Happy Pride!

June 11, 2018

benshalom1

The nameless members of the Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors stripped legendary rights activist Miriam Ben-Shalom of her honored spot as Grand Marshall of the June 12, 2016 “Heroes of Pride” event after men monitoring her Facebook page noticed women had made posts there that were critical of the idea of heterosexual “male lesbians”.

Miriam Ben-Shalom will be a familiar name to Lesbian and Gay Rights activists and historians. She was the first openly homosexual individual to be reinstated into military service after serving as plaintiff in multiple lawsuits and refusing a cash settlement.

benshalom-wl01-12-p

After serving in the Israeli Army as an Armored Personnel Carrier driver, she enlisted as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army from 1974-1976, when she was dismissed on the basis of homosexuality, and served again from 1987- 1990 following her reinstatement after a decade of trials. She was then discharged, yet again, on the basis of homosexuality, ending her military career.

She co-founded the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA) and spent another decade organizing activism against the U.S. military policy of exclusion, and later against the Clinton era “Don’t  Ask Don’t Tell” policy. She chained herself, in uniform, to the White House fence in 1993. Along with Dan Choi and other lesbian and gay service-members she was arrested after again chaining herself to the White House fence in 2010. President Barack Obama invited her to the White House in recognition of her decades of activism, she stood present when he signed the law repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” later that year.

benshalom-panel-photo

 

This is not the first time hetersexual male members of the “LGBT” have surveiled, attacked, and dishonored Miriam Ben-Shalom’s legacy. Last year trans activist Autumn Sandeen wrote an entire OpEd sponsored by the San Diego LGBTWeekly titled “Unknowingly protesting with a lesbian transphobe!” where he complained that he observed Miriam using the term “Woman Born Woman” on a facebook post. He said this was offensive to men because it made a distinction between individuals born male or female. He went on to state that he wished, as a heterosexual male, that he had never protested DADT, a policy which never affected straight men like himself anyway.

 

Here is the full text of the Milwaukee Pride Parade Board notification to Miriam Ben-Shalom, stripping her of Grand Marshall Honors, followed by Miriam’s response to the board:

 

Dear Ms Ben-Shalom,

I am writing you today about our offering of the 2016 Grand Marshal position to you.

The Board of Directors was excited to have an opportunity to acknowledge your many contributions to the LGBT community by offering you the Grand Marshal position for this year’s parade. However, shortly after we offered you the position, it was brought to our attention that your Facebook page contains a number of posts asserting that transwomen are a danger to young girls in public bathrooms and locker rooms. After considering these posts, it is the Board’s opinion that these posts are transphobic and as such represent an attack on an important segment of the LBGT community.

While we fully support a person’s right to express their own beliefs and political opinions, we also feel it is important that our Grand Marshals publicly declared beliefs mesh with those held by the Milwaukee Pride Parade and the Board of Directors. The Grand Marshal is the public face of the Milwauee Pride Parade and thus needs to be someone whose views are compatible with our own.

The Bylaws of the Milwaukee Pride Parade include our mission statement, “To provide an outlet to the citizens of South Eastern Wisconsin in which GLBT individuals and groups can participate in a parade to show their pride.”  We are an inclusive organization that seeks to be free of intolerance, and seeks to promote the equality of all members of the community. As such, we feel that we cannot have a Grand Marshal who has publically and repeatedly denigrated transwomen.

We wish to apologize for rescinding our offer of this honor. It is not a step that we take lightly, and it in no way should be considered a denial of the important work you have previously done for the LGBT community. Please understand this was never our intent to lead you on.

The Board of Directors would like to thank you for your understanding of this situation.

Sincerely,

The Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors

Miriam Ben-Shalom’s reply:

 

To you bunch of Moral reprobates–so cowardly you can’t even post a name: Really rather a cowardly manner to deal with this. You are not correct about my FB page, although my FB page does have posts from others on it about the so-called trans issue. This issue is very sensitive for women born of women, but I would not expect men to understand. Further, no one asked me about my stance — which is very discriminatory indeed. For your information, I am indeed a PERF–penis exclusionary radical feminist who believes that women born of women have the right to safe spaces of their own and cultural events they put on for themselves and those sisters who might like to attend. After all, men have had a long history of male only spaces in the GBT community and not much ado was made of it.

