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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2012
Leslie Feinberg Arrested in Solidarity with Chrishaun McDonald
Hundreds Take to Street in Protest
Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network, firstname.lastname@example.org, (612) 363-7574; and Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, email@example.com, (612) 823-1152
Leslie Feinberg was arrested last night amidst hundreds of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald supporters protesting outside of the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. Feinberg is being held at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and is facing charges of property damage. The protest was held on the eve of McDonald’s transfer to the state prison system, where she will serve out a sentence of 41 months for defending herself against racist and transphobic attackers. Although McDonald initially faced two charges of second degree murder, earlier this month she accepted a plea agreement to a reduced charge of second degree manslaughter due to negligence. Outraged supporters took to the streets, blocking traffic for over an hour in protest of the violent abuses McDonald has faced at the hands of our legal system. Feinberg joined demonstrators in making noise loud enough to be heard within the facility McDonald is currently being held at, and marching through the streets in a show of love and solidarity with CeCe McDonald and with all incarcerated individuals. Feinberg was the only person arrested, and is excited to draw more attention to McDonald’s story and to the prevalent racism and transphobia within the criminal system.
Feinberg has given the following statement:
Many people across the United States and around the world are watching, and history will record what happens on June 4, 2012. CeCe McDonald survived a fascist hate crime; now she’s sentenced as she struggles to survive an ongoing state hate crime. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues! I know from the lessons of histories what is means when the state—in a period of capitalist economic crisis—enacts apartheid passbook laws, bounds up and deports immigrant works, and gives a green light to e white supremacists, fascist attacks on Black peoples—from Sanford, Florida, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The prosecutor and the judge are upholding the intent of the infamous white supremacist Dred Scott ruling of 1857.
The same year Fredrick Douglass concluded: “Without struggle, there is no progress!”
CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth: celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation—the formal Abolitionist of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defense against racist violence.
Yet, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jailers are continuing the violent and bigoted hate crimes begun by the group of white supremacists who carried out a fascist attack on CeCe McDonald and her friends.
CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison in June—the month when the Stonewall Rebellion ignited in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. From the Compton’s Uprising to the Stonewall Rebellion, defense against oppression is a law of survival.
This is Pride month, and will be bringing the demand: “Free CeCe—now!” to the regional Pride march where I live. I believe many other individuals, groups, and contingents will thunder that demand in Pride marches and rallies all over the world—informing millions who take part, and millions more who support.
The prosecution hopes this struggle is over. But it is not over: Free CeCe—now! An injury to one is an injury to all! Come out against racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and sexist wars at home and abroad!
Feinberg’s arrest is symptomatic of growing anger and frustration at the disproportionate targeting and abuse of young transgender women of color in our society. The actions Feinberg took last night were in solidarity with McDonald and all prisoners to let them know they are not alone. Feinberg is excited to garner attention to how McDonald is treated today as McDonald is transferred to the prison intake facility in St. Cloud, MN.
McDonald’s case does not reflect an isolated aberration in the functioning of the U.S. legal system, but rather business as usual within a society that has, for hundreds of years, profited from the incarceration and exploitation of people of color and trans/gender non-conforming people. McDonald’s sentencing sends a very clear message to all those following her case across the country: transphobia and racism are alive and well, both in the violent verbal and physical attacks on trans youth of color in the night as well as in the legal system which makes surviving this violence a crime punishable by years of incarceration. Nevertheless, we look forward to joining all of McDonald’s supporters in continuing to fight against these systems of power, for CeCe and for all transgender women of color targeted by the prison-industrial complex.
With love and rage,
The CeCe McDonald Support Committee
For more information on McDonald’s case, visit supportcece.wordpress.com.
