Twelfth Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance.
November 20, 2010
I really don't look forward to this day at all.
I dread the emotional impact of realizing the toll in human lives that sexism and misogyny take out as measured in human lives.
I don't want to think about people being killed because of their identity.
I cannot stand thinking about the lies, gloating, pride, vanity, bullying, cruelty and inhumanity behind each death blow.
I am angered by the willingess of juries and judges to allow murderers to go free because of "trans panic" or some other abominable story about why killing someone is acceptable because of the murderers ignorant, hate-filled judgments.
I feel helpless against the millions of deaf ears and thoughtless insults that it takes to bring about the change in law, religion, culture and family that is needed for human beings to be accepted as the gender they know themselves to be.
But, I am alive and I have the chance to help end all of this that I abhor and dread. So, I do not forget and I do not remain silent, because silence is murder.
So, I remember and I speak out and I ask that you do the same.
The Simone de Beauvoir Institute of Concordia University supports the recent decision by Ontario Superior Court judge Susan Himel with regards to Canada’s prostitution laws.
We support this decision as feminists, and in particular as feminists who have taken a position of leadership with regards to sexuality. The Simone de Beauvoir Institute is the oldest women’s studies program in Canada, established in 1978. We were the first Canadian university women’s studies to offer a course on lesbian studies (1985), we helped organize La Ville en Rose, an international conference on lesbian and gay studies held in 1992, and were active in the implementation of the first undergraduate course on HIV/AIDS at any Canadian university (1994). Since 2006, we offer an elective course entitled “Framing the prostitute,” which considers the ways in which debates about prostitution are constructed – within feminist, policy, and activist sites.
For more than three decades, then, the Simone de Beauvoir Institute has provided leadership with regards to questions of sexuality. Our position in support of the Himel decision continues a long tradition of deep reflection and action with regards to sexuality.
(This paper was presented at the IV International Congress on Islamic Feminism in Madrid, 21-24 October 2010)
I am delighted to be here, and I would like to thank the organizers, in particular Abdennur Prado, for inviting me to the Fourth Congress on Islamic Feminism. I am sorry that my co-panelist compatriot, Ms Fariba Alasvand, whose scholarship and writings I have been following from afar for some time, was not able to be here. I am grateful to Mr Joaquin Rodriguez for presenting her paper.
The term ‘Islamic Feminism’ gained currency in the 1990s as a label for a brand of feminist scholarship and activism that was associated with Islam and Muslims. I was among the first scholars to use the term to speak of a new gender consciousness that emerged in Iran in the early 1990s, a decade after the 1979 popular revolution that led to a merger of religious and political power in the country. There has since been much discussion and debate and a growing literature on ‘Islamic feminism’, to which I have contributed. Inevitably, there are diverging accounts of the nature of this phenomenon, and of its origins and development. Here I want to revisit this term and offer some reflections on the heavy political baggage that comes with it—as well as with its component elements: ‘Islamic’ and ‘feminism’.
I have two objectives. First, I want to set the record straight and to explain the context in which I have used the term myself, and the kind of feminism that is involved. I shall reflect on the term in the light of developments in the intervening years, culminating in two events in 2009 that, I believe, show how far the debate has moved on, both globally and locally, namely, first, the launch of Musawah, a ‘Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family’, and secondly, the emergence of the Green Movement in Iran. Musawah, launched in Kuala Lumpur in February 2009, brings Islamic and human rights frameworks together to build an overlapping consensus among Muslim women from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and to push for legal reform. The Green Movement in Iran started in June last year as a protest against a fraudulent presidential election, but it soon became a broader civil rights movement in which Iranian women have been the most prominent actors.
In terms of group politics - there are large groups of people who are fighting to prevent you from learning any facts about sex. Facts that can effect your health, income, present, future, career, happiness, ability to have or enjoy sex, choice of sex partners and even the ability to have sex.
People get elected using by using sex to scare voters - queer sex, teen sex, unmarried sex, kinky sex, fun sex, sex of any kind. Cultural practices and commonly held beliefs about sex punish or shame people for even discussing sex, much less teaching it to a classroom.
Organized religions and self-appointed 'holy men' claim to speak for their god in calling sex a sin. Sex is a fact of mammalian evolution and humans are mammals. That undisputable, proven fact is a direct challenge to the notion of sin and therefore a challenge to any religious or secular institution that believes that sex is a sin.
In the arena of personal politics - young people are dependent upon those who come before us to offer up the knowledge of previous generations - or they can withhold it. As teens we struggle with asking the adults in our lives for information, guidance and the benefit of their experience on one hand, while on the other hand - we wish to assert our own judgment and choices.
What you are told about sex is a political act.
People who may or may not have your interests in mind spend a lot of time shaping the information you receive about sex because they want you to make decisions that favor them or their world view. What is best for them may not be what is best for you. The only way for you to make an informed decision is for you to have facts.
There is no organized sex-positive movement. It is a discussion that has grown over the recent years, starting in the 1930's. It can mean a great many things to just about everybody and that is kind of the point, really. The basic idea is that sex is a natural part of human, mammalian existence and that we can embrace it in its variety as a part of normal life.
