women speak out 1 women speak out 2

NCLR's Kate Kendell

NCLR’s Kate Kendell

Many in the Lesbian community were shocked last year when the National Center for Lesbian Rights, headed by Kate Kendell, announced that the first and only boycott in the history of the org would be against the rights of lesbians to hold private events that exclude males.

The NCLR, formerly a Lesbian Rights organization had, unbeknownst to some, shifted their mission to prioritize the rights of men, particularly wealthy heterosexual males who want to “identify as lesbians”. The Task Force (formerly the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), headed by Rea Carey, followed suit.

After extended outcry, mockery, and withdrawal of support from the lesbian community Kendell announced this week that NCLR was reversing their stance on the boycott and requesting the name of their org be removed from the petition issued by the head of Michigan Equality, Emily Dievendorf,  a self-described “bisexual rights” activist partnered with a man.

Sara Toce at the Windy City Times quotes Kendell:

 “As you know, last summer NCLR signed the petition sponsored by Equality Michigan calling on the organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival ( Michfest ) to embrace the presence of transgender women at the iconic gathering. In the wake of our signing, you contacted us to express your disappointment and anger that NCLR would sign a petition which called for a boycott of the festival.

 Many of the letters we received recognized transgender women as women and sisters in struggle, while also arguing that the intention of Michfest does not diminish the lived experience of transgender women.

 Since then, we have been involved in a number of conversations with Michfest womyn, Equality Michigan, transgender leaders and colleagues who signed the petition. These conversations have made clear that there are essential values and perspectives we all share and that the petition was not going to be an effective vehicle for a resolution.

 NCLR has removed our name from the petition and will be actively engaged in conversations in which we honor our differences while also pursuing a conclusion that supports the gender identity and inclusion of all women in Michfest. We have faith that such a resolution is possible.

 This entire process has been one of great learning for me and, while we may disagree on some issues, I think there are many values we share. I signed the petition on behalf of NCLR because our core passion and commitment is that we all be able to live fully and be embraced as our authentic selves.

 We are grounded in some deeply held principles, including the belief that discrimination and bigotry against lesbians is rooted in sexism, misogyny and the devaluation of women. We do not believe it is possible to win liberation for lesbians in a world where misogyny thrives. We also do not believe we can end the oppression of women and lesbians in a world where transgender women are reviled and targeted.

 NCLR has come to a deeper understanding of what Michfest means to our community and seeks to honor that through this process. We also acknowledge the Michfest organizers have been involved in an ongoing conversation over the years on this issue. We are committed to honest and forthright dialogue as a more constructive means for seeking resolution and common ground.

 Sincerely, Kate”

Rea Carey of The Task Force

Rea Carey of The Task Force

Today, I was forwarded an email sent out by Rea Carey of The Task Force. Like Kendell’s it was sent out to women who had written in protest of the boycott. It reads:

“Greetings,

Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force signed onto a petition organized by Equality Michigan which called upon the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) to fully welcome and include transgender women, as women, at the festival.

You took the time to write to me and I appreciate that you did – you and others shared with me your perspectives and experiences on the land that some described as “sacred,” “an annual touchstone,” iconic” and “home.” I heard that you are angry and hurt by the Task Force and other organizations signing the petition. I heard from you and others that Michfest is a truly historic and transformative annual event that has influenced, inspired and helped to liberate millions of womyn/women from the daily trials and tribulations of misogyny and sexism. It holds a very special place in the hearts of lesbians and other womyn/women.

In the months between then and now, I have talked with womyn/women who have attended, womyn/women who would like to attend, and other people who have a variety of views. I’ve talked with our colleagues at Equality Michigan, leaders of other organizations who have been engaged in this, and with transgender women. From these conversations, I have gleaned shared values, differing opinions, and have come to a view that in order to move forward in any type of dialogue we must move beyond the petition.