Within hours of CeCe McDoanld’s plea bargain with Minneapolis prosecutors to second degree manslaughter, members of her local support committee were gearing up for another round of media and an evening visit at the local jail. McDonald is a black transgender woman who was charged with second degree murder after a fight in June of 2011 at an area bar left one man, Dean Schmitz, dead. She and her supporters have argued that the case is one of self defense after Schwartz and his friends began attacking McDonald with racist and homophobic slurs. Sentencing is set to take place next month, but the plea deal stipulates that McDonald will spend 41 months — just over three and a half years — in prison.
McDonald’s case has sparked a national outcry in part because it’s so familiar. For many, the case is eerily familiar to that of the New Jersey 4, in which four black lesbians were charged with attempted murder and sent to prison after protecting themselves from a a group of white men who’d threatened to “fuck them straight.” Time and again, people of color whose gender identities fall outside of societal norms fall prey to a deeply flawed criminal justice system. When they’re feared, they become victims. When they fight back, they become criminals.
On her blog, McDonald’s written candidly about the need to tackle hate. “No matter where you go, or community you live in, people will continue to discriminate,” McDonald wrote. “And as long as we do not stand up for our equality, we allow them to have the upper hand against us. I feel that is our duty to give these people the awareness and education about whom we truly are, and not whom they assume we are.”
Outside of the courtroom last night, McDonald’s supporters criticized the prosecution.
“[Hennepin County Attorney Michael] Freeman’s aggressive prosecution of CeCe was a continuation of the racist, transphobic assault that led to her being charged and resulted in the tragic death of one of the assailants,” said Kris Gebhard of the CeCe McDonald Support Committee. “We’ve been proud to stand with CeCe as she fought this unjust prosecution and will continue to stand with her as she fights for justice as a trans woman of color within the prison system.”
To bring that point home, Katie Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network told a crowd of supporters outside the courthouse, “With the whole world watching, Freeman’s office consistently chose not to take the opportunity to stand up against racism and transphobia. Freeman himself said, and I quote, ‘The criminal justice system is not built for, nor is it necessarily good at, solving a lot of society’s problems.’”
I spoke with Billy Navarro of the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition. Navarro’s been an active member of the Support CeCe Coalition, which has been working to spread the word about McDonald’s case and offer support to CeCe throughout her incarceration.
What has this case meant for Minneapolis’s LGBT community?
I think it’s definitely galvanized us in a certain way — for those of us who were paying attention to it. I’m not gonna front like everyone was paying attention to it. I think we saw the division lines between trans folks and queer folks on one side, and gays and lesbians on another side. It took a lot for us to get local, mainstream GLBT organizations and media outlets to pay attention to CeCe’s story. A lot of it was the push from the trans and queer community. If anything, it kind of brought some of those divisions to light and made the rest of us really, really come together.
The Support Committee is a bunch of different people who’ve never worked together and came from different parts of life and very different communities who came together for CeCe. So I think there are are some really big positives in that manner.
I’m just really excited about all the different people who came together to work with CeCe.
What kinds of local and national support has CeCe gotten?
I think she’s gotten a lot of national support from a lot of different organizations. Gay and lesbian and transgender; POC and white. There are labor unions that are not even part of queer or GLBT organizing that are behind it. Lawyer’s organizations — the National Lawyer’s Guild — put in a support letter a couple days ago. The support nationally and internationally has been super diverse amongst many, many different communities. Again, they’re coming together because they see this as an injustice.
One of the things that makes this case so sad is that it’s so familiar. For instance, there’s also the case of the New Jersey 4. What push are you making to confront institutional change?
I think a lot of what we’ve seen is that this work is seen as a reaction to what happened to CeCe. I think CeCe’s seen it as a bigger picture thing. It’s put a spotlight on what it’s like for trans women of color here in all these different systems — whether it’s the shelter system [PDF] or the prison industrial complex [PDF].
I think exposing that and talking about it and bringing into the mainstream media helps at least start the conversation to change those systems.
What happens now? What kinds of support are you planning for CeCe while she’s in prison?
