As the title suggests, everything on this blog concerns violence against trans women.
The Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project is a trans feminist project addressing issues of systematic, institutional and interpersonal violence and oppression experienced by trans women (those who were coercively assigned male at birth and identify or are identified as women/female) across multiple identities (e.g., race, class, dis/ability, citizen-status, nationality, sexuality, age, HIV status, and form, status, or age of transition, etc.)
Ida Hammer is a writer and social justice communicator. She organizes the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project. She presents workshops and trainings on cis privilege and being a trans ally. She's also involved in organizing against sexualized violence. She's a proud dyke-identified trans woman and an organizer of the New York City Dyke March.
In 1979, Black women were being murdered in Boston. The murders started in January and by April six cis women had been killed. By June, 13 cis women were dead, 12 Black and one White.
Boston Police showed little interest taking the murders of Black cis women they alleged to be prostitutes seriously. So the Combahee River Collective, a Boston Black feminist organization, other Third World feminists as well as White antiracist feminists all with a political understanding of how violence against women is both racialized and sexualized started to organized and rally around the murders of these cis women. Out of this the group CRISIS, with a focus on self-help and community involvement, and the Coalition for Women’s Safety, a coalition of Black, Latin@ and White working to develop programs for community safety, were formed.
Throughout the organizing, Black and Third World feminists encountered conflicts with how the murders were being narrowly framed. Some within the community treated the murders as purely racial, downplaying or ignoring the obvious gendered and sexualized aspects of these killings. And male paternalism contributed to the proposal for Black men “to protect their women.” There were also racial barriers that complicated alliance building between White and Black women over the murders.
To address these and other issues concerning the political consciousness within the communities affected by the murders, the Combahee River Collective produced a pamphlet addressing the question: “Why did these women die?”:
In the Black community the murders have often been talked about as solely racial or racist crimes. It’s true that the police and media response has been typically racist. It’s true that the victims were all Black and that Black people have always been targets of racist violence in this society, but they were also all women. Our sisters died because they were women just as surely as they died because they were Black. If the murders were only racial, young teen-age boys and older Black men might also have been unfortunate victims. They might now be petrified to walk the streets as women have always been.
The pamphlet goes on to give some statistics and notes:
These statistics apply to all women: Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, old, young, rich, poor and in between. We’ve got to understand that violence against us as women cuts across all racial, ethnic and class lines. This doesn’t mean that violence against Third World women does not have a racial as well as sexual cause. Both our race and sex lead to violence against us.
It’s now 35 years later and I see strong parallels between the sort of organizing that took place around those 13 women and the sort of organizing we need to be doing around the murder and violence taking place against trans women of color.
Within the LGBT community the murders of trans people are talked about like they are solely cissexist or anti-trans based. But like the Combahee River Collective’s analysis of the Boston murders of Black cis women, we need to have an analysis that accounts for the fact that almost all murdered trans people are women or on otherwise on the trans female spectrum, and that the vast majority are women of color. It’s important that we understand that trans people are being targeted as much for their gender identity and race as for the fact that they are also trans.
While the analysis of LGBT organizations tends to be too narrow, the attention these murders get from most feminist and antiracist organizations is virtually nonexistence. The framing of these these murders as simply due to the victims’ transness or sexuality is not helpful to the extent that it lets feminist and antiracist organizers off the hook by being able to say it is only a “trans issue” as opposed to also a women’s issue or a racial issue.
When it comes to violence against trans women, it’s time we start taking the question “Why did they die?” more seriously. We need to move beyond events like “Trans Day of Remembrance” that intentionally erase the gendered, racialized and classed analysis of why certain trans people are being killed. Even “Trans Day of Action,” while including an analysis of race and class, is often seen by participants and onlookers as solely a trans march, as opposed to also being a women’s march and a people of color march.
Even suggesting that organizing center trans women of color specifically is a radical notion. This doesn’t mean that White trans people, trans men and nonbinary people don’t also experience violence and oppression. Of course they do. But I also think there is a serious danger of falling into the trap of looking at anti-trans violence in primarily race- and/or gender-neutral terms. I think this is where the need for a trans feminism of color/antiracist trans feminism comes in.
