A few resources re: Manning’s transition from Bradley to Chelsea.

Not an expert, not a member of the LGBTQ community, etc, etc, all the caveats. Also, FWIW, I’m pretty convinced that Manning’s massive leak to Julian Assange, a foreign national, in the knowledge that Assange would turn around and indiscriminately dump unprecedented amounts of classified information into the public domain was not a good, right, or smart thing to do. Aside from anything else, Manning was a soldier at the time, and had taken an oath. As Josh Marshall wrote at TPM yesterday

Soldiers get in huge trouble for going AWOL, even though one individual soldier abandoning his post seldom does much damage to a country or an army. This is a far graver insubordination with incalculably more widespread consequences….. I think a military force requires a substantial amount of secrecy to operate in any reasonable way. So when someone on the inside breaks those rules, I need to see a really, really good reason. And even then I’m not sure that means you get off scott free.

At the same time, I’m also pretty well convinced the the level of government and military freak out over Manning’s actions does not accurately reflect the damage done, the intent, or the person responsible. As Amy Davidson wrote in The New Yorker yesterday: “This sentence, given all we know about Manning and what he did (and what was done to him), is a strikingly harsh one.”

I highly recommend that you read both pieces (both of which also discuss the Edward Snowden case and both of which are excellent, in very different ways), but, that’s not what I’m here about.

This morning Manning came out as transgender, and asked to be called Chelsea and referred to with female pronouns henceforth. I happen to have read something at Boing Boing some time ago (possibly as long as two years ago) that indicated that Manning identified as a woman — a hugely complicating factor for anyone making the kind of moral and ethical choices that the then-20 year old Manning felt duty-bound to make (as Davidson wrote yesterday [before the request had been made to transition to female pronouns]: “He thought, his lawyer argued in the trial, that he might save someone, or everyone”).

As far as I’m concerned, you are who you tell me you are. Chelsea Manning is a woman. Period, full-stop — and it’s a matter of sheer good manners and civility to refer to her as such. Whether or not I agree with the actions which earned her a dishonorable discharge and 8-35 years at Fort Leavenworth is utterly and completely beside that point.

So. Here are just a few resources that I’ve found useful as I’ve attempted in recent years to become more familiar with the reality of trans folks. I hope you find them helpful, and would love any added recommendations.

  1. Transgender Terminology – a vocabulary resource (the good, the bad, and the don’t-ever), by GLAAD.
  2. Led by the Child Who Simply Knew – a beautiful feature article in the Boston Globe about a girl who knew she was a girl even though her family thought she and her twin brother were both boys.
  3. How To Make Love to a Trans Person - a beautiful poem about how we talk about bodies and making love: “Break those words open/ Like a paramedic cracking ribs…. Scratch new definitions on the bones.”
  4. A good (brief) definition and explanation of “cisgender,” a recently coined term which roughly means people who identify with the gender they were assigned (“it’s a girl!”) at birth.
  5. And finally, I’ve posted it before, I’m posting it again – Hank Green’s video on Human Sexuality. It’s remarkable, and less than four minutes long.

Gay, religious, and proud in Tel Aviv.

gay pride tel aviv“Pinkwashing”—the calculated exploitation by Israel’s government of the LGBTQ community’s hard-won  civil and social gains as a beard for the human rights abuses of the occupation—is a thing. It’s real, it’s documented, and the sheer cynicism becomes even clearer when we consider that the government that conducted a PR campaign around gay-friendly Tel Aviv is the same government that gives disproportionate power to religious parties that reject all that Gay Pride stands for.

But what is also a thing, what is also real, is Israel’s actual LGBTQ community, and the joyous celebration that is Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Week—a multi-hued happening to which people travel from all over the world, because it’s a blast. Witness the fact that this year’s “Official Video of Tel Aviv Pride Week” (which, okay, I admit: I did not knowthat was a thing) is performed by the straight and wildly popular Mizrahi singer Omer Adam (video below). Gay or straight, Pride is one of the best weeks of the year to be in the city that I still consider my home.

The big event is, of course, the parade itself, which will take place on Friday. It’ll feature all the usual suspects—Adonises and Amazons in itty-bitty clothes; rainbow flags, clothes, and hair; the famous and the wanna-be. But participants will also find a quieter, ultimately more subversive presence, as well:

Havruta, the organization for religious gay men, and Bat Kol, the organization for religious lesbian women, have been marching in Pride parades in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa for the past four years.

“In the past few years, we realized we bring a different and unique voice to the march, especially in Tel Aviv,” says one of Havruta’s chairmen, Daniel Jonas, explaining how their presence helps bridge Judaism and the LGBT community. “We represent something else, more moderate, more communal,” he says.