I am writing to let you know that the Task Force has asked that our name be removed from the Equality Michigan petition and we will be seeking other ways to be in dialogue about Michfest’s intention regarding transgender women. As we reflected on the petition’s contents and read carefully letters from concerned people like you, we came to understand that the point in the original petition that called for a boycott of vendors and performers was misaligned with our own support for womyn/women artists, craftspeople and musicians. Although that point was withdrawn from the petition, we recognize and share the deep concern about the possible economic impact on womyn/women striving every day to make a living through their art, craft and music.

Please know that the Task Force’s view regarding the MichFest intention is rooted in our core value of inclusiveness and the festival’s extraordinary transformative power. For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people in all areas of our lives – whether it be in the workplace, the government, companies and, yes, in our own community.

The Task Force will remain in active discussion with MichFest womyn/women, Equality Michigan, transgender colleagues, and other organizations that signed the petition. The Task Force is committed to productive discussions in which we honor our differences and also pursue our desire for MichFest to fully welcome the gender identities of all womyn/women at the festival, including transgender women.

For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for a changed world. A world in which we can all experience liberation. A world in which misogyny cannot thrive. A world in which womyn/women, lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women no longer experience sexism, targeted attacks and the most horrible form of violence – murder. As we intensify our work to take on all of the challenges we face as a movement, know that these values are at the heart of what we do.

With care and in solidarity,
Rea”

Rumours abound that other Michfest boycott signatories, many of which like NCLR and The Task Force were once (at least tacitly) supportive of Lesbian and Women’s Rights are undergoing similar pressure to reverse what can only be described as an aggressively anti-women, anti-lesbian, stance.

To all lesbians reading this, and to our allies: Please withdraw all support, financial and otherwise, from organizations- especially those who purport to be “LGBT” centric- if those organizations do not explicitly support the rights of lesbians to hold lesbian-only or women-only events.

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Et tu, Owen Jones?

February 25, 2015

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Heterosexual couple

When you hear trans activists and allies define lesbians as “penis-phobic” sexual “bigots” against males, a condition which can be “cured” by raping us: it is pretty clear that the transgender politic is as starkly anti-lesbian and anti-woman as a political agenda could possibly be.

There is an excellent post “There is no T in Lesbian” over at the Liberation Collective today on the topic of Transgenderism and the ways in which the “T” is at odds with the Lesbian and Gay liberation movement. Critical to the transgender movement is the silencing and censorship of all public discourse around sex stereotypes, gender, and women’s rights, and the eradication of lesbian and gay voices – even on the subject of homosexuality. This is because the goals of the lesbian and gay rights movement are in direct opposition to the platform of the transgender movement. Superficially, and to those outside of these movements, there may appear to be common ground. For example, protecting the rights of LGBT people against discrimination in housing and employment. However,  there are other minorities (African Americans, Women, etc.) who seek protection against discrimination in these things, and they have not been merged into the lesbian and gay movement. Nor have lesbians and gays been inundated with rape and murder threats by these groups as they routinely have by transgender activists.

Why then has the Transgender Movement been attached to the homosexual rights movement?

Transgender activists have explained the need for this alliance several ways. They say all sorts of things:

“Our enemies can’t tell us apart- they see M2T as “super-gay” men, and F2T as “super-lesbian”, so we may as well join together since the public sees us as the same thing anyway”.

“Gays owe us support because feminine men who insist that they “are women” suffer more discrimination than feminine men who do not, and men who impersonate women while believing they actually “are women” suffer more discrimination than men who impersonate women (drag queens) without having those feelings.”

“Women, Lesbians, Gays, must serve us and center our needs and concerns because we have high rates of suicidality and psychiatric co-morbidity and criminality and you don’t”.

“A percentage of transgenders consider themselves ex-homosexual but still have social ties to the gay subculture they once were members of”.

“Those transgender men and women who are heterosexual like to call their hetero relationships “lesbian” or “gay”, and refer to themselves as “dykes” and “fags” as part of their heterosexual transgender identity. The majority of male transgenders are heterosexual, which means the percentage of “transwomen” who consider themselves lesbian is exactly opposite to the percentages among actual females. Unlike actual females, most M2T are “lesbian” and since we are forcing ourselves into the lesbian community in droves on that basis anyway, you may as well just include us in the LG movement.”