We also need to move beyond “transphobia” as the way of framing anti-trans violence. Transphobia denotes an individual prejudice and has a taint of victim blaming that reinforces concepts like “trans panic.” I suggest we replace this with “cissexism,” which is better at denoting what is actually an issue of cis power, not just prejudice or a negative attitude about trans people.
Support Monica Jones and De-fund Project ROSE
Phoenix, Arizona has some of the most severe prostitution laws in the United States.
According to a municipal statute titled ‘manifestation’, an intent to commit prostitution includes activities like waving at cars, talking to passers-bys, and inquiring if someone is a police officer. Mandatory minimum sentencing and felony upgrades make it highly probable that workers are funneled into the prison system for sex work related offenses. Alongside Arizona’s already brutal racial profiling laws, these anti-prostitution statutes enable police to profile and harass people of color, immigrants, people in poverty, and LGBTQ people.
The History of Project ROSE
Since 2011, Phoenix police, prosecutors, and professors from the Arizona State University (ASU) School of Social Work have been collaborating on a program titled Project ROSE (Reaching Out to the Sexually Exploited). Over two weekends per year, up to 125 police officers detain community members that are suspected of being sex workers. Even though the police and Project ROSE founders state that the individuals apprehended are not technically arrested, the Phoenix ACLU has stated otherwise-they are handcuffed and brought to the Project ROSE command post and are confined to a room to speak with a Project ROSE volunteer and a city prosecutor. Arrestees cannot speak to a defense attorney, even though they are being held without the constitutionally mandated option of being able to leave freely. People who qualify (only those with no outstanding warrants, those who have not completed a prior diversion program, and not in possession of any drugs at the time of arrest) are told they can take a diversion program run by Catholic Charities that can last as long six months. Criminal charges are held over the arrestee’s heads until the diversion program is completed. Those who do not qualify, or decline to participate in the diversion program, are sent a court summons in the mail and face criminal charges.
Project ROSE harms sex workers.
By teaming up with police and prosecutors, sex worker diversion programs like Project ROSE increase the profiling and targeting of vulnerable communities — poor communities, people in street based economies, and communities of color. Trans women of color are disproportionately impacted. Rather than making sex workers safer, diversion initiatives cause harm by funneling them into the criminal justice system. Project ROSE and programs like it violate ethical standards in social work and perpetuate the idea that individuals who sell sex are not human. Further, Project ROSE frames its work as saving sex workers — who are stigmatized as scarred victims rather than people with civil and human rights (the right to work, the right to be free from violence, the right to due process and much more). This “savior” mentality makes no distinction between people who are subject to human trafficking and those who engage in the sex trade to support themselves and their families. Project ROSE results in increased vulnerability and fear on behalf of sex workers, violating their rights while driving them into the criminal justice system. Similarly, Project ROSE may also violate the rights of victims of trafficking, and may not adhere to best practice standards for the treatment and care of trafficked persons set out by human rights advocates.
Who is Monica Jones?
Monica Jones is a trans activist and sex worker rights advocate who lives in Phoenix; she is also a student at ASU who recently gained entrance into the university’s School of Social Work.
During the Project ROSE stings in May 2013, Monica spoke at a community event protesting Project ROSE. The next evening, as the Project ROSE stings continued, police arbitrarily arrested Monica and charged her with violating a vague anti-prostitution statute. Monica is standing up for her rights in court and her trial date is on March 14, 2014. It is of the utmost importance that we stand in support of Monica and all others whose human rights are being violated by the police and prison system with the support of programs like Project ROSE. Ultimately, we must get Project ROSE’s mass arrest program off the streets of Phoenix and bring an end to police harassment and profiling everywhere.
Since her arrest, Monica and others have continued to protest Project Rose. As a trans woman of color, Monica has been especially ssingled out for police harassment. Police have approached her three times when she’s been near her home or walking around Phoenix, and the most recent time she was handcuffed again and under suspicion of “manifestation”. Monica’s case proves that Project ROSE is harmful.
