police brutality

“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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Toward Participatory Gender: Trans Self-Determination and Movements for Social Justice

A friend asked to see my thesis, so I found a copy. I spent over a year and a half writing this in 2008-2010. Some of the writing was taken from pieces even older than that. This is the first time I’ve looked at it in a year or two, and I’m surprisingly still pretty fond of it! It’s especially kind of fascinating in light of my involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and linking that back to my work with the DC Trans Coalition and trans-centric organizing more broadly.

I decided to share some of it, since only a couple people have read it so far (and I’ve promised to share it with a lot of folks but never followed up). Given that it’s a thesis, it’s slightly more academic than my usual writing, but I tried to write as accessibly as I could. Here’s the Abstract, and the Introduction and Overview (the first 20ish pages of the entire thesis, which contains a summary of most of the rest) are below the cut. The whole thing is around 250 pages. Perhaps I will eventually get around to sharing the rest someday! As I do, I will post links on the Table of Contents below. :)

Toward Participatory Gender: Trans Self-Determination and Movements for Social Justice

Goddard College
June 2010

Abstract

This paper explores notions of identity, gender, and social justice by delving into the histories and politics of trans communities in north america. The author explores how trans people have actively built communities around shared experiences, and how these communities both contribute to and benefit from engaging in struggles for social and economic justice. She urges broader progressive, radical, and feminist movements not to ignore how forces such as cis supremacy and transphobia situate oppression, and thus how we organize resistance to it. She passionately develops her own vision for a movement that is both capable of realizing a participatory gender system and grounded in a shared ethics of total liberation.

The author argues that academic studies of trans people have largely neglected trans people’s own agency in shaping our identities and communities. She claims that medical, psychiatric, feminist, and queer accounts of trans issues have all so far failed to critically examine the material conditions of trans people’s lives or recognize the diverse strategies we have created to transform those conditions. She reexamines these histories, with a focus on the participation of poor trans women of color and other marginalized voices, in order to give context to her own experiences of embodiment and political action.

The project also discusses how trans liberation activists will fail if they focus only on fighting “transphobia” without analyzing the ways in which other institutions and systems – such as the state and white supremacy – also shape trans experiences. The author argues that trans praxis must be grounded in our everyday lived experiences, and thus must also account for the ways in which differing privileges and oppressions intersect in our selves. She does this with detailed accounts of trans people’s interactions with policing and incarceration, the politics of hate crime legislation, her own engagement with doctors and government bureaucracies, the stigma of mental illness and sex work, and much more. Throughout the work, she blends personal narrative, theory, and research to explore the ethics of gender self-determination, her own identity as a genderqueer transsexual woman, and her involvement in organizing for collective empowerment in trans communities.

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Reflections on Trans Day Of Remembrance, Intersectionality, and Religion

This one is dedicated to my chosen-family and my trans sisters: y’all know who you are!

We just observed another Trans Day of Remembrance. Leading up to TDOR, I led five workshops for primarily cis audiences. I will never cease to be amazed at how many cis people are obsessed with what trans people do in the toilet. And I swear, the way cis folks are interested in what’s in my pants, you’d think they all work for the TSA.

I’m almost as tired of Trans 101 as I am of TDOR itself. Don’t get me wrong: like “It Gets Better”, TDOR has both room for criticism as well as the potential for good. The statistics won’t stop going up on their own. We should be having vigils.

It’s just that… On a personal level, it’s hard to spend every day, literally every day, for over a week dwelling on death in my community. Especially in D.C., where many of our own are on the list of the murdered. It feels like only yesterday that we lost NaNa Boo.

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Unpacking the Numbers: Racism, Poverty and the Response to Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crimes in D.C.

originally published as a guest column in Metro Weekly

As a survivor of violence and a lesbian trans woman in a world that treats my identity as delusional or deceptive, I understand fear. I also understand the growing concern about the rise in reported hate crimes in D.C. Despite the Metropolitan Police Department’s failure to track anti-trans violence, it’s safe to say that many such incidents target trans people.

The numbers upset me, and they don’t even include cases that police fail to report, or that survivors fear reporting: undocumented immigrants who fear they’ll be deported, sex workers who fear they’ll be arrested, trans people who fear what the police might do when they find out that their ID card and appearance don’t match.

According to MPD’s statistics, from 2008 to 2009 anti-LGB hate crimes rose the most in Wards 7 and 8, encompassing the poorest neighborhoods in D.C. I have heard commentary from LGBTQ people implicitly or explicitly blaming “black churches” or “black people” for encouraging a climate of violence in these neighborhoods — completely erasing LGBTQ communities of color, especially those who are part of faith traditions.

Before we allow such racist nonsense to continue, we should ask ourselves a few questions.

First, with such a small sample size, are these numbers statistically significant? Biased crimes based on sexual orientation reported in Wards 7 and 8 rose from seven in 2008 to 10 in 2009. Is an increase of three reported crimes, comparing only two years, enough to warrant what the MPD calls a “marked shift”? While surely even one hate crime is too many, we should be wary of scapegoating these neighborhoods based on such limited data.

Second, are the figures accurate? Wards 7 and 8 are among the most heavily policed areas of the city. Perhaps the higher number of reported crimes is due more to disproportionate policing than disproportionate trans/homophobia.

But even if there are more incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence in Wards 7 and 8, is it reasonable to assume that people in these neighborhoods are “more trans/homophobic,” or are other factors in play? Many hate crimes start off as other crimes, such as muggings. With D.C.’s intense wealth gap, neighborhoods with the highest incidence of homelessness, addiction and other poverty-related problems are also likely to have the highest rate of muggings, theft and property crimes. Focusing on race in discussions about trans/homophobic violence obscures the role of poverty in promoting violence.

Finally, before we call for increased policing we should ask whether having more police on the streets is in anyone’s best interest. D.C. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, fed by programs such as the “Prostitution Free Zones” and “All Hands on Deck.” Such policies target marginalized communities like LGBTQ folks, especially poor and low-income young trans women of color. D.C.’s racially skewed prison population – only 2 percent white – underscores that point.

Due to employment discrimination, lack of family support, and insensitive or inadequate social services, LGBTQ people are more likely to end up on the streets, where their survival may depend on criminalized activities like sex work. Combined with police profiling, these factors increase the likelihood that LGBTQ people will be detained, arrested or sent to jail. Jail is a dangerous place for LGBTQ folks, particularly trans women. Many trans women are placed in male facilities, where they are at incredibly high risk of rape and contracting HIV.

We should all be concerned about anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, wherever we live. But we must not jump to dangerous conclusions – like pretending hate crimes only happen in some areas, blaming anti-LGBTQ hate crimes on people of color, or using this as a reason to call for more severe police tactics in those neighborhoods. If we want to stop the violence, we must critically ask how poverty and racism fuel transphobia and homophobia, and strive to develop creative strategies to end all of them.

Sadie Ryanne Baker lives in Northeast and works with the DC Trans Coalition, a human-rights organization for transgender, transsexual and gender nonconforming communities in D.C. (dctranscoalition.org.)