Tina K. Russell

January 3, 2009

What inclusion really means

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:01 pm

Aleisha Cuff of Vancouver, BC:

A transsexual woman’s perspective
As a transsexual woman myself, especially one who considers herself a feminist, I often feel scrutinized by cisgendered feminists in ways that other women are not.

Trans women are in a tremendously difficult position: if we’re too feminine we’re acting as sexist caricatures, whereas if we’re too masculine that just proves we’re not women in the first place. If we speak up, we’re aggressively grabbing the microphone, and if we don’t we’re supporting the premise that women are meek and submissive.

The most troubling part, though, is that often in the middle of a screed against trans women the ‘trans’ part begins to feel secondary, and the focus of the anger becomes femaleness or femininity itself.

It is of great concern to me, then, and should be of concern to all women that the community in which I have experienced the most anger and bigotry for being a transsexual woman has been the community of cisgendered queer women.

Eventually I found a community of my own, although it was largely made up of people far from Vancouver.

In blogs and on message boards I began to find other trans women who felt like I did, frustrated with being excluded from the community of queer women. It was a place in which I could discover myself and begin to tell my story in ways I could feel proud of, the place I had hoped the LGBT community would be.

I didn’t just find other trans women, I found a host of queers who had become disaffected in one way or another with LGBT.

Most importantly, I found a place where I could meet women and it didn’t matter if I was trans or not, or if they were trans or not, we just got up to what queer women will get up to.

How often we’re seen as desirable is a fairly accurate measure of a community’s relationship with trans people. Inclusion isn’t inclusion if it stops at the bedroom door.

This brings me close to tears. It’s brilliant. I have nothing to add, other than that I’ve lived—and felt—every word.

December 18, 2008

Looking back on Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:56 pm

Letters – When Your Beliefs and My Civil Rights Collide – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

The deep repugnance and aversion to homosexuality held by the black church-going community revealed in the passing of Proposition 8 in California are not a wedge in the progressive agenda. They are simply a very common human failing. It is human to scapegoat.

This is an opportunity to make the tent even bigger, if it is construed as an opportunity to examine prejudice from the other side.

Progressives should invite the black church community to engage in the dialogue. The result would allow all those in the tent to feel and work better with each other. The tent would become an even better tent.

It would even make it easier to reach out to those still outside the tent. Name-calling means we have learned nothing.

Catherine Barinas
New York, Dec. 7, 2008

It’s sad the way the media consistently frames the post-Prop. 8 debate as “gays vs. blacks” (props to Stephen Colbert for excellently lampooning this). The truth, beyond the fact that the Obama surged actually hurt, rather than helped, Proposition 8, is that there is a deep well of social conservatism in older black and Hispanic communities. The problem that poses to gay rights is not insurmountable, and it’s important; just imagine you were gay, as well as black or Hispanic, and you were in the closet, or your were afraid to discuss your significant other, or people assumed you didn’t exist because you aren’t white. How would you feel?

We all underestimated the threat of Proposition 8, and the finger-pointing is understandable. My feeling is that we never spoke to the concerns of these communities that vote Democratic but aren’t necessarily thrilled about same-sex marriage. We never countered the arguments of the scaremongers, we never established that the same-sex marriage ruling doesn’t have any effect on schools or churches, we never claimed the mantle (as we should have) of strengthening marriage, love, and commitment for all Americans. It’s tough to establish the very real, and very sad, links between Jim Crow separate-but-equal laws and the idea of a separate institution for gay “civil unions” when gays are stereotyped as being white and well-to-do. If the truth got out—that whether or not you know, gay people are in your family, among your teachers, among your coworkers, among all the people you love and admire—it would change the dynamic entirely.

Prop. 8 might still get thrown out on the grounds that the California Constitution does not allow such sweeping changes to it without a Constitutional convention. Let’s hope the California Supreme Court rules the right way and strikes down this loathsome, opportunistic ballot measure. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Supreme Courts are there to protect fundamental rights, whether or not they’re in vogue; these are the kind of rights than cannot be invalidated by simple majority. Either way, though, I think I speak for us all in saying that I hope we learn as we heal from this debacle.

November 13, 2008

Discipleship and Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:06 pm

This essay really puts a lump in my throat. Christopher Priest on Proposition 8:

The Guy With The Microphone (According To Me)
The notion of gay marriage being a threat to straight marriage is ridiculous. The sanctity of marriage was undermined and trashed by *straight* people. These days, people treat marriage like it is the same as dating, people having “starter” or “trial” marriages—all of which I find offensive, and all of which undermines the sanctity of the institution. People, so committed to one another that simply dating is no longer enough for them, who fight for the right to be married, who risk their livelihoods and, in many cases, their personal safety if not their lives in order to marry—I can’t imagine in what way that kind of dedication undermine the institution of marriage. But, to be blunt—who cares? I mean, seriously, why do I care what other folk do?