Project Rose is planning its next sting operation in February. ASU has hosted several summits on “sex trafficking” and Project ROSE is being hailed as the new model for preventing sex work across the United States. Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-Phoenix), the Best Practices Policy Project, and other harm reduction and trans activist groups are uniting to stop Project ROSE and put an end to this coercive and unethical model of policing, and to change Arizona sex work laws.
SWOP-Phoenix and the Best Practices Policy Project have recently filed a report of civil rights violations to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of Arizona sex workers. We invite you to join us in speaking out against unjust criminalization programs like Project ROSE.
Please sign this letter to make your voice heard against Project ROSE and the collaboration between ASU School of Social Work and the City of Phoenix.
The pledge to support Monica Jones and protest Project ROSE
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, protest the coercive and criminalizing tactics of Project ROSE. We believe that Project ROSE stigmatizes sex workers as victims rather than people with agency and rights. Further, we believe that Project ROSE causes far more harm in the form of incarceration and forced “reeducation” than it does good. We demand that Arizona State University cease its partnership with Project ROSE, and that Project ROSE is ended entirely.
We demand that the resources allocated to Project ROSE are channeled to developing sex worker led, non-coercive models to support the health and safety of sex workers that promote harm reduction and improve occupational health, safety and working conditions rather than criminalizing and profiling vulnerable communities.
We are alarmed at the targeting of a human rights defender- Monica Jones- who is standing up for the rights of people unfairly targeted by the police and prison systems. We demand that the criminal charges against Monica be dropped, that an independent monitoring body launch an investigation into police harassment against her, and that she be protected from further abuse and harassment by police.
We are united in calling for an end to the pattern and practice of racist and transphobic policing across the United States, and we commit ourselves to working for a society where people of all backgrounds and identities are free from police abuse and discriminatory arrest.
The documentary Crossing Over looks at the lives of 3 transgender Mexican women as they seek political asylum in the United States to escape transphobia in their homeland.
Francis Murillo, Brenda Gonzalez and Abigail Madariaga fled Mexico and are now living in Los Angeles to escape the stigma, discrimination and persecution associated with being transgender in the highly Catholic nation.
“There were various abuses,” Gonzalez says in the film. “They would tie me from my hands and feet to rape me, to abuse me.” (The video is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)
The documentary is the first for director Isabel Castro, a Mexican immigrant who recently graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“I have always been passionate about immigration issues and about highlighting the reasons for why immigration is often necessary,” Castro told On Top Magazine in an e-mail. “In exploring this issue, I learned more about the extent of transphobia in Mexico and in the United States and have now become focused on shedding light on the obstacles that the transgender community faces.”
She said she expects to finish the film in January and premiere it on next year’s festival circuit.
(On Top Magazine Staff)
PS: Due credits to Autumn for the concept.
[“Oppression doesn’t require intent to thrive. In fact, the way oppression thrives best is by allowing people to marginalize people without intent, as that shows that the ideologies of sexism, racism, gender essentialism or cissexism are so ingrained in you that you don’t even notice it.”]
Please visit http://supportcece.wordpress.com/ to find out more!
Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald is a young African American transgender woman who is charged with two counts of “second degree murder” after an incident that began when she was violently assaulted because of her gender and race. We say NO to racism and transphobia, and call on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to DROP THE CHARGES!
Her trial starts Monday, April 30th at 9am.
Chrishaun ‘CeCe’ McDonald
Chrishaun ‘CeCe’ McDonald, a 23-year old African-American transgender woman, with no criminal record, is presently incarcerated and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. In her article, “Jenna Talackova Can Compete, But the Fight Against Trans Injustice Rages On“ for the Huffington Post, actress and transgender advocate Laverne Cox, gives a recent recap of Ms. McDonald’s case:
"In June 5, 2011 CeCe and a group of her friends, all of whom were LGBT youth of color, were walking in South Minneapolis when a group of white adults began screaming racist and transphobic slurs like ‘niggers,’ ‘faggots’ and ‘chicks with dicks’ at the youth. According to reports CeCe stood up for herself and her friends, stating that they would not tolerate hate speech. Then one of the white adult women smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. The broken glass sliced all the way through CeCe’s cheek, lacerating a salivary gland. A fight ensued, resulting in the death of one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz. CeCe was the only person arrested. She was detained by the police for hours before questioning, and then she was placed in solitary confinement."
