Ida is a writer and lifelong activist living in New York City working with others in the women’s, trans, and LGBQ communities for social change.
Ida started the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project as a trans feminist initiative to address violence and oppression experienced by trans women. She has worked with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project on their Movement Building Team, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund coordinating their Name Change Project, and as a national organizer for the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. She is also a longtime organizer for the New York City Dyke March. She currently works at the Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies & Training as a counselor and research assistant working with trans women to support their health goals and well-being. In recognition of her work to improve the lives of others, Ida was named to the inaugural Trans 100 and was this year’s recipient of the Barbara Gittings Award for exceptional leadership and advocacy for trans and LBQ women.
Why is Ida asking for your help?
Ida first started fundraising for surgery in 2012, after she successfully won her year-long challenge against her insurance’s refusal to cover her medically necessary operation. In spite of her victory, Ida was still expected to pay for the majority of the medical fees herself.
Currently, Ida’s insurance is expected to pay for the hospital stay, operating room, and anesthesia (totaling about $6,000). However, Ida will have to pay the surgeon’s fee and hospital co-pay out-of-pocket and up front, which amounts to about $13,500.
This is a lot of money, especially when Ida lives paycheck-to-paycheck. Without help Ida won’t be able to get the care she’s been struggling for years to receive.
“On January 5, 1993, a 22-year-old pre-operative transsexual woman from Seattle, Filisa Vistima, wrote in her journal, “I wish I was anatomically ‘normal’ so I could go swimming… . But no, I’m a mutant, Frankenstein’s monster.” Two months later Filisa Vistima committed suicide. What drove her to such despair was the exclusion she experienced in Seattle’s queer community, some members of which opposed Filisa’s participation because of her transsexuality — even though she identified as and lived as a bisexual woman. The Lesbian Resource Center where she served as a volunteer conducted a survey of its constituency to determine whether it should stop offering services to male-to-female transsexuals. Filisa did the data entry for tabulating the survey results; she didn’t have to imagine how people felt about her kind. The Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network announced that if it admitted transsexuals the SBWN would no longer be a women’s organization. “I’m sure,” one member said in reference to the inclusion of bisexual transsexual women, 4 6 the boys can take care of themselves.” Filisa Vistima was not a boy, and she found it impossible to take care of herself. Even in death she found no support from the community in which she claimed membership. “Why didn’t Filisa commit herself for psychiatric care?” asked a columnist in the Seattle Gay News. “Why didn’t Filisa demand her civil rights?” In this case, not only did the angry villagers hound their monster to the edge of town, they reproached her for being vulnerable to the torches. Did Filisa Vistima commit suicide, or did the queer community of Seattle kill her? (4)”—
“These are women who have to fight to be included within the category ‘woman,’ in a way that is not dissimilar from the earlier struggles of black women and women of color who were assigned the gender female at birth.”—Angela Davis on trans women, from this talk (via kinkykinkshamer)
In her research on shelters for women, Mirha-Soleil Ross discovered that the refusal of services to a [trans] woman was justified on the grounds of the “safety” and comfort level of the other women residents. Ross argues that this concern over “safety” does not extend to [trans] women: “If I have fear and concerns for anyone’s safety in a shelter, it is for an isolated [trans] woman, not for a [cis woman] who doesn’t have to prove to anyone that she is a woman.”
As Ross so eloquently explains, this rationale absolves shelters of their responsibility in educating themselves and their residents about the diversity of women’s lives:
Even the argument that [trans] women should be excluded for their own safety is not acceptable on a long term basis. Just like any other form of prejudice and discrimination, if some [cis] women are threatening the safety of a [trans] woman because she is [trans], it should be dealt with immediately and efficiently. The [cis] women should be confronted about their own ignorance and violence. I don’t see why [trans] women should be restricted from access to such vital services because of somebody else’s transphobia and hatred.
Like the policies in homeless youth shelters, the [trans woman] in question is singled out as the “cause” of this “problem,” or the reason [cis] women in the shelter will not feel safe. This focuses attention on the [trans woman] and neglects the real issue at hand: the provision of services to those in need.
”— Viviane Namaste, Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People
“A methodological strategy that consults transsexuals and allows them to validate (or modify) the research findings is particularly significant given that transgendered people are seldom consulted in the studies, articles, monographs, and books written about them. It is extremely rare that they are given the opportunity to approve how the data of their lives is interpreted.”—Viviane Namaste, Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People
Some group of researchers just sent me mail on here to invite me to participate in their study about trans peoples’ Marginalization, Mental Health, and Empowerment — offering a “1 in 25 chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.”