Personally, I don’t affirm gay marriage. I don’t believe that’s what marriage is about. But, like navel tangerines [see earlier in the essay —Tina], that’s *my* belief. I don’t feel some compelling need to force people to agree with me or to live their lives the way I do. Moreover, there’s a terrible and slippery slope that begins with the denial of anyone’s civil rights. It’s quicksand: the more we do it, the easier doing it becomes. That people can’t see the connection between Prop 8 and The Patriot Act and FISA and Jim Crowe is utterly stunning to me, demonstrating how poor a job we do at educating our children, ourselves, not only about why America is great but about how easily the freedoms we take for granted can be stripped from us.

He goes on to discuss how denying civil rights to others is rather un-Christ-like. Jesus said that “my kingdom is not of this world,” imploring people to stockpile their treasures in heaven through deed rather than attempt to build a kingdom on Earth. To think we can do so is, as Priest says, blasphemous.

Priest is a minister and a writer. He was the first black writer both at Marvel and DC, and stomached a lot of bigotry for it without ever letting it change him. I cherish his run on Black Panther. Anyway, he’s excellent.

November 11, 2008

Love and Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:22 am

Please watch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

October 13, 2008

Conscience and courage in Connecticut court

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:49 pm

Gay Marriage Is Ruled Legal in Connecticut – NYTimes.com
A sharply divided Connecticut Supreme Court struck down the state’s civil union law on Friday and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Connecticut thus joins Massachusetts and California as the only states to have legalized gay marriages.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed and is to take effect on Oct. 28, held that a state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, and a civil union law intended to provide all the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

October 28th is my birthday! Thank you, Connecticut. You thought of me.

Really, you should visit the article ’cause the photograph… it will just put that fuzzy lump in your heart. It’s wonderful! Human rights does that to you.

Suddenly, couples that have been together for years or decades can finally get married, and be considered equal citizens in the eyes of the state. No longer will gay people in Connecticut have to get married on a separate “track” of some kind, raising the dark specter of “separate but equal” that had a sad history in the United States. But most of all, I just love the idea that human beings, regardless of sexual orientation or race or class or whatever, deserve equal rights and respect. The fact that the government, which plays a large role in setting the tone for society, is extending that respect is wonderful.

Let this freedom spread from state to state! Equal marriage rights for gay couples! Go forth!

Striking at the heart of discriminatory traditions in America, the court — in language that often rose above the legal landscape into realms of social justice for a new century — recalled that laws in the not-so-distant past barred interracial marriages, excluded women from occupations and official duties, and relegated blacks to separate but supposedly equal public facilities.

“Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection,” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the majority in a 4-to-3 decision that explored the nature of homosexual identity, the history of societal views toward homosexuality and the limits of gay political power compared with that of blacks and women.

“Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same-sex partner of their choice,” Justice Palmer declared. “To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.”

June 20, 2008

Paved with Good Intentions: Portraits of Well-Meaning Liberals (UPDATED)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:11 pm

From a list of Pride week events in San Francisco:

GAY PRIDE EVENTS
Good Vibrations

“Divas of San Francisco: Portraits of Transsexual Women.” Photographs by David Steinberg. Reception 6-8 p.m. Thurs. Through July 20. 1620 Polk St. (415) 974-8985, ext. 201.

facepalm

If you’re wondering why this makes me so angry, try to imagine a “High-Achieving Academics of San Francisco: Portraits of Asian Women” photo exhibition, or maybe a “Forthright Playas of San Fransico: Portraits of Black Men” one, or perhaps a “Mystical Shamans Who Cry When You Toss Away That Beer Bottle in San Francisco: Portraits of American Indians” one, and you may get the idea.

Basically, stereotyping in praise is still stereotyping. I’m essentially being called a “hot tranny mess,” and it makes me want to pound somebody’s eyeballs out. If I’m walking down the street of San Francisco, dressed in fashionable clothes and toting a purse, I wouldn’t mind people thinking I look pretty (why else would I dress up?), but I would mind if people thought right away, “wow, she’s a diva, she looks like she’s gonna take over the freakin’ world.” I loathe when people praise transsexuals for our default setting of “being transsexual”; they might as well be patting us on the head and giving us lollipops.

Grrrr.

UPDATE: Well, I feel silly now. My dear friend Riftgirl–see her blog, “Being ‘T,'” at right–fills us in through the comments.

I’m SO totally anal at times, it amazes even me. With regard to the exhibit title, it actually is very intentional – and appropriate. From the exhibit notes:

“For over five years, David Steinberg has been photographing transsexual women who frequent Divas Nightclub and Bar in San Francisco, the premier transgender club in the U.S.”

Still, I don’t know what “culture” has to do with a name of a bar. ;-) And on a side note, “premier transgender club”… Groan, I hate that kind of crap.

Hey, Riftgirl, don’t you get it? The nightclub is questioning its gender identity. That’s perfectly normal for its age. (I wonder what its parents think?)

