Tag Archives: politics

Policed Bodies: A Discussion Across Identities

In variations of the county, women a shackled by their ankles, handcuffed by their wrists and forced to wear a belly restraint across their stomach. We view this inhumane act as another form of systematic control, for we are living in a system that’s determined to cut down the most marginalized and under-resourced parts of our communities.

SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, GSU’s BlackOUT, Lambda Legal, and 9to5 will be hosting a event at GSU to bring awareness and discuss issues surrounding the shackling of incarcerated women and the intersecting oppression among race, class, and gender, and sexual orientation.

WHEN: FEB 13TH
WHERE: SINCLAIRE SUITE, 2nd FLOOR, STUDENT CENTER
TIME: 7:00PM

The conversation begins promptly at 7:0pm.

If your organization is interested in speaking at this event, please contact SPARK Organizer, Bianca Campbell at bianca@sparkrj.org.

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This event leads into the 5th Annual Legislate THIS! – http://on.fb.me/xDoA8a
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Directions available: http://www.gsu.edu/studentcenter/driving_directions.html

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Re: Seeing Over the Rainbow, Transgender Identities

Over the Rainbow

By Laurie Essig

I am exhausted from a weekend conference on transgender identities and issues, a late Sunday night meeting with a queer campus group, National Coming Out Week, and the news stories about the Bronx torture of three men apparently for being gay.

All of these things weave in and out of each other like colors of the rainbow and yet I can’t help thinking that what they also point out is that we may in fact be over the rainbow.  Identity politics have come to a dead end in the path to liberation, the end of modernist narratives of progress, where closet leads to the public confession ritual of coming out which leads to a liberation of the true self.  The liberated gay, one of the most powerful fairy tales of Modernity, is now faced with both pre- and postmodern alternatives.

Let us begin with the Bronx.  Last weekend nine men ranging in age between 16 and 23 lured three men to a home where they proceeded to torture them.  Their victims were anally raped with baseball bats, beaten with chains and burned with cigarettes.  The New York Times has described the oldest victim, who is 30, as a “gay man” and said the torture was “punishment for being gay.”

This is a crime that exists within modernity and premodernity.  A stable identity based on sexual practices and a fixed gender– gay man– is attacked by what the police have described as a “wolfpack,” a violent and punishing–and of course racialized–force outside of that state (premodern since the only legitimate source of force within modernity is the state).

But wait.  Because the story now leaks into a different time.  A time where identity is no longer stable and the assumption that gender and sexual expression are both binary (male/female and straight/gay) and unilinear, that is, there are no narrative slippages, is called into question.  Because the victim described as a gay man was in fact someone who used feminine pronouns and was known in his neighborhood as la Reina (the Queen).

As David Valentine points out in Imagining Transgender, it is difficult within modernist thinking to imagine that trans and gay bodies can coincide.  We have trouble constructing a story about a person who is both the Queen and a gay man.  And so we rewrite bodies that do not express a stable gender as either “trans” or “gay.”  If the Queen is trans, then she is in a heterosexual relationship with men, feminine to masculine.  But if the Queen is gay, then he is in a homosexual relationship, masculine to masculine.

Yet the body of the Queen confuses us because it doesn’t fit into modernist understandings of stable selves.  How can there be a body with a penis that is both a gay man and also female.   There is nowhere to turn except to postmodernity, what some have called “the road to nowhere” since liberation is never part of a postmodern story.

Within postmodernity, the demand for a stable and coherent identity where gender is separated from sexuality is refused.  Indeed, it is the refusal of stable identities and the embrace of the performativity of self that marks off the postmodern from the modern.

Which brings us to the conference I was at while the Queen and her lovers were being tortured in the Bronx.  Within the Translating Identity Conference at the University of Vermont I witnessed modernist notions of stable gender identity rubbing shoulders with postmodernist notions of refusal and subversion of binary and stable gender.  In other words, authentic selves are confronted with unstable selves, nouns with verbs, men who are “really” women meet those who identify as gender anarchists.

The results are not that different than the current mainstream gay and lesbian movement meeting up with radical queers.  Fireworks, fights, arguments, and a growing sense that the rainbow no longer represents a diversity of gender and sexual expressions, but a stable gender and sexual identity movement.