T-Shack:Hey it's 2013 in Seattle and we're having an awesome show!
Trans Organization:Since you're visiting our town you should know the local context that we've had a ton of recent community discussion about the use of the t-word and your show might stir up a lot of controversy you don't actually want to be dealing with.
T-Shack:Hey thanks, that's good to know. We'll do a different show with a different name and it'll be fine.
Performer:I'm super excited to be in the show, but I'm embarrassed to say the name out loud.
T-Shack:That's a really bad outcome, both financially and politically. We'll have to work on a solution.
T-Shack:We're back now that it's 2014 and we've renamed our show for while we're here, but still have the old name on the poster
Trans Organization:That's awesome, we really appreciate that. But you might want to reconsider the old name on posters. Because if they are going to be put up all around town it could still raise some problems. Also, did you realize you scheduled the show to be at the same time as Trans Pride?
T-Shack:Oops, give us a moment to confer.
Cis Gay Bystander:Oh my god you guys are terrible, stop being word police! Stop censoring everyone! I love the word 'tranny'. Tranny, tranny, tranny! Trannyshack folks, please don't give in to this pressure.
Trans Woman Bystander:Are you trying to upset folks on purpose, this was a productive conversation.
Cis Gay Bystander:I don't understand you trans women. You think that being a keyboard warrior will win you everything but you're just alienating your allies.
Trans Woman Bystander:Fuck you if you think you're my ally. With allies like you, who needs enemies!
Cis Gay Bystander #2:*Pulls out popcorn* I love to watch trans women freak out and get super emotional.
T-Shack:Hey guys, that's not helpful. Also, we've decided to permanently change our name and keep the t-word off our posters and we'd like to make this show a benefit for Trans Pride!
Trans Organization:That's awesome! You guys really are the best! We're going to promote your show and please stop by Trans Pride we want to give you an award for allyship!
Cis Gay News:Why do trans women hate drag queens? Yet again local trans women are creating drama. These radical activists are strong-arming our beloved Trannyshack into changing their name. They just whine and make a fuss until they get their way. They are giving our community a bad name. This is exactly they kind of infighting that we need to put an end to.
T-Shack:Hey that's not exactly what happened, here's my open statement about why we thought changing the name was a good idea and were appreciative of the help and feedback I got in that process.
Jack Halberstam:This story about over-emotional trans women throwing tantrums and claiming to be triggered by a single word is a great example for my work on the Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm. They really should lighten up. We need to put an end to finger snapping moralism like that.
Note:The above is obviously all paraphrased since the actual account was 30-50 pages long. Actual wording or phrases were used when possible. Mainly I wanted to share this because it's super tiring to have everything you say framed within the box of "trans women are over-emotional, over-reactive, shrieking, and behavior policing" no matter how much what we're doing differs from that.
There was a post going around this morning that originally claimed there were over 1,000 murders of trans women last year, based on the 2013 NCAVP report.
In fact, according to the report there were 13 such homicides in 2012.
The poster made an edit, but still maintained…
One thing to keep in mind, from the “Limitations of the Findings” section of the report:
The vast majority of this report contains information from LGBTQ and HIV-affected-identified individuals who experienced hate violence and sought support from NCAVP member programs. Local member organizations then submitted data to NCAVP, which NCAVP compiled and analyzed for national trends. Since NCAVP only measures data collected from individuals who self-reported and from other public sources, it is unlikely that these numbers represent all incidents of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people in the United States. NCAVP’s data may particularly omit populations such as incarcerated people, people in rural communities, people who may not know about their local anti-violence program (AVP), people living where the closest AVP is too far away to reach, people who are not out, people who are uncomfortable with reporting violence, and people who face other barriers to accessing services or reporting. While the information contained in this report provides a detailed picture of the individual survivors and victims; it cannot and should not be extrapolated to represent the prevalence of hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities in the United States.
Which isn’t to invalidate anything said above, but to give an important bit of context to the report itself.
The report can be viewed in full here: http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/ncavp_2012_hvreport_final.pdf
The Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project has been following violence against trans women for three years and one thing that is for sure is that violence against trans women is seriously under reported. With murders in particular there is not even the benefit of self-reporting, as in the case of other forms of violence. Most murders of trans women are those that have been reported by (nationally accessible) media and/or community activists. If a murder of a trans woman isn’t reported (or is misreported) in the media or if she was unknown to vocal community members, then the murder goes unnoticed.
The fact is, most acts of violence against trans women are not reported, and when the are reported they are usually misreported (usually by misgendering the victim). Often it takes sensationalized account to bring these murders to the attention of the public. Additionally, most women are not connected to a vocal, organized community; even in major cities like New York and San Fransisco. As a vulnerable and marginalized population, it has to be expected that most murders of trans women are not going to be noticed.
The Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project has noticed cases of murdered trans women that were originally missed by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects. And this project is dependent on media accounts that are accessible online and easily identifiable as trans women. So, yes, the reported number of murders is just scratching the surface.
Nonetheless, 13 murdered women in any given year is itself a tragedy. Even a single murder is cause for concern! There is no need to exaggerate the numbers in order to consider this a serious problem in need of our attention. Focusing on the exact numbers may not be as important as focusing on why these 13 women where killed. While the number can fluctuate, there is less variation in who is being killed.
What we do know is that at least a dozen trans women in the U.S. will be killed in cases that are high-profile enough that we will know about them. This is a pattern found in the NCAVP reports that has been going on for years. Furthermore, we know that these are going to be almost entirely Black and Latina trans women, with very few exceptions. And that about half of these women, give or take, will have had some experience in the sex trades. We also know that they will have been killed by cis men. And it is not unusual for these women to have known their murderer and have had some form of intimate or sexual involvement with him. And it is a rarity, if it happens at all, that the man was “surprised” to learn the woman was trans.
The problem is, these murders are too often labeled simply “anti-trans,” or worse “anti-LGBTQ” or “anti-queer.” This is very misleading. If these were anti-trans murders there would be a fairly even mix of trans people of all genders, races, and economic status. When looking at the last two decades of violence, we find that a white trans man like Brandon Tina is the outlier, not the norm. The race, gender, and economic status of those killed is no less important than that she was trans.
Yet how often are these murders considered effects of institutional racism, sexism, and economic injustice as they are called “transphobic”? How often are these murders considered acts of sexual or intimate partner violence? Not often enough. In order to end this violence we need to consider the full person and the context of her life and death.
"A woman in New York City left a nightclub in late 2010 to meet some friends for tacos. While she was walking to the restaurant in the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, a man pulled up beside her in a dark-colored car and began talking to her. As the woman inched closer to hear what the man was saying, two undercover police officers jumped out of a van and arrested her for engaging in prostitution. She was thrown into a van with a dozen other women and taken to the115th Precinct in Jackson Heights to be fingerprinted before being transferred to Central Booking. There, she was then jailed in the men’s unit, where she endured painful verbal harassment from some of the cops and men in custody, according to the community organizing group Make the Road New York, which identified the woman by the pseudonym ‘Natasha.’ Her story sounds more like a rare kidnapping than a routine arrest, but Natasha’s arrest would come as no surprise to anyone who has been harassed or arrested by police for what’s known as ‘walking while woman.’"
Founder of the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project and an organizer of the NYC Dyke March, Ida has committed herself to improving the lives of women and LGBT individuals through her activism. Now she needs the support of her community to raise funds for her upcoming surgery.
“The perpetuation of the mythology that trans women deserve violence because we “deceive” straight men needs to be debunked and put to rest once and for all.”—Laverne Cox, in a Huffington Post essay for Transgender Day of Remembrance (via janetmock)
“Loving trans people, I believe, is a revolutionary act. And I believe when we love someone, we respect them and we listen to them; we feel that their voice matters and we let them dictate the terms of who they are and what their story is.”—Laverne Cox Keynote address, Creating Change 2014 (via fuckyeahlavernecox)
**I wrote this over the summer, but am thinkin’ about it again**
In light of the rash of queer bashing that’s plagued New York this summer, I feel the need to talk about my experience with harassment as a woman and as a trans person. I’ve lived in many places, some of them “safer” than others, but I have always been exposed to a certain level of harassment and the threat of violence (I have never been physically attacked *knocks on wood*) Like it or not, I am often read as female in public and that exposes me to the harassment that comes with being female in our society. I say “like it or not” because there are plenty of people who DON’T like it, who don’t believe it, who refuse to accept that any part of my lived experience could be “typically female.” (Google “trans critical feminism” if you don’t know what I mean.) I don’t care whether strangers on the internet believe me or not, though. This is my daily life, not a gender theory class. I get cat called often. Sometimes men literally make the same noises at me that I would use to get a cat’s attention. Today, a man repeatedly called out to me “looking good!” He eventually shifted gears to “I’m trying to compliment you, bitch,” when I wouldn’t acknowledge him. I’ve been called every ugly word there is for “woman” by men who somehow think this will get me to go home with them. I have literally had a man scream right in my face at the very top of his lungs, “I WANT YOUR PUSSY!” I’ve been propositioned in the grocery store, at work, on the bus, on the sidewalk. This is not a unique experience, it literally happens to millions of people every day.
