Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws Apparently Misinterpreted

LGBTQ balloonsLately, a lot of media attention has surrounded the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sotji, Russia, where concerns have been raised over the new anti-gay laws recently passed by President Vladimir Putin. These laws make it illegal to distribute gay/bisexual propaganda and information to minors, making the “crime” punishable with a jail sentence.

Apparently, Putin’s laws are being backed by Alexey Sorokin, who is in charge of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, also taking place in Russia. Sorokin meant that the laws are being misinterpreted and that they are intended to protect minors against gay/bisexual propaganda (whatever that is) and thus are not meant to discriminate against gay people and are not therefore really against homosexuality. But, the laws are going to be implemented simply if a person carries the LGBTQ flag or displays a non-traditional relationship with a same-sex person which then means that they will discriminate against gay people since they will not have the same rights as their straight peers do. This is called discrimination. Sorokin, however, defended the new laws by stating that people do not want a World Cup where people run around naked (like gay people usually do?) and market their homosexuality.

How can someone be against the displays of homosexuality but not homosexuality? The very act of being gay or straight (or other identities/preferences) means that you are displaying an identity and often a sexual preference. The laws basically mean that you can be gay if you never “live it”. You cannot be gay outdoors or wear the flag, especially so not around minors, which are basically everywhere. The laws mean that you can basically never have a social life together with a partner and that you can only hold hands or share intimacy at home. If there is not a minor around that is. If there is a minor around, the laws suddenly make it illegal to be gay in your own house around minors, like your  children, since the very act of kissing or holding hands would be enough to prove that you are not in a traditional relationship (I am guessing that a traditional relationship means marriage between a woman and man). How absolutely ridicilous. As if the laws are not bad enough, the pathetic attempts to defend them by stating that discriminatory laws are not intended to discriminate is laughable.

Sterilized Swedish Trans People Will Not Receive A Government Apology

We’ve previously discussed how trans people in Sweden were forced to undergo sterilization procedures before being allowed to transition, as well as a new law in which this discriminatory regulation was removed. In June, the  Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) and many of the trans women and men who were sterilized sued the government for compensation.

The Local recently published an article about the controversy.  The trans community has asked the Swedish prime minister to apologize on behalf of all the women and men who were sterilized; according to Aleksa Lundberg, an actress and trans woman, the prime minister’s response has been that “the government can’t apologize every time a group wants an apology.” It is terrible that the prime minister will not apologize to the men and women who were treated so poorly  and robbed of a future involving biological children. He is not acknowledging the treatment these women and men faced, and is not treating their suffering as anything significant. [Read more...]

Carlos A. Ball Talks About His Book “The Right to Be Parents”

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today I am very excited to introduce Professor Carlos A. Ball, author of The Right to Be Parents, From the Closet to the Courtroom and The Morality of Gay Rights. I asked Carlos a few questions about his latest book The Right to Be Parents.

1. What was your inspiration for writing The Right to Be Parents?

I wanted to bring attention to the committed and courageous LGBT parents who have turned to the courts to protect their relationships with their children. While the issue of same-sex marriage has received an immense amount of attention by the media and the public, there has been a quieter revolution going on in terms of getting many courts to recognize and protect the relationships between LGBT parents and their children. I had previously written a book about the amazing human stories behind some of the leading LGBT rights lawsuits, but none of those cases involved parents. So I wanted to dedicate an entire book to this important subject.

2. In The Right to Be Parents you include extremely powerful stories of both success and discrimination that really highlight the struggles for LGBT families. How did you go about choosing the various stories?

I chose the cases based on a combination of their legal importance and the extent to which materials about them are available to researchers like me. As time goes on, it becomes especially important to honor and recognize some of the pioneering LGBT parents who, in the 1970s and 1980s, fought for their children in the courts before there was any real social acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships. It is important to me that the stories of these parents not be lost to history. I hope that my book contributes in some small ways to that process.

3. Over time, LGBT individuals and couples have gained many judicial rights when it comes to parenthood, but discrimination is still rampant. What do you believe needs to be done to continue working towards greater rights and equality?

Most of the progress that I document in my book resulted from judicial rulings. I think it is very important, going forward, to also focus on what legislators and child welfare officials can do to prevent discrimination when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity in matters related to parenting. There is only so much that courts can do, which means that long-term solutions will have to be found elsewhere.

4. The notion that heterosexual couples are better suited to instill gender conforming values in a child is discussed in the book even though you mention that research states that sexual orientation does not matter. Why do you believe this idea still persists?