Which is why I was meeting with a student group on a Sunday night as they tried to think through Coming Out Week, with some  trans and gender queer students wondering whether “Coming Out” was a story they could tell since they could only come out as complicated and messy and gay and lesbian students talking about the liberation they felt the first time they confessed their “true” identity.

Modernist time and postmodernist in the same room, the same movement, lumped together by a legal system as well as the extralegal violence of torture in the Bronx.  The rainbow as a symbol of stability.  The rainbow as no longer a place many queers want to go.

And yet, alongside all of these stories lurks the threat of violence, discrimination, and hate–both from “wolfpacks” and from the state in the form of discriminatory laws and practices.  Which leads to a strange melting of stories and times somewhere over the rainbow.

Source: http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/over-the-rainbow/27605

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In Kenya: House Calls for Mandatory an HIV Testing

It’s easy to avoid going to a hospital or clinic for an HIV test but what would you do if those carrying out the tests came to your house? The Kenyan government recently launched a door-to-door testing campaign and here’s how people in the country are reacting to the programme.

In the village of Asega in the Rift Valley, life is slow and newcomers are rare, so when health workers turned up recently there was a lot of curiosity. They came to test residents for HIV as part of a government initiative.

Most people in Asega are farmers and spend long hours cultivating land. The nearest health facility is a district hospital which is about 30 minutes drive away and many people don’t have the time to go there.

Social worker Faith Nekesa tests about 20 people every day.  When she worked in a hospital only about three people would come in for tests daily.

“These areas are far from hospitals … so that’s why we decided to bring our services here because of the distance and their need,” she told Reuters Africa Journal.

According to the government about 5.1 percent of the country’s 35 million people are infected with HIV. Kenya’s HIV AIDS prevalence rate has dropped by half over the last decade, mainly because of government and donor funded awareness programmes.

However many people still don’t know their status and some are sceptical about mobile testing.

“We are aware that people must be tested but this doesn’t mean that I can be tested on the street; this cannot be, this is like risking my own life,” said one man. “I can’t be tested. This will bring stress and trauma in my life, this cannot be.”

The Kenyan government launched a door-to-door campaign at the end of November this year that hopes to test a million people over a three-week period. Will it win over the doubters?

Source: http://blogs.reuters.com/africanews/2009/12/03/house-calls-for-an-hiv-test/

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Ecuador: Tortured for Being Gay? But, Not Anymore…

The beginning of the end is finally here. That is, the beginning of the end of ex-gay torture clinics in Ecuador. While homosexuality is technically legal in Ecuador, the reality is that a dangerous underground culture of homophobia still exists throughout the country. Until recently, LGBT women and men in Ecuador were being held against their will at hundreds of so-called “clinics” that used torture and physical abuse to “cure” them of being gay. As more and more victims escaped and started speaking out, they revealed a network of nearly 200 illegal clinics posing as drug rehabilitation centers, promising to turn patients straight, and using sexual abuse, starvation, humiliation, and torture to achieve their goals.

This is where Fundación Causana’s work began. The LGBT activist group has been working for the last 10 years to deconstruct homophobia in Ecuador. Among their biggest challenges has been getting the country’s Ministry of Health to stop turning a blind eye and address the issue of gay torture clinics that are prevalent within the country.

One of the first voices to speak out was that of 24-year-old Paola Ziritti. Paola’s parents knew they were sending her to a forced-confinement clinic, but they had no idea just how awful it would be. Once Paola’s mother realized what she’d done, she tried to get her daughter back, but the clinic said no. The process to free Paola took a year. “I spent two years in one such facility and for three months was shackled in handcuffs while guards threw water and urine on me,” said Paola, who describes numerous accounts of physical and sexual abuse during her “rehabilitation.” “Why is the clinic where I suffered still open?” she asks.

Now, Paola’s nightmare, and those of hundreds of young men and women who are still trapped in clinics in Ecuador, is finally about to end. This past November Fundación Causana started an online campaign on Change.org, the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change. Within weeks, the campaign collected over 100,000 signatures from supporters across the globe asking the former Minister of Health, Dr. David Chiriboga Allnut, to take action and immediately investigate the clinics.

 

It took an international outcry to elevate the voices of Fundación Causana, but the government of Ecuador is finally listening. Soon, hundreds of men and women trapped inside ex-gay clinics will be able to return home.

Emilia Gutierrez

Human Rights Organizing Manager, Change.org

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