The Danger of House Bill 2


“I’ve been sexually assaulted, physically attacked, felt unsafe in my own house, and nearly killed myself because I’m transgender. Now I’m not saying that its the same struggle as racism. But what I will say is that if people are intentionally ignorant you can’t fight them with words. Sometims you have to fight back. Or scream. And you know what. That’s life. Despite the lies you may have been told no one won their rights by asking for them nicely. People fought for them. So ya I’m sorry if what I said may “offend” a few white people, but I’m going to fuking say it anyways.”

Adam Snowflake, Transgender author

 

On Wednesday, March 23, the State of North Carolina’s General Assembly meet in Raleigh for a special session.  That “special session” turns out to be one that greatly affects members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, queer, and agender community. One involving Republican Governor Pat McCrory signing into law the most pro-discriminatory bill within 30 minutes.

The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, known as House Bill 2, completely overturns Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ban that includes those protecting the GLBTIQA community—especially those identifying as transgender.  Under this oppressive law, transfolks are now prohibited to use restrooms based on the gender with which they identify.  They instead are forced to enter the restrooms based on the gender printed on their birth certificate.  K-12 schools are no longer obligated to offer or even add gender neutral bathrooms.

For obvious reasons, there is so much wrong with this bill and the process it took to pass it. The special session cost taxpayers $42,000 just so the House could hastily push it through.  Every Republican backed the bill, stating that the Charlotte’s updated ordinance violated religious freedom and the safety of straight woman who have to share bathroom with transpeople (so apparently only straight women are in danger when using the bathrooms). Even after the ordinances are updated back in February in Charlotte, the GOP are very vocal about shutting down the laws before April 1.

But it doesn’t take much thought (or at least it shouldn’t) to recognize that House Bill 2 is targeting the transgender community.  From day one, there has been the issue among all the Republican and some Democrats about transpeople using bathrooms that corresponds with the gender they identify with.  For whatever reason, that topic has been the main focus of this bill and prompts members of both parties to undermine the state’s law.  But House Bill 2 goes beyond bathroom politics pertaining to transpeople.  It indeed causes more harm by doing the following:

 

1) It propagates misinformation regarding transpeople and sexual violence.

There are no reports or empirical data supporting even a shred of evidence linking sexual predatory behavior to being trans or of trans individuals victimizing children or women.  On the contrary, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known by the child victim that isn’t a family member (i.e. babysitter, coach, neighbor).  Furthermore, thirty percent (30%) of perpetrators are family members while 10% are completely unknown to the child.

In regards to women, they are more likely to be victimized by their intimate partner. Young girls are often raped or molested by someone they either know or have developed a relationship with.  There are no reports from them indicating that transpeople are out here searching for female victims.  Even if the girl or woman have been victimized by a trans individual, there would more likely be an established relationship between the parties involved.

Speaking of gender identity and sexual orientation, the typical perpetrator, the majority of them not only identify as heterosexual, but have dating relationships with women.  In other words, a child is more likely to be molested or sexual assaulted by a straight male they are already have a relationship with and there is no empirical data or research stating otherwise.

2)   House Bill 2 perpetuates mental illness and poverty.

Because HB 2 bans the anti-discrimination laws that have been scheduled to go into effect on April 1, transpeople are now at the mercy of employers who can either terminate their trans employees or deny them employment. This may ultimately lead to poverty and/or homelessness. Since there aren’t many homeless shelters exclusively for transpeople (if no family support is available), they will more likely have to live in a shelter, where they will endure transphobia.

Transphobia and poverty are known to cause depression, anxiety, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and other mental illnesses due to no longer having the means to maintain their most basic needs such as housing and food. Many transpeople turn to sex work in order to pay for their medical needs, risking their safety and their very lives.  Studies show that transgender individuals are more likely to become victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and/or homicide—especially if they are homeless and/or doing sex work.

In is also reported that those living in poverty have a high onset of physical health issues as well.  Many transpeople not only have difficulty obtaining adequate health insurance but report facing discrimination from medical professionals.  This could one of the reasons why HIV has increased among transwomen who engage in sex work.  With HB 2 in effect, transpeople could be denied employment and housing and perhaps mental and medical health services as well.

3) House Bill 2 perpetuates the idea of Otherness through the politics of passing.