Shannon Minter, the “ex-lesbian” transgender attorney now heading the mainly transgender, hetero and male legal initiatives at ex-lesbian National Center for Lesbian Rights (which has creepily retained its old name from the days when it did represent lesbians) believes that homosexuality itself is a form of transgenderism and as such the gay rights movement should be re-framed and subsumed under the “transgender umbrella” as a wing of the transgender movement. She believes that homosexuality is transgender, because lesbian and gay sexual relationships are not procreative, and are therefore manifestations of cross-sex behavior. No different than the conservative right wing view of homosexuality, really: a misalignment of the natural order.

Conservative, right-wing, and theocratic views on homosexuality match Minter’s views exactly. We see this in surveys which show that transgenderism is far more politically acceptable to the general public than homosexuality.  We see this reflected in places like Iran, which force lesbians and gays into state-funded medical “sex changes” under threat of capitol punishment. We see Minter’s view on homosexuality mirrored in Christian conservative preacher Pat Robertson’s recent declarations that while homosexuality is a sinful abomination, transgenderism is okay. We see this in transgender activist websites like “Lesbimen”, “TransAdvocate”, etc. which aim to prove that lesbians are “actually men”. We see this in the lightning-fast adoption of sweeping legal and social reforms designed to remove feminism’s hard-won gains of sex-based protections and their replacement with “gender identity” protections which accord rights based on one’s fealty to the very sex-based stereotypes the women’s liberation and gay rights movement sought to eliminate.

The elephant in the room is that transgenderism was invented as a “treatment” or medical “cure”  of homosexuality. The reason the “T” is included in the LGBT is that it has been historically lesbians and gays that transgenderist cures have been inflicted on. It was upon lesbian and gay bodies that medical experiments were conducted that resulted in what we now call “transgender treatments”: often on lesbians and gays who were involuntarily committed or incarcerated. Just ask Alan Turing. Just ask all the gays and lesbians rounded up and experimented on in “forced sex-change” medical camps in South Africa as recently as the late 1980’s. Just ask all the kids being medical-tracked and puberty-suppressed as guinea pigs in rapidly growing government-funded programs right now.

The act of voluntarily “passing” as the opposite sex has also long been a survival technique for lesbians, gays, and women under oppressive sexist and heteronormative circumstances and regimes. Nothing has changed, except the influx of heterosexual pornography-soaked body-mod kinksters attaching themselves belatedly to the lesbian and gay movement. This heterosexual influx not-coincidentally coincided with the birth of the modern transgender rights movement in the 1990s.

Today’s post at the Liberation Collective includes an interesting PDF chart that attempts to briefly outline “what separates the T from the LG”. Examples include (paraphrasing wildly):

Transgender

Believes reproductive sex is a feeling or mental state unrelated to biology yet includes a psychological imperative to “congruity” between mental state and the social perception of one’s reproductive biology. Sex changes are impossible, so desires palliative treatment by undergoing various bodily modifications designed to approximate the opposite-sex biology cosmetically on those body parts commonly seen socially by others (genital surgery is not undergone by a majority of transgenders).

Since bodily sex does not exist, homosexuality does not exist, except as a form of bigotry and discrimination against persons with opposite-sexed bodies.

Homosexual

Has exclusive sexual and romantic attraction to those of the same sex.

Transgender

Requires bystanders to participate in and “affirm” their self-concept of themselves as having an “opposite-sexed brain”.

Homosexual

Has exclusive sexual and romantic attraction to those of the same sex.

Transgender

Psychological distress is viewed as a natural manifestation of sex/gender incongruence. “Change Yourself”.

Homosexual

Psychological distress not viewed as a natural manifestation of sex/gender incongruence. “Accept Yourself. Change social norms.”

Transgender

Lobbies for hormone-suppression and sterilization of children below the age of consent.

Homosexual

Against reparative therapies and medical “treatments” of children below the age of consent.