He admits that the parade’s debauched atmosphere doesn’t totally jive with their taste – “It’s not exactly something you’d see in a synagogue” – but the visibility is important.

“Pride attracts many people and lots of media,” Jonas points out. “So many young religious people around the country are exposed to us. After Pride every year, I get tons of calls from people who realize they can contact someone.”

As wonderful as Pride Week is, it’s typically a week apart, much like the community doing all the dancing. Though there has been real movement, across the globe, toward the recognition of the civil and human rights of the LGBTQ community, we still have a mighty long way to go, not least in not insisting that the people line up neatly with the colorful stereotypes. As Haaretz reporter Brian Schaefer notes, “the delegation of proud, God-fearing religious gays and lesbians appearing in the parade… remind us that sexuality and spirituality are not mutually exclusive.”

Indeed, they are not. I would even suggest that they are, or can be, deeply and essentially linked, and that it is a mitzvah of the first order for straight Jews to welcome our LGBTQ brothers and sisters with open arms, and stand with them in their struggles.

The Jewish and LGBTQ narratives share a crucial parallel: The personal, in-the-flesh knowledge of being a stranger in a strange land. I’m grateful to Havruta and Bat Kol for their participation in Tel Aviv’s Pride events—they’re praying with their feet, and likely saving Jewish lives as they go.

*

P.S. For my money, the single most “Tel Avivi” moment of the video comes at the very end, when the performers happen to run into a couple of women just doing their morning yoga.

*****

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Obama, Hagel, feminism and the Middle East: A progressive’s dilemma.

Obama-hagelAs a born-and-bred Progressive and long-time advocate for both Israeli-Palestinian peace and women’s rights, I’m used to having to pick my battles. My positions are to the left of pretty much every national leader for whom I’ve ever had the opportunity to vote, in Israel or the U.S. Barack Obama was the first candidate to even come close.

Whatever the President’s opinions were and may still be regarding Israel/Palestine, though, they’ve come to seem of little importance, as his actions have thus far been little but repeats of mistakes made by past Administrations.

On the question of women’s rights, however, the record is much more to my liking: the Lily Ledbetter Act, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, health care reform, his consistent refusal to treat rape as anything less than a crime—these policy decisions and public attitudes are making America a better place for women and girls (and men and boys), right now, today.

So the record is mixed, as far as I’m concerned. Which brings us, of course, to Chuck Hagel.

From the moment that Administration sources whispered the name “Hagel” into the ether, the neocon wing of Hagel’s own party came down like a ton of bricks, spinning anti-Israel and anti-Semitic conspiracies as fast as their words could spin. It was untrue, it was ugly, and it was never really about Israel—it was and remains about the neocon vision for American power, a vision that Chuck Hagel neither shares nor respects.

As I wrote last month, I’ve long appreciated Hagel’s approach to Israel/Palestine, and his preference for diplomacy over war more broadly. As a lifelong Illinois Democrat, I don’t expect to agree with a Republican from Nebraska on much, but I’m certainly glad that we could at least agree on that.

This week I learned, however, that Hagel and I don’t agree on a whole lot else.

Far from being a feminist, in the Senate Chuck Hagel acted to prevent servicewomen from having access to abortion (even at their own expense) if they’d been raped and impregnated, and that frankly horrifies me; the Republican Party’s willing dehumanization of women generally and callousness toward rape survivors specifically is a big part of what got me so involved in Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts this fall. Like other progressives, I’m also nervous about Hagel’s positions regarding the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans, particularly (as Rachel Maddow and my colleague Sigal Samuel have noted) when the Pentagon is poised to deal with so many LGBTQ-specific issues.

But this is where I come back to the guy who hired him: Barack Obama.

I trust the President’s feminism, which I believe has been proven time and again, and while I will agree that Obama’s dedication to LGBTQ rights is less well established, I do believe that it is solid (though it should be noted that as a straight woman, I don’t have to live with the consequences of the President’s positions on these issues, and thus my awareness of them is likely not as keen as that of Americans who do). On the other hand, I am deeply concerned about Obama’s policies in the Middle East.

It is my opinion—and I cannot stress this enough: I do not pretend to know for sure—that a Defense Secretary Hagel serving under President Obama the Feminist will find that his opportunity to oppose basic human and civil rights for women and/or LGBTQ Americans will be sharply limited by his boss’s policies and positions, whereas President Obama the Failed Two-State Facilitator might have appointed a Defense Secretary Hagel precisely in order to help create movement on the ground regarding Israel and Palestine (and Iran) that will lead to real, desperately-needed change in the region.