Not surprisingly, the white woman who attacked Ms. McDonald wasn’t prosecuted. Ms. McDonald’s case is a clear example of racist and transphobic violence. Presently incarcerated awaiting her trail, this young trans woman could be permanently railroaded into the prison industrial complex. Up until very recently, Ms. McDonald was only receiving support from on-the-ground radical grassroots (not mainstream) feminists and queer people, many of whom are of color.
Some queer people are Black and some Black people are queer and more often than not, like most straight Black women and girls, we stand alone at the intersections of race, gender, gender identity, and sexuality. In the 2011 released Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People In the United States, authors Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock give readers alarming commentary about the disproportionate rate that LGBTQ people, especially those of color, are incarcerated for “sexual deviance.” Similar to Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Mogul, Ritchie, and Whitlock delve into how crime is socially constructed. They show the historical origins of how race constitutes what is considered a crime, while also examining how notions about how gender plus race plus class plus sexuality all inform who is incarcerated and who is not. This is most important to consider when we look at the (relatively speaking) minimal responses to the New Jersey 4 case, and all those cases involving Black LGBTQ people prior and following up to CeCe McDonald’s case.
In January 2012, Racialicious published Jessica Annabella’s “Why We Should Support CeCe McDonald.” Ms. Annabella’s article really underscores many of the poignant points raised in Queer (In)Justice. She writes,
"…CeCe’s story is a portrait of the United States Criminal Justice System. Her story is what is meant when we are told that transgender people, especially transgender women of color, experience disproportionate rates of police harassment, profiling, and abuse. She is living one of the stories rolled into statistics like: trans people are ten to fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated than cisgender (not transgender) people, or nearly half of African American transgender people have spent time in jail or prison. These statistics are the result of all of the ways that transgender people, especially transgender people of color, are denied access to the resources and opportunities that we need to live healthy lives free of violence, discrimination, and oppression. Transgender people consistently experience high levels of harassment in school, extreme levels of unemployment due to discrimination and lack of education, denial of competent medical care, inability to change identification documents, and disproportionate violence and harassment…”
On the April 15, 2012 edition of the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC, she featured a 20-minute ‘Being transgender in America’ segment. In speaking about another case in which a transgender person was savagely beaten, Harris- Perry said,
"Simply because you are aware of one kind of inequality doesn’t mean that you empathize with others. It was in that moment that I decided I needed to be a better Cis ally to the work of trans communities.”
During the segment, Harris-Perry and white transgender activist Kate Bornstein briefly discussed Ms. McDonald’s case. Tragically, Harris-Perry was the only one who drew parallel’s between Ms. McDonald and Trayvon Martin. While an important intervention for mainstream cable television, the travesty about the ‘Being transgender in America’ segment is that all of Harris-Perry’s featured guests were white transgender people and their allies. Neither Kate Bornstein nor any of the featured guests offered any substantive critique or analysis on how the intersections of race and gender identity profoundly impact the lives of transgender people of color. Essentially, their all-white presence presented an incorrect perception that most transgender people are white; and they all experience structural violence in the same way. This is not true at all. There are many trans activists of color who could’ve contextualized the specifics of Ms. McDonald’s case from an intersectional framework. Additionally, they could’ve discussed the various ways in which transgender people of color experience all forms of violence both outside and inside of their racial and cultural communities.
