Tina K. Russell

June 28, 2010

Nowhere is safe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 12:38 pm

Sometimes people think I must be pretty safe, as a trans person in a liberal city like Eugene, attending the University of Oregon. After all, don’t hate crimes happen, like, in the Deep South, and in developing countries?

…And certainly not, say, California?

Police are reporting that a 27-year-old transgender student at CSU Long Beach was slashed in a men’s room on campus earlier this month.

Although the attack took place ten days ago, the university only made it public this Friday.

The student’s assailant addressed him by name before the attack, asking him whether he was that person. The victim of the assault did not recognize his attacker, but was able to provide police with information enabling them to create a sketch.

Police have not said whether they are investigating the incident as a hate crime. The Long Beach Post has, however, reported that a Facebook entry on the incident claimed that the attacker carved the word “IT” into the victim’s chest.

The attacked student was treated for his injuries in a local hospital and released that evening.

via Transgender Student Slashed In Campus Restroom « Student Activism, via Questioning Transphobia.

This is the fear I live in, every day, in the back of my mind. I could walk down the wrong street, go on the wrong date, be in the wrong hallway at the wrong time, and—bam!—my lifetime of remaining mostly un-trans-bashed would end with injuries, rape, or worse.

Cis women know this fear to some extent as well, of course, given our sexist society. But when a trans man is attacked, while using the bathroom at a state school in sunny California, and the attacker carves into his chest using a knife, it’s the sort of thing that chills me to my core. We, as trans people, aren’t even safe when using the bathroom. At school. If you’re not safe at your own school when you’re only trying to pee, you’re not safe anywhere.

Even in California, the bleeding West Coast, we’re not safe.

Pray for me.

(Two notes. Number one: I couldn’t find anything saying whether or not the physical scars left by the carving would heal. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than walking around for the rest of my life with an anti-trans slur carved onto my chest. The emotional scars will take time to heal, but I certainly hope the physical scars will heal up soon.)

(Number two: Transgender Day of Remembrance records 60 deaths of trans people due to transphobic violence in the US West Coast (defined as Washington, Oregon, and California) since 1970, and that’s only what’s reported. 56 of these deaths were in California. Part of the reason I tend to think I’m safer than others is because I’m white, and I’m in college, which removes many risk factors in our prejudiced society right there. So, part of my thinking was that if a trans man whose race was unreported can be attacked at a West Coast state school, so can I, a white trans woman at a West Coast state school. I shouldn’t let my white privilege get in the way of remembering, though, that my region of the US has plenty of transphobic violence, and that an attack on any of us is an attack on all.)

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June 27, 2010

Dear Gender (Free) For All: Don’t erase me; I am not gender-free

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 1:16 am

I wrote this to the Portland organization Gender (Free) For All just now. It’s pretty self-explanatory. The short version is that I thought the group’s 2009 march was supposed to be for all trans people, but it felt more like it was for only some. Key poor choices effectively erased my identity, making me feel like I wasn’t welcome.

(Note that, as a grammar nut, I also have a problem with parentheses in a proper name, but I decided to choose my battles in the letter itself.)

Hey, there. I was reading about the recent Trans March in San Francisco and I got to thinking.

I attended the Gender (Free) For All march in 2009, and I really enjoyed it. (I was the one with a red cape and black bikini.) Still, the name upset me; I want to be proud of being transgender, and of being transsexual, and I know that we never agree on labels but I want “transgender” to be inclusive of the whole community (whether trans-binary, genderqueer, otherwise gender-variant, cross-dressers, etc.). The difficulty of ensuring that the historically marginalized genderqueer community is included is an important issue, but I’ve always felt that “Gender (Free) For All” as a name only makes the problem worse. I don’t consider myself to be gender-free, nor do any gender-binary folk, and not all genderqueer folk either. In fact, I worked hard, all my life, to be known as a woman. My gender identity is extremely important to me. When I feel like it’s being taken away, by insinuations that I am (or should be) “gender-free,” liberated from the concept of gender entirely, it hurts, and it reinforces the idea that trans people are automatically a “third gender” even if they are trans-binary like me.

