyingly clear when we gather annually for the Trans Day of Remembrance. The list of murder victims heavily features sex workers, most of whom are trans women of color.

Rather than protecting these individuals from violence, many police actions only perpetuate violence. After incarceration, and the establishment of a criminal record, these individuals face the nearly impossible challenge of finding a ”legal” job. Instead, they are likely to find themselves back in the sex work industry. At the bottom of the social ladder, marginalized communities such as trans women of color are the worst hit by this cycle of jail and poverty. A preliminary glance at MPD’s arrest records, which we recently obtained from MPD via a Freedom of Information Act request, suggests that a trans woman is far more likely to be arrested for indecent sexual proposal than a cisgender person.

All LGBTQ people should be concerned when the state attempts to enforce morality. Instead of allowing the government to target sex workers as criminals, we must solve the underlying issues of racism, transphobia and poverty. Raids like the one conducted by MPD last month only perpetuate unsafe working conditions and further demonize sex workers, forcing sex workers out of the safety of the private room and into the dimly lit and significantly more dangerous public streets.

It is our hope that the incoming administration of the presumptive mayor, Vince Gray, will rethink these failed policing strategies. We look forward to meeting with him to discuss possible alternatives. We need jobs not raids; we need fair wages and labor standards, not ”Prostitution Free Zones.” Whether individuals chose it freely or not, sex work is real work and will continue to be an industry for those with limited employment options.

Sadie-Ryanne Baker’ is an organizer with the D.C. Trans Coalition, a grassroots, volunteer organization dedicated to fighting for human rights, dignity and liberation for trans people in the District. Visit dctranscoalition.org.

Demo: Solidarity with Honduran Trans and GLB Communities

originally posted to the DC Trans Coalition blog

Tomorrow, there will be a gathering in front of the State Department in DC to condemn the de facto government in Honduras for rampant police abuse, torture and targeted murder of LGBT people in Honduras since they came to power in a military coup d’etat last year.

Of those killed directly by the regime and the police, or due to the transphobia/homophobia fostered by the climate of violence, the vast majority have been trans women – many of whom have been grotesquely disfigured or shot by uniformed government agents. [Note: May be triggering to some people. Also, some of the external links throughout this post contain potentially offensive comments about trans women and possibly some accidental use of incorrect pronouns.] The Honduran de facto government refuses to investigate any of the 17 assassinations that have been documented by human rights observers. Activists have accused the conservative church-backed coup government of encouraging  the murder of trans women and gay men, who are already marginalized and often forced to work the streets, because they are easy targets for violence.

Most recently, a gay peace activist who had released a statement stating “we say it is NOT ACCEPTABLE that in these past 4 months, during such a short period, 9 transexual and gay friends were violently killed” was himself murdered. The United States government has a long history of complicity in injustice in Honduras; join members of the LGBT community here in DC to tell the State Department not to recognize the coup government and to condemn outright the violence targeting LGBT Hondurans.

We must defend the human rights of trans people everywhere and stand in solidarity with trans communities in Honduras!  More info can be found below the cut, copy-and-pasted from the PFLAG blog.

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