The idea that children need both a mother and a father (as opposed to simply parents who love and support them) in order to thrive remains a deeply ingrained one. The social science literature is actually quite clear that neither parental gender nor sexual orientation is associated with child well-being. But it takes time for that evidence to overcome the strong assumptions and stereotypes that many people have about what children need in order to thrive. At the end of the day, what matters most in promoting the welfare of children is that they have adults in their lives who are able to care for and nurture them. The gender and sexual orientation of those adults matters little.

5. Several states, such as Mississippi and Utah still have laws that prohibit LGBT individuals and couples from adopting. Do you believe that these laws will change anytime soon?

I think it is likely, unfortunately, that some of the more conservative states will retain their legal restrictions on LGBT parenting for some time. But I think those states are to some extent already outliers. Most states do not impose explicit restrictions on the ability of LGBT individuals to serve, for example, as adoptive and foster care parents. I am hopeful that, as with the issue of marriage, equality will eventually prevail in matters related to sexual orientation/gender identity and parenting.

Trans Identity and Public Restrooms

The other day, an article in our local newspaper caught our attention. The article discussed how a Swedish trans woman filed a claim of discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The trans woman was, on two separate occasions, not allowed to use the women’s restroom after she was told by a “restroom host” that she was in fact a man. Despite explaining her transgender identity and her gender belonging, the woman was not allowed into the restroom.

[Read more...]

Lesbian Couples Forced to Pay More for Artificial Insemination

A recent article in our local Swedish feminist online paper, Feministiskt Perspektiv, discussed the fact that childless lesbian couples in some Swedish counties have to pay considerably more for artificial insemination than straight couples. While heterosexual couples usually turn to artificial insemination when they can’t conceive, lesbian couples are not seen as suffering from any diseases or disorders that would prevent them from conceiving, carrying, or giving birth to a child.

The reasoning behind such a decision displays a presumed heteronormativity where having children is inherently depicted as a privilege shared between a man and a woman only. Being a lesbian couple, and wanting a child, is consequently treated as a lifestyle choice: lesbian couples could find other ways to have a child, compared to heterosexual couples where artificial insemination is the last step before adoption or remaining childless. [Read more...]

Update: trans woman receives justice in attempted rape case

Earlier this year we reported on a case in which the attempted rape of a trans woman was not treated as such  because the victim has a penis and not a vagina. Despite the fact that the attacker intended to rape the woman, the perpetrator was acquitted on the basis that the rape could never have been completed (if one bases his/her assumptions about sexual assault or rape on traditional vaginal intercourse which is heterosexist). The case received attention because it clearly discriminated against trans women by making the direct claim that a trans woman could not be raped or experience an attempted rape if her transition was not “completed”. Thereby, sexual violence against trans women was classified as something that is unlikely to happen.

We are however glad to report that the court has now changed its verdict. The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) writes in an article that the court came to the conclusion that the perpetrator intended to rape his victim and there was nothing holding him back. Even if this man did not “complete” the assault, his intention was in fact to rape, thereby he is being charged with attempted rape.

[Read more...]

A Discussion of Feminism and the Trans Community

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we are talking with blogger and activist Helen. Helen writes and blogs for sites such as Bird of Paradox and the leading British feminist site The F-Word, where she is the Events Editor.

1. When did you first consider yourself a feminist, and what about the feminist movement appealed to you?

I’d been aware of the inequalities faced by women for a long time, probably since the 1970s, but didn’t really call myself a feminist until I began my transition. At that point, beginning to experience at first-hand the discrimination and prejudice and sexism that women face every day, it was more a question of, ‘how can women *not* call themselves feminists?’

It’s often been said that we only become politicised when we are directly affected by something happening to us, and so it was for me and feminism.

2. You have mentioned that discrimination against the trans community can be common within the feminist movement. What are some common forms of discrimination?

I’ve noticed many improvements, even in the 5/6 years since I began my transition, and many feminists now are well-informed about trans politics and are very good allies to trans people. The most obvious exceptions are those who call themselves ‘radical feminists’ but who cling to an ideology with its roots in the last century. These women seem to have the most hatred for trans women, even going so far as to demand that we be ‘morally mandated out of existence.’ Others will demand that we be refused access to essential medical care; that we be refused access to ‘their’ spaces, and so on. They will misgender us, publish our personal details on the internet, run blogs and forums that are nothing but transphobic hate speech, and so on. That branch of the women’s movement has no place in any contemporary feminism, I think. Thankfully, it seems to have little influence on a majority of feminists these days and I hope it will soon become no more than a footnote in academic textbooks.

3. You often discuss the violence that the trans community and especially transwomen face. How common is violence and how do you think we can minimize it?