Going back to the bathroom topic, this idea of forcing transpeople to utilize facilities based on the gender on their birth certificate also plays into the politics of otherness.  If a transperson can “pass,” then they can use bathrooms and locker rooms coinciding with the gender they identify with—regardless of whether they change the information on their birth certificate of not.  However, if a transperson is unable to pass (or choose not to) for whatever reason, then they are forced to enter an environment in which they are not comfortable because they are deemed a threat to cis heterosexual social norms.  And by being labeled a threat, the transperson is now an Other when they only want to be their authentic selves.

As poverty and unemployment would, otherness also places transpeople at a disadvantage by increasing their risk of being sexual, emotionally, physically, and spiritually violated—especially if they have not fully transitioned (or choose not to).  This is all because of a law passed on the erroneous propaganda that transpeople are sexual predators when all they wish to do enter, use, and exit the bathroom with impunity.

 

Despite House Bill 2 being passed so quickly, this move may have been a huge detriment finanically.  The bill is deemed unconstitutional and major businesses are already boycotting the state’s oppressive law.  Corporations have been put on pause because the bill now jeopardizes employment and economic growth in the state of North Carolina–unless they withdraw HB 2.

Regardless of the decisions these businesses and corporations come to, the pressing issue is the fact that the lives of transpeople in North Carolina are in mortal danger.  With that being said, we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings not only in North Carolina but those struggling around the globe.  We must be ready to fight alongside them by any means necessary.  And we must let members of the two party system realize that this type of discrimination is completely unacceptable because, if you’re paying attention, you know it is.

 

 

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Going on Hiatus: What I’m Learning Through Celibacy


“I tend to agree that celibacy for a time is worth considering, for sex is dirty if all it means is winning a man, conquering a woman, beating someone out of something, abusing each other’s dignity in order to prove that I am a man, I am a woman.”

Toni Cade Bambara, author

 

Today I’m scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook when something one of my friend’s posted catches my attention.

It’s a clip from My Mad Fat Diary, a British television series about a young girl named Rae who is released from a psychiatric ward.  I haven’t watched it recently, but I do consider it one of the best teen shows I’ve ever been introduced to.  It touches upon everything from Rae’s going through: self-harming, body issues, fitting into a society and a time period that doesn’t discuss certain issues openly (the show is set in the 90s—the year of Brownstreet and Oasis).

And then there’s her relationship with her boyfriend, Finn Nelson.

Well, speaking of him, he’s lying on Rae’s bed in the clip.  While Rae herself is mentally agonizing over whether Finn is even able to pleasure her sexually, he seems to do by massaging her clitoris with this thumb.  Not only is Rae’s surprised by the fact that he could pleasure her, but she describes the moment with a comedic, yet genuine innocence as dubs Finn a Sex Wizard.

After watching the clip, I think about it the majority of the day.  If anything, I think about Rae’s reaction to her boyfriend’s touch, her words, the look on her face as she imagines the universe as she enjoys as describes their experience with the act.  Correction:  her experience.  I witness her genuine connection with Finn—one that is proves to be important to her regardless of the nature of their interactions.

It’s also something that I wish I’ve been granted when I was her age.

At the age of five, my aunt Joyce introduces me to porn she somehow steals from my uncle Tony.  As she closes the door, I’d plop down on her bed and follow her every move when she slides the tape into the VCR.  Soon we would both watch these adults, these complete strangers do things to one another my young mind cannot comprehend.  I remember feeling the thrill of doing something secretive, forbidden despite the fear of being caught.  But we never are; by age eight, I begin watching Joyce and my cousin Chuckie having sex after I ask if I could.  By the age of ten, she would have sex with me because I too wish to do what those strangers in the videos have done.

I don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest.  I just know that it feels good and it’s the first time I am not beaten, ridiculed or yelled at for little to no reason.  It’s shameful, but it’s quiet.  And I feel something else: beautiful.  I’ve been called and perceived as ugly throughout my entire childhood and into my adult years.  So whenever I have sex, I feel that I can finally consider myself physically attractive enough to catch someone’s attention.

