You get tired of being just pushed around

Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman who was part of the Stonewall riot that began the modern LGBT rights movement in 1969:

In 1969, the night of the Stonewall riot, was a very hot, muggy night. We were in the Stonewall [bar] and the lights came on. We all stopped dancing. The police came in.

They had gotten their payoff earlier in the week. But Inspector Pine came in-him and his morals squad-to spend more of the government’s money.

We were led out of the bar and they cattled us all up against the police vans. The cops pushed us up against the grates and the fences. People started throwing pennies, nickels, and quarters at the cops.

And then the bottles started. And then we finally had the morals squad barricaded in the Stonewall building, because they were actually afraid of us at that time. They didn’t know we were going to react that way.

We were not taking any more of this shit. We had done so much for other movements. It was time.

It was street gay people from the Village out front-homeless people who lived in the park in Sheridan Square outside the bar-and then drag queens behind them and everybody behind us. The Stonewall Inn telephone lines were cut and they were left in the dark.

One Village Voice reporter was in the bar at that time. And according to the archives of the Village Voice, he was handed a gun from Inspector Pine and told, “We got to fight our way out of there.”

This was after one Molotov cocktail was thrown and we were ramming the door of the Stonewall bar with an uprooted parking meter. So they were ready to come out shooting that night.

Finally the Tactical Police Force showed up after 45 minutes. A lot of people forget that for 45 minutes we had them trapped in there.

All of us were working for so many movements at that time. Everyone was involved with the women’s movement, the peace movement, the civil-rights movement. We were all radicals. I believe that’s what brought it around.

You get tired of being just pushed around.

On 20th November, since 1998, the trans community worldwide and their allies remember the dead. The first name on this year’s list is Sonia Masi, of Gujarat, India, shot on 24th November 2011. The last name on it is Cassandra, killed in Rouen on 4th November 2012 of asphyxiation, her body partially burned after her death. There are over sixty names on that one list.

Transgender Memorial Day
From Matt Kailey’s Ten Things Not to Say to a Trans Person:

9. “Are you afraid that people will hate you or want to hurt you?”

Yes. But I try not to think about it unless someone brings it up.

The people who are killed as a result of their perceived transgendered identity – whether they are transsexual, intersex, cross dressers or even simply mistaken for someone else, are killed because they don’t conform to gender roles expected of them.

When I reviewed Tomboy earlier this year, I wrote:

One of the events that makes me more aware of being cisgendered is when someone registers how short my hair is and calls me “sir”, or some rude person wants to know “Are you a man or a woman?” (The best answer I have discovered to that question is to reply loudly “Which are you?” and then walk, don’t run, to get out of sight while the questioner is suffering hed-explody gender-confusion.) On a day-to-day basis people code each other’s gender on a very narrow bandwith – hair, clothes, specs, make-up/absence of – which rarely if ever has any connection with a person’s physical sex, let alone their gender identity. (Granted if you are wearing physically-revealing clothing past the age of puberty, this usually ceases to be quite true.)

A few years ago, I heard a trans man talk reluctantly about how the same thing had happened to him in puberty, being asked “are you a boy or a girl?” and caused him terrible pain and confusion because in his heart he knew the right answer was “male”, but with his head he knew everything else – from his birth certificate onwards – said “female”. Listening to him I understood cisgender privilege: I had often been afraid when that question was asked, in case it was the prelude to or excuse for violence, but I’d never been hurt or confused because both my heart and my head knew the right answer: it did not matter to me what anyone else thought it was.

The Cisgender Privilege Checklist includes:

9. I never worry about potential lovers shifting instantly from amorous to disdain and even violence because of my genitals.
10. I am unlikely to be questioned about my genitals, even less likely to be touched inappropriately or asked to see them.
11. It is unlikely that I would risk my health by avoiding the medical profession for fear of discovery.

Roz Kaveney, who wrote the memorial poem for Savita Halappanavar that I read at the vigil last Saturday, wrote a sestina of mourning for this Transgender Memorial Day, which reads in part:

Bad men may try, but cannot kill us all
We know our history, of the long line
brothers and sisters, all of those we mourn
not just the ones who fell upon the street
this year but all who white, yellow, black, brown
died in that past when none of us were safe

We have this moment here when we are safe
Which may not last. Because they hate us all
the rich white us, not just the black and brown
We stand her linking arms in a long line
with our dead sisters, live ones on the street
Never forget to honour and to mourn

It is political to stand and mourn
in silence. We can do this, we are safe
And yet they also mourn out on the street
Blow on their hands in cold, and cry. They all
know that each death is one in a long line
and most of those who die are black or brown

In Edinburgh, Our Tribe are commemorating TDoR at St Augustines on George IV Bridge:

Our Tribe TDoR Event: TDoR Commemoration Evening featuring songs and stories from singer songwriter Simon de Voil. 7pm on Saturday 24th November 2012 at Augustine United Church, 41-43 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH7 6JH.

Other reading:

Roz Kaveney notes that after the UN human rights council passed a resolution in favour of equal rights for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity – lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, trans people:

a couple of US Catholic NGOs distributed a 2009 paper produced by three Catholic bioethicists – Richard Fitzgibbons, Philip Sutton and Dale O’Leary – from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Their paper The Psychopathology of “Sex Reassignment” Surgery argues that trans people are mentally ill, and by implication need therapy not rights; it asserts that there is no evidence that trans identity, or indeed gay identity, is innate.

The motives behind the distribution may be to persuade the UN not to bother itself further with the rights of gay or trans people – surprisingly, one might think, given the astonishingly high worldwide murder statistics for the trans community in particular, and the number of states in which homosexuality carries the death penalty. The three doctors responsible for the paper are all committed anti-abortionists, but they are less voluble about the right to life of people who have actually been born.

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Filed under American, Human Rights, In The Media, LGBT Equality, Police, Women

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