Do I love the pick? No, and I love it even less now that I know more about Hagel’s record. But I still like Hagel better than Michele Flourney, for reasons that speak very directly to the Defense Secretary’s primary mission, and I do think that as an official in the Obama White House, there’s greater potential for him to do good, than harm.

None of which is to say that we shouldn’t hold the President’s feet to the fire on these issues, because we should—indeed, I hope the Senate questions Hagel very closely at his confirmation hearings. In a democracy, it’s the job of citizens and our elected officials to insist that government reflect our highest values, and I’m pretty sure that “equality for all” is top of the American list.

And of course, my cautious optimism might be proven wrong. But for the time being, I remain an American-Israeli progressive feminist peacenik who is cautiously optimistic about Chuck Hagel. So it goes.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Recreating humanity.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photograph_of_a_baby_standing_in_front_of_a_mirror.jpgOk, here’s what occurred to me the other day: We’re a generation engaged in building an entirely new kind of human society. Possibly an entirely new kind of human.

Consider just a few 21st century facts, and then try to project them back 50 years: Openly gay and transgender people serving in our government and legislative branch as we fight for marriage equality. America’s last two Secretaries of State? Women, one of them black, one of them a serious contender for the White House. Black man in the current White House. Well-known and well-respected women publicly and often angrily expressing women’s right to bodily autonomy; well-known and well-respected men supporting them, publicly, and often angrily.

I know I frequently say some version of “Hey, look, things are so much better than they used to be,” but I’m not saying that here. I’m not comparing today to the day I was born. I’m comparing today to every single moment of human history. And we’re recreating ourselves.

Because every single one of the items mentioned above was effectively unimaginable once, and not at all long ago either. If we consider the entire expanse of human history, and then look at the changes wrought in Western society in the last four decades alone, it’s actually quite startling.

Each of the examples I’ve provided (and many, many others that are not reducible to a single sentence or sentence fragment) represents in turn the hopes and dreams and literal blood and tears of uncounted, uncountable people. People who died dreaming only of the vote. Or of a life lived without violence. Or of the freedom to make decisions based on internal truths, rather than external pressures. People who died never, ever imagining the world as it looks today.

What we’re doing today has never been done before. Sure, there was that thousand year stretch when dudes who were brown (roughly and metaphorically speaking) ruled the known world (starting with the dudes in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually leading to the dudes in Istanbul), and one would be hard-pressed not to notice that Asian dudes ruled the Asian Empires — but: a) DUDES, and b) in each of those cases, one had to be of the right clan/color/faith system/what-have-you to wield power or even personal autonomy. The kind of radical, universal equality that so many of us have begun to see as the default of human existence has literally never existed in human history.

And so my point is: That’s why it’s hard.

That’s why it all moves in fits and starts and we have fights about words and about who gets to say what about whom and every two steps forward serve as but a precursor to one step right the hell back. Because we have never, ever done this before. We are creating something New, and we don’t even, really, know how to imagine it yet.

I’m not saying that the battles have be won. They haven’t. They’ll never be won. Every time that something Gets Better, we’ll uncover something else we didn’t realize we had to do. There are questions that my grandchildren will face that I cannot even imagine in 2012.

And having said that: Wow. Think about it. Think about the fact that gay men and lesbians got married before God and family in Washington state this weekend, and then think about the entire rest of human history.

Holy cow.

Update: Speaking of which…. Just look at these pictures from Seattle’s City Hall.

On a happier note… Democratic party platform to include marriage equality!

*

(Note happy update below!)

From the Washington Blade:

The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process.

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.

“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”

Not entirely surprising, given the President’s announcement of his support for marriage equality back in May — but pretty thrilling, none the less! Capital H History, people, I tell you what.

h/t TPM; image source

Update 7/31/12: The DNC has confirmed the news by including it in an email sent to its list, this morning. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post adds these really interesting statistics to put it all into context:

new Pew poll finds that a plurality of Americans now supports gayt marriage, 48-33, and majority of independents now supports it, 51-40. But an even bigger majority of Republicans, 70 percent, still opposes it. That’s a big cultural shift over the last eight years; in 2004, a big majority opposed it. Republicans are alone in refusing to come to terms with where this is headed.

We’ll soon find out whether suppporting gay marriage is really the political risk people keep saying it is.

On evolving.

Much has been made of President Obama’s oft-quoted comment that his views on marriage equality were “evolving.” Until this week, when apparently, they’d “evolved.”