I chase that feeling for many years, engaging in unhealthy sexual relationships—sometimes using little to no protection.  I would meet complete strangers online or bring them back to my apartment to have sex. I’d travel long distances just to be with partners who would emotionally harm me in the long run.  I’d use sex in order to maintain “intimate” relationships with people I wish to actually be with and would become next to suicidal when things fall apart.  I’m not completely innocent in any of this.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve harassed, cursed out and even verbally assaulted someone I’ve been with—especially if they moved on to someone else.

The worst of my behavior has occurred in my early 20s.

Fast forward to 2016. I decide to become celibate after growing tired of the emotional and mental stress that comes with being sexual for all the wrong reasons.  I’ve tried it before in my 20s, but my fear of never having sex again prevents me from going longer than a month.  But after not seeing my sexual partner for about a month and constantly feeling as if I’m trying to mold him into the monogamist he could never be, I tell him that I don’t want to be with him—or anyone else—until further notice.

Since becoming celibate two months ago, I notice a trend:  the mere thought of having sex with another person causes me anxiety and depression. Even cuddling with someone is very much out of the question and the most I can do these days is a hug.  When I had been sexually active, I would use sex as a means to connect, feel disconnected from my body.  In my mind, it has never belonged to me, but to the person (or people) I am “with.”  But because I’m becoming more protective of my body, I find that I don’t trust my intentions or that of the other person when it comes to touching. When people hug me for long periods, I wonder if they are doing so to sexualize me or take possession of my body…of me.

At the same time, I feel and recognize the power of having a choice.  And my choice is to find out who I am without this need to connect through sexual contact.  It is only when I watch the clip featuring Rae and Finn that I’m further reminded that all I wish to do is experience love making with someone I love and on my own terms once I’ve healed from the sexual trauma.

I’m sharing all the gory details, Readers, not only for therapeutic reasons but because you too deserve and have the right to experience sex your way and at your own volition.  You have every right to not give someone access to your body, mind and your very core unless you feel comfortable—regardless of your gender and that of those who wish to have your time.

 

 

 

 

Not A Game of UNO: Zimmerman and the “Race Card”


Ladies and gentlecats,

I’ve been reading comments about the Trayvon Martin case and I am appalled.

I am not just talking about the fact that people (mostly White folks) who are defending George Zimmerman and his actions.  Nor am I just talking about the sick new trend called “Trayvoning,” which involves teens posing as Martin after his death, Skittles and a bottle of tea clutched in their “lifeless” hands.

No, Readers.  I’m talking about the “Race Card” accusations hurled at Black and Brown people.  According to many Caucasians (and even some African-American people), those angry about the verdict and expressing outrage are now playing the “Race Card,” that Black and Brown people are now utilizing race as an excuse to “be angry at White people.”  According to a FORMER Facebook friend, Zimmerman is not even White and he said so.  Therefore, why are Black people so angry about this case?

I have a few answers.

1) The “Race Card” itself.

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Let me back up by explaining the concept of “race.”  Race is a social construct utilized to categorize groups of people based on physical attributes, religion, nationality and language. However, the concept of “race” was also used as a mechanism of oppression (i.e. biologists arguing that the brain of an African was smaller than that of a Caucasian) and continues to be so.   Many people of color (POCs) recognized the latter and have spoken out against injustice, how it is actually a detriment to ALL people.  In turn, many non-POCs and other POCs  accused those speaking out of playing the “Race Card.”  What the “Race Card” refers to is a person using the category in which society has placed him/her/them as an excuse to avoid…well…just about everything.  In other words, we POCs somehow “play victim” just because we are Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. But this can’t be any further from the truth.  We are not fighting because we’re placed in a certain category, but because we endure adversity associated with those categories on a constant basis.  If anything, the “Race Card” doesn’t make any logical sense; it doesn’t even benefit me. It’s not like I’m playing a game of Uno and I just pulled a “Draw 4” from the deck. No.  This so-called card is only used by those who choose not to examine their own privilege and many POCs are tired of it.

2) Yes.  George Zimmerman is an Hispanic male. What people do not realize, though, is that he is light enough to pass as Caucasian (colorism is also a problem affecting POCs, but that’s a whole nother blog post). If he didn’t announce his ethnicity or make it known to the media, he would have been mistaken for White.  Unlike his victim (who was dark-skinned), Zimmerman’s skin color alone makes him seem non-threatening.  So, had his skin been a couple of shades darker (and if Trayvon was lighter or Caucasian), Zimmerman would not be receiving so much support and would’ve been placed under the prison.