(I know the name has parentheses in it, but really, I cannot parse what “gender for all” would mean. It doesn’t make sense.)

As if to confirm my fears, as I lined up for the show-and-tell segment, I saw and heard that one of the questions asked was if participants agreed with the “either-or” system of gender. Now, as I explained, I don’t, because it’s unfair to people who feel it does not include them. Personally, though, I continued, I am a woman, and want—and work hard for—people to see me that way. It was bizarre, because I was essentially fed a position I strongly agree with, but phrased in a way that made me have to feel I had to defend my own identity, that I was working from a “default” of being, well, “gender-free.” It was, all told, pretty offensive.

So, if you do another march—and I would really like you to, given my pride in Portland and my pride in being trans—I would deeply appreciate if you call it simply the “Trans March,” because, in all honesty, I’m tired of feeling ashamed for being trans, tired of being shunted back of the “LGBT” initialism, tired of being treated like I’m a second-class queer. I want us to make sure we emphasize the diversity of “trans” and “transgender,” end the media stereotype that all trans people are binary women like me, and push inclusion of the genderqueer and otherwise gender-variant into every aspect of the trans movement and philosophy. We need to stop pretending that “transgender” is monolithic, that there’s only one way to be trans. There are as many ways to be trans as there are trans people. I am not every trans person, nor do I ever want to be. Let’s take back the term “trans,” in all its prismatic beauty, and hold it up as a badge of honor instead of shying away from it in shame. Let’s celebrate every way there is to be trans, instead of falsely implying—as the name “Gender (Free) for All” does—that there is only one way.

Thank you.

—Tina Russell
https://tinarussell.wordpress.com/

I’ll keep you posted.

February 1, 2009

Of G-men and G-strings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:22 pm

News: Local | “Morrisette plans to try new anti-strip club legislation” | The Register-Guard
SALEM — Sick of seeing Oregon cities stuck with no way to keep strip clubs out of their downtowns, state Sen. Bill Morrisette is asking lawmakers to consider allowing cities to decide where sexually oriented businesses can open up shop.

Morrisette, a Democrat from Springfield, said his hometown’s fight to keep strip club Shakers Bar and Grill out of its core inspired him to create the resolution.

Oregon’s Constitution protects sex shops as a form of free speech, meaning they may open in any commercial zone. Morrisette said he wants lawmakers to put before voters a constitutional amendment to give cities more control.

This idea has been bouncing around Oregon for-freaking-ever and I’m absolutely sick of it. If such a law were in place, segregating sex shops into specialized “seedy zones,” at what point would an establishment become a “sex shop”? What if a bookstore started selling too much erotica? What if a bar hired a belly dancer? And, as the article notes, what would become of strip clubs already outside of legislated no-strip zones? Would they be forced to move, or would they be grandfathered in? It looks like an overreach to me.

I think this campaign amounts to putting a delicate pasty on the exposed nipple of Oregon’s problems. Sex shops don’t exist in a vacuum; if men are lonely and want to pay for an extended cocktease, legislation isn’t really going to change that. What it will do is make the factors everyone complains about worse. Restricted to their own, sealed, self-reinforcing neighborhoods, sex clubs will hardly be able to overcome their own stereotypes of being single-minded, exploitative, and appealing only to men. It’s not going to matter that there are men and women who strip artfully and on their own terms, that exotic dancing is an art form that goes back over a hundred years, that erotica can be written gracefully and tastefully and read by perfectly intelligent people. If all “sex shops” are penned into erotic ghettos, it’s only going to magnify their worst aspects, as only the stereotypical clientèle will be unafraid to go there.