Most recently, on April 20, 2012, the Advocate.com published Diane Anderson-Minshall’sessay, “Fighting For Her Life: Transgender Woman Charged With Murder.” Anderson-Minshall, shares some of the astounding statistics from the recently released nationwide survey of transgender and gender non-conforming people, which was conducted by The National Center for Transgender Equality and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Anderson-Minshall writes:
"…What they found is shocking but bears weight on the case against CeCe McDonald: 38% of African-American respondents experienced police harassment, 15% reported being physically assaulted by the police, and 7% reported being sexually assaulted by the police; 38% of African American MTF (male-to-female) respondents reported being sexually assaulted by either another inmate or a staff member in jail/prison; 41% of African-American respondents reported being imprisoned because of their race and gender identity alone; a whopping 47% reported having been in jail or prison for any reason…"
Unfortunately and yet not surprisingly, there hasn’t been any expressed outrage on the part of Non-LGBTQ Black Civil Rights organizations and public intellectuals about Ms. McDonald’s case. Her case is most definitely another example of racism and transphobia in the criminal (in)justice system. Additionally the expressed outrage on the part of mainstream white LGBTQ organizations has been minimal, if at all. In spite of this, there has been a multi-racial racial groundswell of local, state, and national grassroots organizing in support of Ms. McDonald’s case. In addition to the media coverage I cited, there are many bloggers who are focused on covering her case. The Support CeCe McDonald webpage posted a press release announcing that on April 17, 2012:
"…supporters of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald delivered a petition with over 12,000 signatures and a letter signed by 35 local, state, and national organizations directly to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman’s office this afternoon, demanding that he drop the two second-degree murder charges levied against McDonald…"
Coincidentally (or not), Attorney Freeman’s office recently declined to prosecute the white killer of Darrell Evanovich, an African-American man shot dead after an alleged robbery. Supporters of CeCe McDonald are asking people to contact Attorney Freeman’s office directly to encourage him to drop the charge against Ms. Mcdonald, especially since he set a precedent of refusing to prosecute the killer of Darrell Evanovich. The change.org-sponsored petition demanding Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman to drop the charges against Ms. McDonald is still receiving signatures.
The Support CeCe McDonald webpage has some of the most comprehensive up-to-date information about her case, including tangible ways individuals and organizations can support her. Ms. McDonald has a pretrial rescheduled for April 27, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. Her actual trial is scheduled for April 30, 2012. It is vital that we stay focused on CeCe McDonald receiving justice.
There are clearly stark differences between CeCe McDonald and Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin, a straight Black teenage boy was murdered; and CeCe McDonald, a young adult Black trans woman, was brutally attacked, and, in response to defending herself, is fighting for a life outside of the prison industrial complex. The common denominator between both Martin and McDonald, however, is the vicious impact of white supremacist and state sanctioned violence on the lives of Black bodies. I believe it is critical that our national Non-LGBTQ Black Civil Rights organizations and public intellectuals speak and act with the profound understanding that justice should not be fought solely on behalf of Black straight boys and men; but it should be fought for all members in our non-monolithic communities.
[Click on the link for the full article and links to other pieces in the four part series]
Early in the morning of April 24th a group of angry queers smashed out the windows of Mars Hill Church in Southeast Portland. Mars Hill is notoriously anti-gay and anti-woman. Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill’s head pastor, has said that women need to be subservient to their husbands and that gay people are a cancer. His personal brand of Christianity crusades against the “feminization” of Jesus - we angry queers are not fans of Jesus, but we have a problem with anyone who has a problem with femmes.
This action was taken in memory of Mark Aguhar, a fierce queer/trans femme of color and artist from Chicago who killed herself a little over a month ago. We also hold in our hearts Paige Clay, a trans woman of color who was found murdered in Chicago on April 16th; Duanna Johnson, a black trans woman who was in all likelihood murdered by the police in 2008; Agnes Torres Sulca, Deoni Jones, and all other trans women who have been murdered by this cissexist, femmephobic, racist, and transmisogynistic society.
Churches are a major contributor to the culture that deems trans women of color to be disposable, as not worth keeping alive. …
I’m so saddened and angered and pissed about the collusion of racism and cissexism, that another trans woman of color is dead, that the world can be this awful—or rather, that people can be this awful. especially white people, especially cis people, especially anyone who benefits from any form of systemic oppression, and doesn’t actively work to recognize their privilege and dismantle it.