We’re gonna continue support, and we’ve always said that from the beginning. Whatever CeCe needs from us, that’s what we’re here for. However CeCe wanted us to be supportive of her, that’s what we’re here for. We have visitation with her this evening, so we’ll talk about what she wants us to do. But we’re ready. Ride or die, whatever she wants. We’re in this for the long haul, so if it’s visiting her in jail, or needing to get stories out about her — whatever she wants, whatever she needs. For as long as she needs it.
The murder trial of CeCe McDonald is officially underway. McDonald is a black transgender woman who’s on trial for killing a man who she says physically harassed her outside of a Minneapolis-area bar. The trial officially began yesterday, but will be in full swing this morning as the woman’s supporters gather at the court house for support.
McDonald is on trial for second degree murder following the death of Dean Schmitz. But McDonald and her supporters are adamant that Schmitz’s death is a case of self-defense after the man allegedly yelled racist and homiphobia slurs at McDonald. After the altercation, McDonald had to get 11 stitches to her face and there were reports that Schmitz had a swastika tattoo on his chest. Still, McDonald was interrogated by police without an attorney present and placed in solitary confinement.
Supporters say that McDonald’s case is a striking example of bias against transgender and black people in the criminal justice system. “People were very enraged about what had happened to her and the refusal of Hennepin County to recognize her right to self-defense,” Katie Burgess, executive director of Trans Youth Support Network, told Democracy Now.
Supporters have started a website, Support CeCe, to help tell McDonald’s story and follow developments during the trial. Recent trial updates mentioned that Schmitz’s previous history of domestic violence will not be used as evidence, but McDonald’s past conviction for writing a bad check will be allowed. It’s unclear whether or not Schmitz’s swastika tattoo will be admitted as evidence during the trial.
In the mean time, McDonald’s supporters have pledged to flock to the courtroom wearing purple to support the defense.
We’ll have regular updates throughout the trial, so stay tuned.
OUT OF TOWNERS WE NEED YR HELP SUPPORTING CECE!!
Can’t be in court, you can still help support CeCe McDonald through out her trial.
*Re-post & forward EVERYTHING we put out on FB, Tumblr & Twitter. SHIT NEEDS TO GO VIRAL for the main stream media to pay any attention.
*Blog & write yr asses off! Contact yr local media & get them to write or publish articles about CeCe.
*Write letters to the editor of your local papers, let them know about her case!
*Support the Supporters by bringing us lunch. Here’s all the info: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=262345560527681
*Write to CeCe, let her know she is not alone in this. Send her books, send her letters. Info here: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/get-involved/
*Hold a fundraiser for CeCe. We’re still short on our budgeted cost for her & her family’s support.
*Start a CeCe Support Committee in yr area! Info here: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/get-involved/start-a-support-committee/
*Wear PURPLE all through the trial and tell people why yr wearing it. Post pics on our wall of yr community wearing purple, spread the word.
*Change yr profile pic on all yr social media sites to one of CeCe or CeCe inspired Art. We have tons of pics on the FB page.
Free CeCe McDonald! Help get the word out! Take action!
For those that can’t be in the courtroom, please wear the color PURPLE each day of trial, starting April 30th! Post pics of yrself wearing purple during the trial, FREE CECE!
… this month’s Faces of Change blog features a transgender rights organization in Turkey called Pink Life. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights introduced me to Pink Life, a grantee of theirs that has been working tirelessly since 2006 to change a Turkish society that openly condones violence against transgender people and provides no clear legal or civic protection of transgender rights.
I asked Pink Life’s Secretary General, Kemal Ordek, about what drove hir into trans rights activism and what sie wants the world to know about being transgender. (Kemal preferred that I use the gender-neutral pronouns “sie” and “hir” to express hir views.) Kemal explained, “Being trans in general means being unheard. But being trans in Turkey means to be a victim, a victim whose existence is denied, whose demands are ignored, and whose visibility is targeted by several powerful actors in society.”