June 11, 2008

Hooray for Norway

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:02 pm

World Briefing – Europe – Norway – New Rights Granted to Gays – Brief – NYTimes.com
The Parliament granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry and to adopt children on an equal basis with heterosexual couples. The country’s new universal marriage act, which also allows lesbians to be artificially inseminated in Norwegian medical facilities, supersedes a domestic partnership policy. “No longer will there be different classes of love,” Erling Lae, the chief commissioner of Oslo, told an online newspaper minutes after the Parliament’s 84-41 vote, adding that he now plans to marry his male companion of 26 years.

Thank you, Norway, for supporting basic human dignity at a time when it’s under attack. Let’s be ready to follow their example!

June 10, 2008

Human rights, for everyone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:42 pm

Alive In Baghdad
Maybe one of the of most difficult situations that an Iraqi could be in is to be gay, the Iraqi society in general discriminate against the gay and transsexual people, normally they consider them as people who left their gender and changed for sexual want.

Even though most gay people of Iraq have managed to live their lives, being born gay is almost the same as being born with an assurance of death. Most Iraqis don’t accept that homosexuality is something you’re born with, or which is assigned by your genes. Due to the Iraqi cultural and religious beliefs, homosexuality is forbidden and considered a mortal sin, and in many cases the penalty of death is assigned as the solution for it.

Some of the Iraqi homosexuals used to live in the Karrada neighborhood, practicing there life normally but still in secret. Although before the war as well they could not show that they are gay, due to the risk of being attacked verbally by the neighbors or the people they live with.

The article includes a video. I highly recommend watching it.

Of course, you can be gay and in the closet, but it’s very difficult to be transsexual in secret. The very visible period of transition, mandated for at least one year in the West, is when a transsexual’s life is usually at its most dangerous. So, some of the people discussed and interviewed here fall somewhere on the gender spectrum–a question of gender identity rather than sexual orientation, a separate quandary for a young person to be going through–rather than being simply gay, but it’s tough to be an out-and-about transsexual (or experiment and find out what you truly are) when your life is constantly in danger.

This makes me the whole war–both our war, and the Iraqi civil war–much more personal to me, gives me a connection to it… my sisters out there are in danger, and they’re dying. By the way, that website has a tip jar. I gave $10 to support independent media in Iraq since I was so grateful that these people I could relate to were getting attention in war-torn Iraq. What will you give?

Gay, transsexual, and gender-variant individuals deserve the same rights we all do, the same right to human dignity. It’s a global and a human-rights issue, plain as that. One reason you should watch the video is that the young people interviewed give suggestions to people in the international community. Let’s tear down the old modes of hate and fear and build something new on love and understanding.

That may sound soppy, but a very vague mistrust and discomfort with people who are different is what underlies all the widescale violence. Help people overcome their fears of what they don’t understand and to respect human diversity and expression, and you help end hate and the violence.

May 19, 2008

Hooray for California!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:09 am

Congratulations to the California Supreme Court, for recognizing all Americans’ right to marry.

California Court Affirms Right to Gay Marriage – New York Times
The California Supreme Court, striking down two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman, ruled Thursday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The court’s 4-to-3 decision, drawing on a ruling six decades ago that struck down the state’s ban on interracial marriage, would make California only the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages.

I especially like this part:

The court left open the possibility that the Legislature could use a term other than “marriage” to denote state-sanctioned unions so long as that term was used across the board — for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

That’s the best response to calls for “why not have same-sex marriage, but just call it something other than ‘marriage’?” Well, how would you like it if I told you that you couldn’t call your marriage a “marriage,” and said you should just use a different word? So, thanks to the court for making such a rule go across the board: if we call marriage for gay people something different, we’ll have to call marriage for straight people the same thing, at least legally.

What excellent news. This is the best day ever.

May 11, 2008

On Equality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:31 pm

Mildred Loving, Who Battled Ban on Mixed-Race Marriage, Dies at 68 – New York Times

Mildred Loving, a black woman whose anger over being banished from Virginia for marrying a white man led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling overturning state miscegenation laws, died on May 2 at her home in Central Point, Va. She was 68.

By their own widely reported accounts, Mrs. Loving and her husband, Richard, were in bed in their modest house in Central Point in the early morning of July 11, 1958, five weeks after their wedding, when the county sheriff and two deputies, acting on an anonymous tip, burst into their bedroom and shined flashlights in their eyes. A threatening voice demanded, “Who is this woman you’re sleeping with?”

Mrs. Loving answered, “I’m his wife.”

Mr. Loving pointed to the couple’s marriage certificate hung on the bedroom wall. The sheriff responded, “That’s no good here.”

Mrs. Loving stopped giving interviews, but last year issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of the announcement of the Supreme Court ruling, urging that gay men and lesbians be allowed to marry.

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