income inequality

“We must love and protect each other”: Queer and Trans Resistance to Policing

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Update: You can read a rough transcript of part of my contribution to the workshop, meant to help introduce what policing of queer & trans communities looks like, offered in loving solidarity with the rising movement against policing:

Next weekend in Chicago, I will be helping to lead a workshop with other folks from BYC at the Watching the Watchers: Strategies to End Police Violence conference. It’s called “We must love and protect each other”: Queer and Trans Resistance to Policing and we will be trying to help shed some light on how policing impacts queer and trans people, disproportionate impacts on QT people of color communities, constructing an interactive timeline of our favorite moments in history when our communities fought back, and brainstorming what we can do to build the movement to end state-sanctioned violence for good.

The conference is organized by We Charge Genocide and Project NIA – if you haven’t already, please get to know the work of these two amazing Chicago organizations! And keep an eye out for all of the beautiful acts of resistance that are happening all across the country right now. I am so inspired to see movements lead by young people of color rising up everywhere I look. In Chicago you can also check out Black Youth Project 100 for updates on the movement locally.

If you can’t come to the conference, you can also participate on social media with #wewatch. (See below for transcript)

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An Anarchist in the Capitol: Thoughts on Identity Politics, Reform, Trans Liberation, and the Nonprofit Industrial Complex

I spent the past month or so working with the National Center for Transgender Equality. I helped coordinate logistics for their annual Policy Conference and Lobby Day. It was a wonderful (if at times stressful!) opportunity to gain useful skills while doing meaningful work with an organization I respect. I also met lots of great people!

I’m back to being marginally-employed again, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC — keep reading for explanation) and my involvement in it.

I didn’t enter “the workforce” until I was 21. Before that, I was mostly involved in black/grey market economies of various sorts. When I have been formally employed, it has mostly been either in service industries like making coffee or within nonprofit industries — first, as a case manager on the abortion hotline, briefly as a client advocate for sex workers, and then at NCTE.

While I am definitely part of and implicated in the NPIC, I have tried to remain critical about the strengths and weaknesses of the nonprofit model, and what nonprofit work can and cannot do. In short, nonprofit work can be valuable, but ultimately it can’t bring the truly revolutionary change this planet, and all of us, nees to survive.

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Reproductive Justice = Trans Liberation & Gender Self-Determination

In the u.s., today is the anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. As most of my friends know, I worked for a few years as a case manager on a fund for low-income people trying to access reproductive health care.

Although rare, some people in abortionland questioned my commitment to the abortion rights movement: “You don’t have a uterus, how does this impact you? How could you understand a pregnant woman’s feelings?” (Pro-abortion queer women, cis men, and women with fertility issues are often met with similar distrust.) Yes I don’t have a uterus. And that is exactly why I support abortion, because it makes me subject to anti-choice power structures as much as a cis woman (albeit if in slightly different ways).

As a trans and queer woman, my reproductive options are under intense regulation. Trans/queer women, especially if we are poor or working class, are often denied the opportunity to adopt. Reproductive technologies like sperm banking (extremely important for trans female people who want to conceive biologically post-transition) are expensive and inaccessible. Trans women with biological children have had their marriages invalidated and kids taken away by courts. In many countries, including much of canada and the u.s., sterilizing surgeries are required for trans people to obtain congruent identification documents.

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Austerity Hits Home – DC cuts services for sex workers and trans people

I recently started working at HIPS. Working on a harm reduction and anti-oppression philosophy, HIPS assists thousands of sex workers with peer support groups, crisis counseling, safer sex workshops, help accessing services, a drop-in center, syringe exchange, HIV testing, a clothing closet, and more. Every weekend night until 5am, HIPS runs a van that gives out condoms, hot chocolate, referrals and other support to people working the strolls. Plus, they’ve been amazing allies to the broader (non-sex worker) trans community, too. I was honored to be working with them. I have so much respect for HIPS and the work they do. As someone who has used their services and been a volunteer there, I know they are a powerful resource in my communities.

Unfortunately, I’ve already been laid off. The local government decided to cut funding for social programs instead of raising taxes on the top 5% of earners and we lost a crucial grant.

Isn’t it interesting how, during an economic downturn, the government is quick to abruptly discontinue funding to an agency dedicated to supporting sex workers, and whose major constituents are poor Black and Latin@ trans women, but refuses to raise taxes on the ultra-rich?
I’m not surprised, of course. But this one just really hit me directly. In addition to my position, HIPS had to cut peer education classes, a program manager, and will no longer be doing the outreach van on Thursday nights. We were given no notice at all. HIPS has received this grant every year since 1995, so no one saw this coming.