I believe that gender roles ought to be abolished so that people can just be–without feeling the need to surgically change their bodies to meet binary stereotypes which are artificial and not biological. Your elimination is called sexism and is discriminatory and misogynistic.  When I consider what the trans community did to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the threats that were made there that I personally saw and heard and when I consider the threats directed at women who stand up to speak out about women’s safety, I become firmer in my estimation of who these people are and what trans means to –it appears–a great many people.  No woman I know would threaten to kill another woman because of opinion.  No woman I know would call others who differing opinions the nastiest words in the English language.  Therefore, Pride Parade Committee: You are no better then those who threatened to hurt women born of women simply because they wished to be in a nurturing environ with others who were like minded.  One may hope you take the so-called Trans community to task for all the threats and nastiness heaped on women as you took me.

I see that Milwaukee Pride cares more about men than it does about women’s safety. So be it. I was truthful about my beliefs and I hold with Thomas Paine: “It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive any thing more destructive to morality than this?” Thanks for fucking me over for being honest about what I think. You are no better than the Army.>>

Should you wish more from me, I will be GLAD to cooperate.

Miriam Ben-Shalom

images-1

787a42e79748fd79b19dd859ed44417d

Left as a comment on this post:

https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/exiles-in-their-own-flesh-a-psychotherapist-speaks/

Reading this makes me glad that I grew up in a time and place where such resources weren’t present. If I may tell a bit of my story to highlight why I agree with this doctor. Born male, I can only speak to my experience regarding the homosexual mtt side, so I don’t discuss the ftt side because it isn’t my place to do so.

I was a young gay kid, constantly attacked for being ‘feminine’, in a violently homophobic environment which militantly guarded classical gender roles. Eventually I learned how to play the right role and stopped getting harassed, but this was very taxing, depressing, and repulsive to me. It wore me down to such an extent that it became easier to fall for the transgender tropes than it was to accept that my situation was hopeless.

Homelessness as a young teenager was a distinct possibility if I didn’t learn to conform–a stated policy in my house in fact. I see now that my situation rhymes in some ways with the situation many gays and lesbians face in Iran, where the state and society attempt to erase their homosexuality via surgery in order to preserve the social regime. To my shame, though there was no state forcing me down this path, I stumbled down it on my own because, absurdly enough, it was easier for me (in my mind) to try to erase my homosexuality and natural deviation from gender norms, than to stand up for myself and face the consequences. By thinking I was trans, I was suddenly (in my mind) no longer a hated and self-loathing effeminate gay boy but somebody with a fixable medical condition who would, after fixing it, end up leading a perfectly normal life. It was a false hope that made the years of conforming more bearable when I really should have been looking towards the hope of change, the hope of resisting, the hope of breaking the chains of homophobia and patriarchy. The trans propaganda can be enticing for some vulnerable young gay minds since it offers a sort of out to the seeming contradiction of being biologically male (or female) yet not behaving or loving like males (or females) are supposed to behave or love. But it is a hope that affirms rather than resists classic patriarchy.

Last year (I’m in my early 30s now), I nearly started down a path of trans medical intervention that would have bankrupted me and damaged my body. Just before an appointment, a friend had a personal tragedy and needed the money I had saved up more than I did. This delayed my entry into the medical path and gave me time to think more carefully and do more research. This website above all others helped me see through the confusion, helped me realize that I could only find happiness by living my life as a proud gay man, that I could only honor women by respecting them, listening to them, and resisting patriarchy where I could.

What if I had gone down the medical path as I almost did last year as an adult, or worse yet, what if I had these resources available as a teenager when I was at my most vulnerable? I think I would have created a miserable life for myself. As of now, I’m finding happiness honoring my biology, honoring my sexuality, honoring my difference. I am grateful that I was never “blessed” so early by access to a medical establishment that is alarmingly eager to let people damage their bodies. I am learning to unwind the masks I created to protect myself as a teen as I build the courage to be who I am openly and proudly.

If you are under 16, you can’t vote, you can’t drive, you can’t smoke or drink alcohol, you can’t gamble, you can’t enter into a contract, you can’t live on your own, but in our brave new world you can elect to make radical hormonal and physical changes to your body. The justice system recognizes that the teenage brain is not fully formed and doesn’t hold juveniles to the same level of accountability as it does adults; yet the trans movement says that they should be virtually handed pills and a scalpel. Thank you for continuing to point out the absurdity of this.

I think most people on either side of this issue want the same thing: a better world for the next generation. I strongly suspect that this better world can be found through social change rather than surgical intervention. The former is a lot harder than the latter, but it’s also the only path that will improve the world for everyone, not just the few.

rainbow-light-earth