I often face another form of harassment, though. When I first moved to New York, a 12 to 14 year old boy on the subway said of me, “What is that thing?! If I had a sledgehammer, I would fuckin’ kill that thing!” The reality was that he (who was +/- 100 lbs smaller than me) wouldn’t have done ANYTHING with a sledgehammer, had he possessed one. It was the sentiment that horrified me, terrorized me, and made me afraid to leave my house again for days. When I am read as trans, I am exposed to an even greater level of dehumanization and potential violence. I take for granted that my community knows about this, but find more often than not that people are shocked when I share these stories (which are mild by comparison to the experiences of some.) Just a few days ago, outside of a restaurant in my neighborhood, a group of men (thinking I was listening to music) loudly asked one another how much they’d have to be paid in order to “fuck [me] up.” They were calling me “it” and one of them said he would do it for $100. When I’m seen as a cis woman, I have no agency and I have no privacy. My space, time, conversation, and attention are not my own. They are owed to men, who feel entitled to demand them from me at any time. When I’m seen as a trans woman, I’m seen as literally devoid of humanity. At best, I get laughed at and stared at. At worst, people casually discuss murdering me as easily as they complain about the weather. This is constant. This is why I wear headphones everywhere I go. And I’m nowhere near as vulnerable as some. I’m white and I’m big. A man once shouted at me, “damn, girl! You look like you could knock someone the FUCK OUT!” I’ve had people throw balled up paper, trash, even bottles at me, but I’ve never been in an actual physical confrontation with an attacker on the street. I’m both lucky and privileged in that regard.
I don’t have a point, really. It’s just that attention to street harassment that’s come up in the last few weeks has left me preoccupied with this. I also wonder how many people in my social network who aren’t trans women have considered this double-bind and how it plays out in the lives of trans women. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
TL;DR Shit’s rough out there and people are awful.
“I am a trans woman. My sisters are trans women. We are not secrets. We are not shameful. We are worthy of respect, desire, and love. As there are many kinds of women, there are many kinds of men, and many men desire many kinds of women, trans women are amongst these women. And let’s be clear: Trans women are women.”—
Yesterday we were thanked for being silent and respectful to a grieving family seated center stage. We were instructed to keep politics at the door though politicians had a front-row seat with camera crews readied for their election year soundbites. …
The only reason I left not feeling defeated was because of you, in all your resilience, beauty, brilliance and ferocity. You held me up, you told me that we would get through, and you showed up despite knowing the open secret we all carry: that Islan was not the first to fall and she will not be the last.”
”—My open letter to trans women who attended Islan Nettles “community vigil” in Harlem last night. We must mourn, we must work, we must demand better for ourselves and our sisters. (via janetmock)
I am writing this blog tonight in response to recent events which have taken place. Domonique Newburn (Fontana, California), Islan Nettles (Harlem, New York) and a young trans woman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were all murdered in the same week. All were trans women of color.
“Transfeminism is primarily a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond. It is also open to other queers, intersex people, trans men, non-trans [cis] women, non-trans [cis] men, and others who are sympathetic to the needs of trans women and consider their alliance with trans women to be essential for their own liberation. …
Transfeminism is not about taking over existing feminist institutions. Instead, it extends and advances feminism as a whole through our own liberation and coalition work with all others. It stands for trans and non-trans [cis] women alike and asks non-trans [cis] women to stand up for trans women in return. Transfeminism embodies feminist coalition politics in which women from different backgrounds stand up for each other, because if we do not stand for each other, nobody will.”—Emi Koyama, “The Transfeminist Manifesto” (via transfeminism)
“I’ve been saying this for years, that gender identity and sexual orientation are different but so many people don’t know. I think that the reason for that is that we are in the LGBT community and we get lumped with gay and lesbian folks and bisexual folks, but [for us] it’s not about sexual orientation, but gender identity. I also think that a lot of the issues that folks seem to have with gays and lesbians, particularly when kids are bullied, are about gender. It’s about someone assigned male at birth not acting the way a boy should act. So much of it comes down to gender and this fear of femininity in our culture. Julia Serano talks about this so brilliantly, even in the history of feminist theory, femininity has been presented as something that’s artificial and masculinity is something that’s authentic, and even in a lot of feminist discourse until recently, femininity was seen as something that was artificial and fake. So there is this fear of feminine that we see in a lot of different aspects of culture that is punished. That’s a part of patriarchy. In a lot of ways we can’t talk about homophobia and transphobia, without talking about patriarchy.”—Laverne Cox (via yomo7)