As my friends know, I’ve been dealing with some serious mental health issues. This news has been especially hard on me. I put a lot of my heart and soul into the program and clients I worked with. I was just finishing getting settled and beginning to feel confident in my position there.

For the brief time I worked there, it was wonderful. I got to use and develop all of my favorite skills: designing and writing resource manuals, one-on-one counseling, talking about anal sex, advocating clients through the legal system, leading workshops, and teaching trans women about empowerment, self-love, and the importance of using lube. I was working in my own community (trans sex workers) and my own neighborhood (Northeast/Brentwood). Also, I felt very supported by the HIPS family.

So I’m pretty devastated. I do have my other job at the coffee shop. I’ll survive. But losing this job was a huge set-back to my already-slowly-recovering mental health. Having relief given, and then taken away so soon after, was also especially harsh.

I woke up this morning and felt completely unable to get up. I was overcome with feelings of panic, despair and depression. This was also the first time in a very long time that I had serious thoughts about hurting myself. I had a clear idea of how I was going to cause myself physical pain. That is something that (even during panic attacks) doesn’t usually happen.

I took the day to spend with and think about loved ones. I was able to jump back from this crisis so far. Seriously, to the people (especially at HIPS and my sisters) who stepped in to check on me and sent me supportive messages: I love you all so much!

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HIPS will go on providing really important services, and I’m sure they’ll continue doing an amazing job with the resources they do have. But these funding cuts just gave one more trans woman a choice between poverty and sex work. This time it’s me. (Guess what I’m going to choose?)

I basically just went from being in a position where I was able to help my community get out of poverty, to being another person who will need to access those services.

When the government cuts funding to social programs, we all suffer. The whole city is negatively impacted when sex workers aren’t getting condoms or HIV testing or counseling and all the other stuff HIPS gives.

I know HIPS will be relying more on volunteers than ever, so come sign up with me! Both I and HIPS appreciate the support.

“Tax Cuts for the Rich, Service Cuts for the Poor”

Instead of barely raising taxes for those who can most afford it, the D.C. City Council decided to cut funding to social service programs for those who can least afford it.

Save Our Safety Net was campaigning to generate revenue by raising taxes on the top 5% of earners and investing the money into projects that benefit the whole city. Instead, the Council continued to slash funding for critical programs that help the poor.

At least they didn’t get away with it quietly. From NBC (“Protests Disrupt DC Council Budget Cutting“):

The squad of officers was kept busy as one protester after another stood up to denounce the proceedings. In all, there were seven disruptions and 10 people were ejected from the room.

As someone who depends on safety net services, I commend these organizers. Oppressed people — especially communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income families, trans folks, and people with disabilities — have a lot at stake in this struggle.

Like, our lives.

Poor people aren’t poor because we make bad decisions or because we’re lazy. We’re poor because 1% of the population owns half the country’s wealth.

And if we’re queer or trans, there’s homophobic and transphobic hiring biases that keep us from working. Add to that: a criminal record from survival sex work, mental health problems and addiction resulting from trauma and abuse, not having a degree because you got harassed every day at school, having no home address because your family kicked you out, and being turned away from homeless shelters and food banks because they’re all run by catholics.

That’s why we’re poor. Redistributing some wealth our way through tax-subsidized social programs is the least we deserve. For a lot of people, social programs are the only thing that allows us to get back on our feet and become healthy, contributing members of our communities again.

But those in power have a vested interested in defending the status quo. So I have little faith that anything will change until we unite and force it to happen.

Toward an Anti-capitalist, Trans-feminist Analysis of Madness

Trans women, especially women of color and sex workers, disproportionately suffer from a lack of housing, health care, physical safety, jobs, family/support networks, education, positive role models/media representations, and more. These disparities mean we’re more likely to experience violence, poverty, and incarceration, and – by extension – mental illness. Just about every trans woman I know has experienced some kind of mental illness, especially post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and panic disorders. A great many have also been diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia and other disorders.

It’s hard enough to find a job when background searches out you as trans. It’s worse when you have a disability (psychiatric or otherwise) that means you can’t even work for the few people who are willing to hire you. (And why do we need to toil for other people’s profit just to survive anyway?) This is what it’s like to exist at the confluence of a world that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few and denies the basic means of survival to so many, a world that constructs gender as an absolute binary, and a world that punishes madness. We are trapped in precarity, and this violent social and economic instability  expresses itself in our bodies and minds as anxiety and fear.

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