3) The outrage and rage POCs are expressing isn’t anything new.  In fact, this rage have been brewing way before slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.  It began when rich European nations utilized imperialism, colonization, and globalization to cripple Africa and other nations to gain resources.  It began when aboriginal families were ripped apart and their children sent to English speaking boarding schools in order to strip them of their heritage.  It started when people of European descent categorized Black and Brown people as savage, unintelligent, violent, hypersexual and used these stereotypes to either oppress or scapegoat.  So when Zimmerman’s supporters accuse us of playing the “Race Card” and of being hypocrites because we’re not addressing “Black on Black” crime, then yes, there is going to be a problem.

4)  POCs are not angry at Caucasian people (or people who pass as White), but the very system that protects them.  Many Caucasian people do not recognize their own privilege and how it actually keeps them safe, secure and uninformed.  The government and the other systems set in place is/are not even conducive to the lives of impoverished POCs.  In fact, many of the social programs and public schools that lose funding affect communities of color.  There are other injustices as well:  the prison population is predominately African-American due to petty crimes (i.e. drug possession); racial profiling; young teenage boys being murdered because of their skin color; African-American women being coerced into being sterilized in a California prison.  The list goes on.

I’m writing all this because, as an African-American female, I feel like many people don’t see (or choose not to see) what is going on.  I’ve had too many Caucasian guys roll their eyes when I mention the lack of diversity or the injustice POCs face. I’ve been called the “N” word over a parking spot.  I’ve been stereotyped and accused of playing victim simply because of my skin color and my gender.  And the government believes I’m trying to deliberately “play the system” by “driving the Welfare Cadillac.”  People who are privileged–who say that I play the “Race Card”–are afraid of me and my revolutionary friends.

However, I also have hope that people are waking up.  This trial has brought racism and injustice to the surface and people are starting to ask questions.  Granted, racism has its supporters, but there are those–regardless of ethnicity–who are fighting and willing to fight the negativity.

In other words, a better world is possible.  But we all have to work towards it.

The Brave New World: Chapter One


Ring out the old
Ring in the new
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

Ring out the false
Ring in the true
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

–“Ding Dong, Ding Dong” by George Harrison

It’s been a while since we’ve talked and I have so much to tell you.

I have so much to share that I don’t even know where to begin.  For the most part, there is no devastating news to type into this post, but I have news nonetheless.

For one, this happened:

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Left to right: Gaby, me and Colleen

On May 11 at 9:00 a.m., I graduated from the University at Buffalo with a Masters in Social Work.  After 2 years of writing papers, having panic attacks over my lap top and trudging through rain, sleet and snow to get to class, I finally earned the damn thing.  Even though this past Fall and Spring semester was the most difficult for me, I finally tamed that wild horse and I’m ready to move on.

When I walked across the stage, I thought I’d be calm and collected.  I imagined myself shaking hands with professors before flashing the Vulcan salute to the audience. Of course that didn’t happen because I was trembling and pretty much ran off the stage because too many people were staring at me. But once I walked off the stage, I was surrounded by supports (Spirit, my spirit guides, Gaby, Colleen, Sara and Joe, the other Joe) and I was able to finally realize that this happened.  This finally happened.  Even after a week, I seriously can’t believe it.

I will not lie to you, Readers.  I told myself many times that I wouldn’t make it. That I was too much or not enough of *fill in the blank.*  I was too immature or not professional enough.  Or I didn’t win any awards, so no employer would pay attention to me.  I was also dealing with triggering subject matters: sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect.  Those who’ve read old blog entries know where I’ve come from and there were times when I didn’t even want to sit through another lecture reminding me of what happened.

At the same time, I learned that I could use my past to help others somehow, that it didn’t have to be a curse but a beacon of hope for people.  The main reason why I became a social work major was to do something to make life better for someone.  I know I can’t help everyone, but if I can do something, then I’ve served my purpose.  And I had to prove to myself that success was possible and that, just because I’m not wired like everyone else, doesn’t make me different.

With that being said, a new chapter has started in my life and I wonder what’s going to happen next.