I normally wouldn’t post links to download pirated content, but the message of Julia Serano’s magnificent first book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity is so important for every woman (trans or cis) to read that I’m breaking my rule.
If you consider yourself a feminist, you have no excuse not to read this.
Like it? Buy it!
“The catch-22 of [the gatekeepers] was an external expectation that I wasn’t actually supposed to be too sexual. The context was essentially that of a castrated ‘man’ — wholly submissive and subordinate, a eunuch who would be nonthreatening to women. And to the men who would kindly have me, I would be their Madonna of purity.”
Cece McDonald stood up to bigots and survived a hate crime. Now she’s in the county jail waiting to be tried for second degree murder. This is a story about intersectionality – what happens when a young trans woman of color goes up against white supremacy, misogyny and…
This is a really upsetting article. The woman who was arrested is misgendered, referred to as a “man who identifies as a woman.”
Trans women are systematically discriminated against in employment. This is particularly true for trans women of color. Nineteen percent of trans women have experience in the underground economy, with 15% of trans women having experienced sex work and eight percent with experience in drug sales. While less likely to have experience in drug sales, trans women are more than twice as likely to have experience doing sex work when compared to trans men and 1.5 times more likely than gender nonconforming people.
The percentage of trans people with experience in the underground economy is even greater when filtering out White trans people. Fifty-three percent overall (47% sex work/30% drug sales) of Black, 34% overall (29% sex work/10% drug sales) of Latin@, 30% overall (20% sex work/16% drug sales) of multiracial, 21% overall (18% sex work/11% drug sales) of Native American, and 16% overall (11% sex work/6% drug sales) of Asian trans people have experience in the underground economy. Compared with 11% overall (6% sex work/6% drug sales) of White trans people who have experience in the underground economy.
Since trans women are more likely to have experience in the underground economy generally and in sex work specifically, percentages given above by race are likely higher for women than men and gender nonconforming people, with the exception of drug sales.
This means trans women of color, especially Black and Latina trans women, do to higher rates of participation in survival crimes, particularly survival sex work, are at greater risks of arrest.
Trans women of color are often profiled as sex workers and targeted by police in what is commonly referred to as “walking while trans,” regardless of whether they are actually involved in sex work or not. This can happen while walking down the street, waiting for the bus or subway, sitting in a bar, dancing in a clubs, or looking for a date on an online classifieds like Craigslist.
The media and the criminal justice system have failed to take into account the systematic overlapping oppression of cissexism, racism, and sexism that trans women of color have to struggle against. When many trans women of color are systematically denied any other viable alternatives in the formal economy, criminalizing those women for their involvement in sex work and the underground economy basically means criminalizing them for simply trying to survive in a society stacked against them.
Rather than locking these women up in men’s prisons, where they are very likely to experience sexualized and physical violence from inmates and guards alike, justice would mean getting rid of the legalized violence against trans women in the form of structural cis supremacy in education, healthcare, housing, employment, identity documents, immigration, and so on.
But since that isn’t going to happen overnight, decriminalizing sex work is one of the quickest things we can do to drastically reduce trans women’s vulnerability to violence.
Facing misogyny has been rough on me. I’ve been assumed to be stupid because I was a woman; I’ve been dismissed as subhuman because I was a woman; I’ve been stalked; I’ve been catcalled; I’ve been called every misogynist slur in the book; I’ve had my needs dismissed as “hysterics”; I’ve been reduced to my looks and to my body parts; I’ve been driven to tears by men I loved because they refused to relent in their sexism…
…and I still wouldn’t trade any of it for my pre-transition life; I still couldn’t ever realistically consider “going back”. My life is harder in many ways now that it’s widely known that I’m a woman, but the fact remains that I am a woman, and having people see me as I am is important for my very survival. Yeah, I could have chosen not to transition, and to claim male privilege, if I had wanted to. But it wasn’t worth it. And even now, having firsthand experience of what it’s like to be a woman under patriarchy, it still wouldn’t be worth it to me.
Yeah, being a woman in this world is hard. But, for me, not being one is even harder. I wish more cis feminists got that.