People in many groups organized around specific aspects of sex and identity often participate in sex-positive conversations and find the ideals and values of their individual and group identities overlapping sex-positive thoughts and goals. Some of the more frequent of such groups and individuals identify in terms of Sex work, BDSM & Kink, LGBTQI "Pink" , disability, feminism, genderqueer, transhuman and many, many more.
Note: I spend a good portion of this post, talking about my own experience. This is not because I'm particularly enamored with myself, but rather to offer my recent thoughts as one person's reactions to something that may echo in your life someplace. It may not. I won't pretend to know how anyone else should feel or react and I won't dictate to others the terms of their identity.
I have been having a crisis of faith lately. This is of course funny because I am not religious and the faith in crisis is more about my own identity than how I feel about invisible beings. In the larger sense it is about what it means to be 'sex-positive' but it really is about how to deal with privilege.
In the span of a week or so, I attended several Sex-Positive events. One was the showing of a documentary film with discussion afterward, the second was a discussion on sex-positive at a BDSM social club and the last was an invitation to join a group of sex-positive activists. I suddenly realized how very privileged the conversations and these groups were. At one event, there were some people of color but at the others, it was all white, professional, educated, middle to upper class and english speaking US citizens. I like everyone in these groups and this post is not about them but about my experiences and thoughts about privilege.
Celebrating the strength and diversity of sex workers. A Public Service Announcement from FIRST.
Sex workers face extreme levels of stigma and social exclusion, often fearful of the social consequences of speaking openly about their work. When they do, they risk being stereotyped, with few people looking beyond the label of "sex worker" to see the unique lives each person leads. This video is an attempt by this experiential community to highlight the strength and diversity of those who are currently or have been engaged in sex work. We would like to thank those who participated in this video, as well as acknowledge that there were a far greater number of people who could not due to the social consequences they could face in their relationships, careers, and day to day lives. For more info check out the FIRST Advocates Website at firstadvocates.org. This video was created by Rachel Malek for the FIRST Coalition. Inspired by the I Am a Sex Worker video produced by the Sex Work Awareness Project.
SONGKHLA, Thailand, Sep 23, 2010 (IPS)- When her husband was arrested for links to an insurgency raging in this southern region, Pattama Heemmima joined the ranks of Malay-Muslim women forced into the unfamiliar routine of visiting police stations, military camps and courts to secure the freedom of their imprisoned kin.
At the same time, there was no local organisation she could turn to for help regarding her husband, Nawawee Daohumso, who was taken in by the Thai police in March 2008 for his alleged role in a killing a civilian.
But by the time a court acquitted Nawawee in March 2010 -- enabling him and 34-year-old Pattama to rebuild a marriage that was only two months old when police made the wrongful arrest -- Pattama had found an answer to her search for a local helping hand.
She and her elder sister, Anchana Semmina, had resolved to take on new roles as activists for justice. In mid-2009, the two sisters had set up the Hearty Support Group in the southern Thai province of Songkhla to help families struggling to secure the release of their jailed fathers, husbands and sons.
"I wanted to help these women who were desperate after their husbands or sons were arrested by the police, the military," says Pattama. "I had learnt so much after my husband’s arrest that I wanted to share it with the others in my community."
For the first time ever, The CSPH will provide sexuality education to adults in a safe and open environment. By bringing together all aspects of sexuality, the pleasure, education, advocacy and medical worlds, we hope to take subjects that are traditionally “taboo” and elucidate them, showing that the taboo can be fun, interesting and educational and most importantly, able to be discussed in thoughtful, provoking ways.
Talk to an Expert:
“Talking About the Taboo” will feature many sexuality experts willing to share with you their work in the field of sexuality. From medical providers, rape crisis counselors, to dominatrixes, you are sure to find someone to teach you something new! Listen to our panel, take a small group class or chat it up with our experts throughout the event.
Play with a Toy:
Check out our vendors, who will be showing off the latest and greatest in sexual aids. These top of the line, 100% safe toys and products can help to enhance your sex life in many ways.
Hear our Panel:
This year’s conference brings us some of the most noteworthy participants in the realm of sexuality. Be sure to stick around for what is sure to be an informative and lively panel addressing current issues surrounding sexuality. Our guest panelists will include:
On the heels of APA’s task force report that found the sexualization of girls so pervasive that “virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence,” a coalition of organizations is taking action.
SPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Rebellion, Knowledge
Current SPARK partners include:
Women's Media Center Hardy Girls Healthy Women TrueChild Ms. Foundation ASAP Initiative at Hunter College/CUNY
The SPARK Summit will bring together girls and media professionals, thought leaders and funders, researchers and activists – and will serve as a national call to action and campaign for change. As a first step towards building a broader coalition, a convening was held in May, thanks to generous funding from the NoVo Foundation. Participants included the Ford Foundation, Girls Inc, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and the APA, which will be a part of the summit’s policy/research committee.
Who: girls, girl-serving organizations, activists, media professionals, researchers, funders, thought leaders and allies
The SPARK summit is an exciting day-long event with the purpose of igniting a movement for girls' rights. Participants will have the opportunity to speak out, push back on the sexualization of girls, learn, and have fun with one another!
An interactive website is being developed for participants to take action in the months leading up to the summit.
If you are interested in partnering with us, supporting our work, or promoting the summit, please email SPARKsummit@gmail.com