Transgender

Lobbies for elimination of sex-based protections for women and elimination of same-sex rights of assembly for women and homosexuals.

Homosexual

Does not seek to eliminate feminist gains for women. Supports homosexual and other same-sex gatherings.

And so forth. (Apologies to Liberation Collective for my scattershot paraphrasing).

Heterosexual Couple

Heterosexual Couple

Cheri DiNovo

Cheri DiNovo

File this one under “unintended consequences” for Lesbians, Gays, and Women’s Rights advocates living in Ontario. MPP Cheri DiNovo announced Friday that bill C-389, “Toby’s Act”, the 2012 bill she sponsored which intended to protect the rights of transgender persons, actually makes all same-sex gatherings illegal in the province. This will come as some surprise to many lesbians and gays who often exercise their rights to assemble freely in meetings, conferences, and social groups with other same-sex persons.  In addition, DiNovo claims the right of Ontarian women to assemble in any same-sex gatherings: whether they be reproductive rights orgs, Islamic faith gatherings, or lesbian support groups- has been eliminated by her bill. She has appealed to the Ontario Human Rights Council to back up her legal position.

DiNovo made her announcement in response to male complaints surrounding a small group of feminists holding a female-only meeting in a Toronto art gallery. DiNovo characterized same-sex meetings as “reprehensible” and vowed to use Toby’s Act to eliminate and prosecute current and future same-sex gatherings of women or lesbians in the province. “I’m hoping that now under Toby’s law, this will be considered illegal.”

Somehow I doubt this was the intent of the women, lesbians and gays who supported DiNovo and the passage of Toby’s Act. Like Washington State’s Colleen Francis using that state’s non-discrimination act to exercise his “right” to expose his penis to schoolgirls in women’s locker rooms, Toby’s Act had the unintended consequence of eliminating the rights of women, gays, lesbians, muslims, feminists, to hold same-sex gatherings. Presumably this also eliminates the rights of transgender people to assemble in sex-segregated meetings, although DiNovo has not yet clarified that point. Planned Parenthood Toronto sponsored “Breaking Through The Cotton Ceiling” seminars for transgenders to strategize how to convince lesbians to accept sex with penises. The “cotton ceiling” in that case referred to the underwear of lesbians. These public meetings were restricted to male transgenders only.

Canada faces another set of unintended consequences with Bill C-279, the Federal Gender Identity Act, which is set for a vote in the next legislative session. This bill, like Toby’s Act, purports to eliminate discrimination based on “Gender Identity”, which is the right to identify with the social role of the opposite sex.  Obviously this proposed new legal “sex-role” status is problematic for those – such as feminists and progressives- who believe stereotypes based on sex are antiquated, sexist, offensive, (not to mention they sanction inequality for women and girls). Many feel the government should not promote the belief that citizens should look/behave/think certain ways based on our reproductive sex (or our identification with the opposite sex). But what are the other, specific, legal consequences of Bill C-279, which like the erosion of women’s and gay rights to assemble caused by DiNovo’s Toby’s Act, might not become apparent until after the law is passed?

According to Senator Nancy Ruth, the first lesbian Senator in Canada, we already know what some of the unintended consequences of Bill C-279 will be. From the DailyExtra:

“Women and girls in Canada are not protected from hate speech under the Criminal Code, and this bill does not rectify that when it could,” Ruth said.

 “For 35 years, across numerous bills, Parliament has told the girls and women of Canada that, despite alarming rates of violence against girls and women, violence that typically includes hate speech, they are not worthy of protection,” she explained.

 “The omission is not an oversight. In 1985, the federally appointed Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution said that there was ‘ample evidence’ indicating women were the targets of hate material. The committee recommended that the Criminal Code hate laws be amended to extend protection to women, but no Parliament has done that. Why? I have spoken before in this chamber about this gap in the law,” she continued.