“The first time I felt I should take part in this important work was when Dilek Ince, a member of Pink Life, was shot to death in November 2008. Dilek Ince was a trans woman. We lost her, and the perpetrators of her murder were never arrested nor convicted, despite evidence given to the security forces.”
Sie continued, “I was so depressed. I couldn’t find a way to express my deep concern for the lives of trans people in Turkey. I was a member of the LGBT community and realized how marginalized the trans people were, even within the LGBT movement. I deeply felt that I should take part in the trans rights movement for myself and for the unheard voices within our community. This was another way working through my sorrow.”
Kemal and hir colleagues at Pink Life recevied a $5,000 Rapid Response Grant from Urgent Action Fund to respond to the attempted lynching of the trans women mentioned above. They used the funds to pressure police and authority figures with both media attention and a public advocacy campaign, which eventually lead to the arrest and trial of those responsible.
I was surprised, given the enormity of anti-trans sentiment in Turkey, that such a small amount of money, coupled with the dedication of Pink Life’s staff, could prove so effective. But while Pink Life got the support to follow through this time, so many other incidents of transphobic violence are unacknowledged and unaccounted for. In Turkey, as in much of the world, there is very little social protection for you if your expressed gender varies from your assigned sex. That’s what we are talking about here. The simple, non-violent act of expressing yourself in a way that upsets the gender binary of males as men and females as women. Well, it seems simple to me, but to the world it has become complicated and misunderstood.
According to Pink Life, transphobic hatred in Turkey is so widespread that trans rights activists are specifically targeted because of their work. They wrote, “As trans activists, our freedom of movement is prevented, our freedom of expression is limited and we are faced with social exclusion and violence. In short, we are being ‘hated’ just because of our existence!” That about sums up transphobia: fear of an entire group of people just because they exist. So Kemal and I started a petition to the Turkish government demanding that they protect the rights of all their transgender citizens and that they drop the pending charges against three pink life activists who were arbitrarily detained and beaten.
Glenn Close clearly succeeded in provoking important conversations and placing transgender identity on the red carpet. But for the trans women who were almost lynched in Turkey, and for the thousands of other victims of transphobic hate crimes, the world is changing too slowly. The number of reviews I read that called the film’s lead character “creepy” and “un-relatable,” or referred to Albert as “it” rather than “him,” was in itself disturbing and sad. We will know things have really changed when a trans man wins an Oscar for playing a leading male role, and his sex at birth is not even mentioned. Until then, while Ms. Close thanks the Academy, I would like to thank the brave trans rights activists, like Kemal Ordek at Pink Life, who risk their lives every day to speak up for trans folk, even though no one is giving them golden awards or celebrating their hard work in front of millions.
If you would also like to express your gratitude or solidarity to the trans rights activists at Pink Life, please do so in the comments below. If you feel compelled to add your name to Pink Life’s call for equal rights and freedoms in Turkey, please take a moment and sign our petition. And just in case, if you are Glenn Close, and while accepting your award you feel inspired to mention the thousands of trans rights activists working today against the same forces of hatred and ignorance that Albert withstood, this is your moment.
I recently attended the standing-room-only funeral for Deoni Jones. She was 23 years old, fatally stabbed while waiting at a bus stop in Washington, D.C. Police say they have no evidence that this particular stabbing was related to her gender identity. Regardless, she was one of too many transgender women violently killed.
Funerals are always hard. Funerals for someone murdered are a whole level of different. Anger. Fear. Disbelief. Did I mention anger? Anger that it’s not an isolated incident. Anger that for all the national LGBT organizations here in D.C. and all the advances our community has made, our people are still getting killed, right here, in 2012. Anger that we know it won’t be the last vigil or funeral we will attend for a murdered transgender woman of color.