If anything is going to reform the Oregon sex industry, it’s, well, exposure. How will strippers bargain for better working conditions if the state has pushed their business out of sight and out of mind? If it’s true that sex clubs only attract thugs, how will it help to place them where only thugs would go? (How would someone intending to run a club well get the opportunity to do so?) And what of the soccer mom who wants a subtle book of erotica to pleasure herself with after she’s put the kids to bed? What of the college student who wants a vibrator to help her get through the stress of midterms? Why mandate that they would have to go to unsafe red-light districts instead of someplace downtown that might take them seriously? How could the culture of erotica be changed to serve everyone—to address its legitimate criticisms—if it’s mandated by government that it wallow in its own filth?

I should note that I don’t patronize sex shops, I’ve never been to a strip club, and I don’t read or watch pornography. I’m simply angry when any culture is attacked over legitimate concerns, and then forced to be unable to address them. For all I know, all of Oregon’s strip clubs are as bad as they say. What if somebody wanted to start a better one, though, with wider appeal, with different kinds of bodies, with more innate reverence for sexuality? Why limit them to an area where gathering a clientèle for such a place would be impossible?

Perhaps the best comeback to this sort of idea was on Michael Moore’s late-nineties TV show, The Awful Truth. One episode covered a New York City ordinance, under Rudy Giuliani, saying that all sex-related stores had to contain 60% non-sex-related items. (I’m not sure how well that ever did, or if it’s still around.) As a stunt, Moore and his crew set up a shop of their own, containing 60% Rudy Giuliani memorabilia and 40% sex toys. It was brilliant.

August 13, 2008

Merkley’s crude remarks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:31 pm

Merkley, Wyden offer fuel for thought – Breaking News From Oregon & Portland – Oregonlive.com
Senate candidate Jeff Merkley promised Wednesday to move aggressively against high gas prices, hoping to turn voter anger over $4 gas into votes that will fuel his drive to the U.S. Senate.

“As long as we’re hostage to oil sheiks overseas, we’re mortgaging our future,” Merkley said, standing with Wyden at the Portland gas station.

I’m voting for Merkley, but oh my god. Did he really just say that? Talking about “oil sheiks” would be like saying we’re held hostage by “media rabbis” or something, in that it’s both hateful and inaccurate. The biggest exporter of crude oil to the US (as of 2007) is Canada, followed by Saudi Arabia, then Mexico, then Venezuela, then Nigeria. I wonder if we’ll start hearing about the “Canucks of crude” or the “petroleum padres” any time soon. 20% of our oil is from the Persian Gulf, so it’s true that our oil is disproportionately Middle Eastern, but it’s nowhere near overwhelming.

I’m all for energy independence, I’d just rather not see the “scary Arab” trotted out to sell the policy. (The “scary speculators” thing is similar, though speculators probably aren’t in danger of having their houses firebombed.) Fighting the oil addiction means a change in us, not just railing at those around us.

With Merkley joining him in the Senate Wyden said Oregon would benefit, predicting that the state would “become the Saudia Arabia of renewables.”

I have no doubt about that. 20 years ago Oregon was a state reeling from restrictions on logging (which I should note are, in part, so that the industry doesn’t simply log itself out and put itself out of business), but we invested in high-tech industry and we’re now home to an Intel campus and to Linux creator Linus Torvalds. However, with Abu Dhabi (in Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates) investing in clean energy from the bundle they’ve made in dirty energy, we may want to hurry before Saudi Arabia because the Saudi Arabia of renewables.

July 30, 2008

My worldview is confirmed

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

Oregon state senator wounded in gun accident – Breaking News Updates from Portland and Oregon – The Oregonian – OregonLive.com
The Medford Mail Tribune reports that Republican Jason Atkinson, 37, was hit while repairing a friend’s bicycle Tuesday.

Central Point police say a .38-caliber derringer was in a bag attached to the bike, and it fired when Atkinson dropped the bag.

Man, if only he had had a gun with him. Then, he could have defended himself!

(Actually, it does sound like he’s in pretty bad shape, which is sad. I hope he makes it out all right.)

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