 “This bill will privilege men who choose to become women over women who are born female,” Ruth said. “While I do not question the good intentions of the sponsor and the supporters of the bill, I simply do not understand how they could advance this bill without including all women. Passage of Bill C-279 will mean that only if a woman is born a man who later chooses to identify as a woman will she receive protection, but a woman born a woman will not receive the same protection.

Senator Ruth has proposed an amendment to Bill C-279 which simply maintains “sex” as a protected status along with “gender identity”. This will prevent sex-based protections for women from being eliminated by Bill C-279, in the way that Toby’s Act inadvertently eliminated the legal rights of women and lesbians to free assembly.

Senator Nancy Ruth

Senator Nancy Ruth

Women of Canada must not lose human rights in order to protect the rights of transgender people, due to sloppy lawmaking. The battle to reclaim women’s human right to assemble- that DiNovo claims was lost by the passage of Toby’s Act- will now start its long winding legal trail towards correction, after the fact. With Bill C-279 we have an opportunity to correct an unintended consequence before it occurs, and we have a lesbian Senator making a stand for our rights, right now. Do not leave her standing alone. She needs your support on this issue. Please organize to support Senator Ruth’s amendment now. Create awareness of the issue among women’s groups and legislators. Write letters to the editor. Contact her office and ask what you can do to help.

Let us protect the rights of all Canadians. Including the rights of Women and Girls.

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[bolding by me-GM]

Radfem 2012 is shaping up to be a groundbreaking conference for females organizing for female liberation. The first three speakers have been announced and are Gail Dines, Sheila Jeffreys, and Pragna Patel. From the RadFem 2012 website: 

Gail Dines is a long time radical feminist activist, and a founding member of Stop Porn Culture. She is a Professor in Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College, Boston, and her publications include Gender, Race and Class in Media (ed.) and Pornography: The production and consumption of inequality.  Her most recent book, Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality, was published in 2010 by Beacon Press.  Gail lectures widely on the radical feminist critique of pornography, and organises regular conferences and trainings on radical feminist anti-pornography activism.

 Sheila Jeffreys is a lesbian feminist who has been an activist against violence against women and the sex industry since the early 1970s.  She is Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and her many books on the history and politics of sexuality include Anticlimax: A feminist perspective on the sexual revolution, Unpacking Queer Politics and The Industrial Vagina: The political economy of the global sex trade. Her most recent book is Man’s Dominion: The rise of religion and the eclipse of women’s rights, published in 2012 by Routledge.  She is the founding member of the Australian branch of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

 Pragna Patel is a founding member of Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism.  Having left SBS in 1993 to train and practice as a solicitor, she returned in 2009 as Director.  She has been centrally involved in some of SBS’ most important campaigns around domestic violence, immigration and religious fundamentalism.  She has also written extensively on race, gender and religion.  Her many publications include essays in Black British Feminism: A Reader (ed. Heidi Mirza) and From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers (ed. Rahila Gupta) and Feminist Judgements from Theory to Practice (ed. Hunter, McGlynn and Rackley).

More speakers will be announced soon.

Anti-female activists are already organizing against the rights of females to hold a conference for females. Besides the usual conservative MRA types, some of the anti-female forces against this conference include transgender activists and pro-prostitution pro-trafficking activists who claim that females must be prevented from organizing and meeting together in female-only spaces.

Controversial anti-lesbian University of New Hampshire representative Joelle Ruby Ryan, the male transgender who recently forwarded the theories that “lesbian erasure” is code for “trans bashing” and that males are justified in wanting lesbians dead, has dedicated his entire twitter to the idea that even allowing females to meet and organize together is a form of “hate” against males. (The anti-gay University of New Hampshire rep previously supported a series of seminars called “Breaking Through The Cotton Ceiling” which were male-only sessions devoted to organizing around the “problem” of lesbians not wanting sex with males, and formulating reparative/coercive strategies against lesbians, who the males claimed were “discriminating” against males by not wanting sexual relations with them). Ryan has called for flooding the RadFem2012 website with anti-female spam emails.

The once popular F-Word blog (the “word-too-shameful-to-be-named” is purportedly “Feminist”) has openly declared that female activism “oppresses us all” by excluding males, and suggests that its readers boycott the event.