In 2011 nine other transgender individuals were brutally killed in vicious hate crimes in the U.S.: Cassidy Nathan Vickers, shot in Hollywood, Calif.; Shelley Hilliard, shot in Detroit, Mich., her body burned; Gaurav Gopalan, killed in Washington, D.C.; Camila Guzman, stabbed in New York City; Lashai Mclean, shot in Washington, D.C.; Miss Nate Nate (or Née) Eugene Davis, shot in Houston, Tex.; Marcal Camero Tye, shot and dragged in Arkansas; Tyra Trent, strangled in Baltimore, Md.; Krissy Bates, shot multiple times in Minneapolis. This list is only those who did not survive their attacks. This list is just those in the U.S., in the last year.
In the labor movement, we organize by the spirit of the motto, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” In the LGBT community, we must find that sense of shared struggle with a movement that truly includes all of us. Our people are getting killed. Every one of us has a moral obligation to stand up and talk about it, to find a way to take action, to do more. Those of us who are the “LGB” of our community must stand in real solidarity with our transgender sisters and brothers. Allies, you are just as vital.
There is an inseparable link between violence, discrimination, and economic injustice. Working people across all sectors are facing extraordinary levels of unemployment and underemployment. Youth, immigrants, women, people of color, and LGBT people face disproportionate hardship. Black transgender individuals are estimated to have four times the unemployment rate of the general population.
When people are out of work or underemployed — and can be legally discriminated against in hiring, in most states — individuals are more likely to find themselves in vulnerable positions, in less safe work environments and less safe neighborhoods, and facing fewer options for living with basic human dignity. When people are out of work, struggling with keeping their homes, making the rent, keeping the lights on, the stress and weight of the world grows. And it’s not just LGBT folks; too many people are living in a state of suffering, whether physical or emotional. It takes a toll.
During Deoni’s funeral, as person after person shared their grief, frustration, disbelief, a beautiful thing happened: an overwhelming sense of community solidarity grew. A resolve to support each other, to use our voices, to stand together. To not wait for someone to fix it for us, but to be moved to action. As Pastor Darren Phelps said during the service, “We came to get hope, and to give hope.”
When we celebrate the lives of those lost, sisters like Deoni, we must each consider how we can honor their spirit by changing and strengthening our work. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
We should not be hopeless, but we should be angry. There are actions that we can take:
- Speaking out against violence: We cannot let hate crimes against our community pass by in silence. In the words of the ACT-UP community, silence equals death. As an LGBT community, we must speak the women’s names aloud, remember them, take the pain of their murders, and use it as our fuel to go out and make it better.
- Educating within the LGBT community: In addition to the work of educating our allies, we must continue to educate within the LGBT community about issues of both gender identity/expression and racial justice. We must do the work to learn what we don’t know, and share what we do. We must have frank conversations and create meaningful action plans to make our work more whole.
- Withdrawing our dollars from corporations that don’t genuinely support LGBT workers: There’s a difference between saying the LGBT community supports people of color and transgender folks within our movement, and actually standing in support of their struggles. While the regular working people and jobless folks in the LGBT community may not have all that mythical gay community disposable income, we absolutely do have strength in numbers, and we should recognize and use our power.
- Fighting for good jobs and economic security:While we continue the fight for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, we must take action for economic relief that will have a meaningful, immediate impact in workers’ lives. LGBT groups must prioritize fighting for those in deepest struggle within our community. All of us in the LGBT community should be standing up for good jobs that let our community survive and thrive, living as our whole selves and supporting our families with dignity.
That means taking on the fight to protect unemployment insurance as our own. That means standing in solidarity for workers’ right to form a union. In many states, the only protection LGBT workers have from being legally fired or discriminated against in hiring and promotions.
Fighting for good union jobs is one of the strongest paths out of poverty. And fighting poverty — for all people, not just LGBT folks — is vital to stopping violence.
Solidarity with CeCe McDonald
CeCe McDonald is being charged with 2nd degree murder even though she was the target of a hate crime. Stand against racism and transphobia in our society and in the prison-industrial complex. Stand in solidarity and support CeCe McDonald!
“Everyone should just be treated like human beings, no matter who they are.”