Even though I blog very little any more, I do maintain a page called “A selection of published statistics of violence against trans people”, which lists links to various reports and websites where information about anti-trans violence is documented. I would especially recommend spending a little time at the TvT Project website; they have an update from March 2012 here.

These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg, for various reasons; this page talks about why.

Of course, we must not overlook the effects of the intersectionality of oppressions – I may suffer certain problems as a woman who is also transsexual, but I also benefit from such things as white privilege, class privilege, and so on. A trans woman of color who lives in poverty suffers many more oppressions and, statistically, is much more likely to be a victim of transphobic violence than me.

It has been said many times that ‘women are second-class citizens but trans women are second-class women’ and I think that is quite true. Really, only a change in attitudes amongst mainstream cis society is going to lead to full acceptance and equality. And although things are slowly improving, there is still a very long way to go – and I don’t honestly think I will see that day during my lifetime.

4. The language used to refer to LGBTQ concerns and different identities seems ever changing. What language/words are most important to know and be aware of?

I’m always concerned about the way trans people are pushed under the umbrella of ‘LGBTQ.’ I understand that it is important for oppressed minorities to form coalitions and alliances, to work together towards our common causes, but it seems that trans voices are often lost in the noise made by other larger and more powerful groups. So, although we may be preoccupied with equal marriage (and it is important to many trans people), other trans-specific issues (access to healthcare and employment, for example) are often sidelined.

The language is definitely in a state of flux; part of the problem is, I think, that trans people are (historically) defined by cis society’s perceptions of us, particularly by the medical profession. We are pathologised, stigmatised and demonised; objectified, fetishised, and generally treated as figures of fun. Moving away from the language of our oppressors is a good step forward towards being able to identify ourselves on our own terms. But it isn’t easy; there is much debate about what is and what isn’t acceptable language even withing trans communities (see the debates that go on around the use of the word ‘tranny,’ for example). And, of course, the power base held by our oppressors resents and fights our attempts at defining ourselves in our own right (see the hatred that some feminists have for being called ‘cis’, for example – even as they continue to call us ‘trans’ – are we not all ‘women’, when everything’s said and done?).

5. When discussing reproductive issues and rights, what rights do you wish to see for the trans community in the future?

The freedom to make informed choices, bodily autonomy, the removal of medical pathologisation without affecting our rights to access relevant healthcare… But all these things are, I think, preconditions of our being fully accepted by mainstream society for who we are (not who people think we are, or would like us to be).

 

Baby with Birth Defect is Too Upsetting for Facebook

After reading articles with titles such as “The web presents deaf and disabled people with a digital glass wall” and “Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record level,” we thought back to an article from earlier this year that reported on Facebook’s massively inappropriate and discriminatory treatment of a child born with a birth defect.

A recent article in the NY Daily News reported how an American mom who posted photographs of her son born with anencephaly (a neural tube birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull) was reprimanded by Facebook as the photographs of her son were removed from the site. After reposting the photographs of her son she was banned from usage for 24 hours. According to Facebook, the reason for removing the photographs was said to be because of their content. The social network site later apologized and said that removing the photographs was a mistake. [Read more...]

Bullied teen blamed for being “too gay”

Bullied for her sexual orientation, a lesbian teen was told by school officials that she needed to tone down her “gayness” because she was scaring and confusing other students. School officials stated that the girl was to blame for flaunting her same sex attraction and thereby provoking other students to commit violence against her.

The school is assuming that heterosexual students have the right to express their sexuality and sexual orientation without being the victims of bullying or violence, but did not extend the same courtesy to the girl since she identifies as lesbian. She was thereby clearly being treated differently by the school because of her sexual orientation. Sadly, the girl left school after being physically abused and threatened. The high school did not follow protocol as they did not report the violence committed against the student, even though the school is required to report such incidences. When the teen confronted the school she was told that it was her responsibility to report the assault, thereby completely denying her rights as a student while simultaneously denying the discrimination, violence and bullying she endured. [Read more...]

In an Act of Blatant Homophobia, Tim Pawlenty Vetoed the Gay & Lesbian Death Rights Bill on Saturday

I reported some fantastic news last week that the Minnesota house approved death rights for gay and lesbian couples. Unfortunately, homophobic Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, vetoed the bill on Saturday. His justification: to protect “traditional” marriage. According to Pawlenty, gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t have the same rights as married spouses.

Under Minnesota law, only married surviving spouses can decide what to do with the remains of a loved one. The bill would have extended such rights to domestic partners. It would have also allowed a partner the right to sue to recover funeral and hospital costs in the event of a wrongful death.

In vetoing the bill, Pawlenty, a Republican, said the bill “addresses a nonexistent problem” because gay and lesbian couples have the option of drawing up a living will. [Read more...]