Commenters on Democratic Underground offer that females organizing around female concerns are “sickening”, “disgusting”, to do so is anti-male “bigotry”.

The twitter hashtag #RadFem2012 is chock full of comments expressing alarm that female liberationists are meeting to discuss female concerns. “I’m kinda surprised #RadFem2012 allow *any* kids or mums, considering that’s all a tad difficult without a bloke being involved somewhere.” Says one. “Smash RadFem2012” says another. One suggests organizing a UK version of Camp Trans, which is a group of anti-lesbian and anti-female activists that conducts harassment, vandalism and terrorism against the lesbian and female-only US Michfest Women’s Music Festival.

And all this within hours of the first three speakers being announced. Clearly even one group of females organizing for female liberation is so threatening to males and handmaidens of the patriarchy that they would like to “smash” and otherwise prevent such a meeting by any means necessary. Anti-female activists have started letter-writing campaigns against the venue holding the event- again WITHIN HOURS of the first speaker announcements.

The rights of lesbians and females –even the basic human right to meet and congregate– are UNDER SEIGE by conservatives, religionists, genderists, anti-gay activists, pimps and pro-trafficking forces, and now even some of those that call themselves liberal or “fun feminists”. Make no mistake. The outlawing of female gatherings and political organizing is NOT a “third world” concern. The very right of females to meet and gather in lesbian or female spaces is under siege by anti-lesbian and anti-female forces.

I urge every female, every lesbian, and every male who supports the rights of females to lend this conference your attention, your attendance, or your financial contribution as appropriate.

From the RadFem2012 website “Why RadFem 2012”:

“RadFem 2012 has developed from the passionate conviction that a UK-based radical feminist conference is badly needed and long overdue.

‘Radical feminism creates an original political and social theory of women’s oppression, and strategies for ending that oppression which come from women’s lived experiences.’ (Rowland and Klein, 1996).

RadFem 2012 puts women, and women’s lived experiences, at its centre.  The event takes place in the context of epidemic levels of male violence against women, the ongoing expansion of pornography and the sex industry, cultural misogyny as an everyday reality and the devastating effects of neoliberal economic policies and environmental destruction on women across the globe.

It takes place in a historical moment where structural analyses of oppression have been marginalised, and where those who are oppressed are blamed for their own oppression.  At a time when a powerful sex industry lobby has adopted the language of feminism in order to try to persuade us that the sexual objectification of women is a route to ‘empowerment’ and that women’s involvement in pornography or prostitution is simply a matter of individual choice.

Radical feminism is a revolutionary politics for the liberation of all women from male domination.  Radical feminists neither seek ‘equality’ with men within a fundamentally oppressive system, nor simply to extend women’s range of choices whilst leaving that oppressive system intact.  Radical feminists are engaged in the struggle to end all forms of male violence, and for the liberation of all women from patriarchal oppression.  In short, we are engaged in a struggle for total social transformation.  In Catherine Mackinnon’s phrase, radical feminism is ‘feminism unmodified’.

RadFem 2012 aims to provide a space to discuss and develop radical feminist theory and action, rooted in the realities of women’s lives.  We take the necessity of women’s autonomous organising as a given.  In doing so, we recognise the additional oppressions faced by many women, and are committed to building an explicitly anti-racist and anti-oppressive movement that is inclusive and supportive of all women, across differences of race, ethnicity, nationality, class, disability, sexuality, age and caring responsibilities. We celebrate the power of women uniting and organising collectively.

Many of us involved in radical feminist organising feel isolated, even within the wider feminist movement.  In our experience, the need for an autonomous women’s movement and the value of women-only organising are seldom recognised.  Women-only spaces are either rare, non-existent or under siege.  Radical feminism is often misrepresented and maligned. The trend towards post-modernism and queer theory have marginalised feminist critiques of patriarchy, and rendered lesbian feminism all but invisible.

RadFem 2012 aims to provide a space where women can connect to reflect, learn, plan and take action.”