queer

Transphobic Violence and Complex PTSD

As someone who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, I sometimes feel like there is an expectation that my symptoms can be easily traced to one cause. Unlike some “mental illnesses”, where biologically deterministic theories reign supreme, PTSD is most closely associated with particular life experiences. PTSD is what happens after a car bomb blows up part of your convoy, or an earthquake shatters your windows.

I’ve felt this pressure — from friends, psychiatrists, and myself — to explain my PTSD as something caused by a singular event. Most commonly, I point to the time I was jumped just outside of my house. That was not the first extremely violent situation that ever happened to me; the first time of many I was queer bashed was when I was 13. But because this is the most recent, and because I have to walk by where it happened almost every day, it’s this one time that I feel most often in flashbacks and that continues to haunt me most severely.

However, I don’t think this is a very helpful way of looking at PTSD, at least not for me. It’s really impossible for me to isolate one event from the entire context of my life and say “this is what caused it.” The concept of Complex PTSD is a proposed diagnostic category that begins to get at this – it would be used to describe trauma from prolonged situations, such as “chronic maltreatment by caregivers” (which I also experienced, and I believe most trans people who had transphobic parents could potentially be placed under this). C-PTSD is the result not of one traumatic event, but rather a pervasive state of powerlessness and abuse. It was first noted as occurring in prisoners of war, survivors of genocidal atrocities, and child sexual abuse survivors.

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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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“The Best of Both Worlds”: Navigating the Porn Industry, Tranny Chasers, & My Own Trans-centric Sexuality

Content warning: Graphic discussions of sex, sex work, and transphobia

“The Best of Both Worlds”: Can a tranny whore also be a tranny chaser? Or: Toward a trans-centric sexuality. Or: How porn taught me to trust people and love my body.

This is dedicated to the amazing sex I had last weekend, and the beautiful women with whom I had it. Also, many thanks to Mira for clarity and critical thoughts.

Since transition, all but one of the people I’ve dated, hooked up with, or crushed on have been other trans women. I don’t care to reveal that number, but let’s just say I’ve gotten close to a lot of trans women.

Recently, I half-jokingly called myself a “tranny chaser.” My off-hand comment sparked an interesting conversation between me and a friend, who is a gay trans man. The heart of our discussion was this: I am a tranny whore.[i] Can I also be a tranny chaser?

Shemale Fan Clubs: An Introduction to the World of Being Chased

The term ‘tranny chaser’ is used primarily amongst trans women to describe cis men who aggressively seek out sex with trans women. It usually has negative connotations. The prototypical chaser is creepy and misogynistic.

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All Work Is Exploitation, Not Just Sex Work

I signed up for a workshop for sex worker activists tomorrow at HIPS presented with the Red Umbrella Project. It’s called “Personal Storytelling for Social Change” and encourages sex workers to tell our stories in the face of widespread ignorance about the realities of sex work. We are claiming space within a dialog that is overwhelmingly dominated by non-sex workers, especially white, middle class, cis christians and feminists.

So, I was thinking about what I would say about my experience in the industry. Then, my Facebook displayed an advertisement for an organization called “Porn Harms.” (Targeted advertising: fail! Usually I get ads for “socially-responsible” wedding rings and trans-male top surgery. At least those are trying to pay attention to my interests…)

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On Surviving When It Doesn’t Get Better: Poverty, Food Stamps, and Transness

Trigger warning: poverty, bureaucracy, depression, and transphobia.

I wrote a few pages about the day I applied for food stamps from the vantage point of a trans woman, sex worker, burnt-out activist, and crazy person. It is an autobiographical reflection on what it means to struggle not only against unjust social conditions and poverty, but also against complex internal forces we call “mental illness” for simplicity. (And how the two reinforce one another.)

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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.)