I’m not entirely certain what the President meant by this turn of phrase (I know! I cannae read his mind! Imagine!), particularly given his public support for such equality as far back as 1996, but I suspect the evolution was for him more political than personal. This doesn’t mean that I think Mr. Obama’s motives were craven — merely careful. I didn’t love it when he came up with the “evolving” line, but I think I understood it. And I am proud beyond measure that he went ahead and finished the process the other day.

But here’s the thing, and it’s a thing that we supporters of equal rights often fail to note: We’ve all been evolving, for years.

Anyone over the age of 30 can remember a time when the mere idea of marriage equality was inconceivable — because most Americans still thought the gay and lesbian community was, at the very least, not quite right. I feel really, really safe in saying that the vast majority of those of us now staunchly supporting gay rights had to just plain get over ourselves at some point (and I most certainly include gay folks here. Internalized homophobia is no less -phobic than the external kind).

Our collective evolution is built on the foundations laid by the brave men of Stonewall; the work of civil rights pioneers like Harvey MilkFranklin E. KamneyPhyllis Lyon, and Del Martin; the ill-advised bigotry of Anita Bryant; the ravages of the AIDS years; the drip-drip-drip of pop culture and examples of well-known figures (Joe Biden was right about Will and Grace, and don’t underestimate Ellen); the horrifying murder of Matthew Shepard; the rash of teen suicides; and through it all, growing numbers of individuals telling the truth about who they are.

Yesterday, another brick was laid in that foundation:

A lesbian who sought a North Carolina marriage license with her partner and was rejected under a state law banning same-sex marriage was arrested with another person Thursday after they refused to leave a government office where several gay and lesbian couples were turned away.

…Nine gay and lesbian couples each presented completed forms and identification to a clerk at the local Register of Deeds office in Winston-Salem, but were refused because state law recognizes only heterosexual couples.

…Mary Jamis, 52, of Mocksville, and a heterosexual friend who joined the protest… were arrested after they blocked the entrance to the marriage license office and refused to leave more than 30 minutes after closing time.

A county administrator tried to talk the women into leaving and avoiding arrest, but the two insisted they would stay unless Jamis was issued a marriage license for her and her partner, Starr Johnson, 48.

A half dozen female officers then crowded around [them and] asked them to stand, handcuffed them and led them out a side door and into a van to be booked at the county sheriff’s department across the street.

As North Carolina and the other 29 states with anti-marriage equality amendments prove: We cannot simply say things should be right and then expect them to Become Right. There is no magic bullet to undoing bigotry. It’s a long, slow slog.

But on the same day that Mr. Obama evolved, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee announced the a bi-partisan decision to take up the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA): “Workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible,” said committee chair Sen. Tom Harkin, “and has no place in our nation.”

And in the days since, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Jack Reed, and Sen. Harry Reid also announced that they back marriage equality.

Consider, too, the reactions of the people watching the protest unfold in Winston-Salem yesterday:

“Can you at least acknowledge on here that you’re denying it and the date?” [one protester] asked, his ring-bearing left hand trembling. The clerk complied. Other clerks smiled sheepishly or shook the hands extended to them by couples they had turned away.

…[A straight woman taking out a license at the same time] said she did not object to same-sex couples being allowed to wed.

“Why not? I don’t think it’s really anybody’s business,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the government’s business to be telling people what to do with their private lives.”

I’ve written about my own path from homophobe to activist before. My earlier opinions are something that I wish daily I could erase from my past, but there they stay.

As in any enormous social shift, the learning and the changing and the growing all come in layers upon layers. Every evolution leads to the next, every statement makes others possible, every heart opened — opens others.

And some statements are a lot louder than others.

Like when the President of the United States says “Same sex couples should be able to get married.”

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more civil disobedience, and a lot more arrests, in the days and weeks to come. I have a feeling that what the President did on Wednesday was open the floodgates, out of which will flow immeasurable pent-up energy, all aimed at genuinely history-altering events.

And speaking of which: That throw-away reference I made up there to Anita Bryant? That was a workplace discrimination fight. She wanted to keep gay teachers out of schools.

And today we have US Senators saying discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (!) “is reprehensible and has no place in our nation.”

Yep, we’re all evolving.

Thank God, and thank each and every person who’s had a part.

Damn skippy.

.

posted on the President’s Instagram account late last night.

Yaaaaaaay!!!

I’m a wee bit weepy, I’m very excited, I’m not really surprised, and I’m covered in goosebumps.

I’ve long suspected that the President was taking a Lincolnian tack on the issue of gay marriage, keeping his support in his back pocket, so to speak, until such time as he saw that the rest of the country wouldn’t be completely thrown for a loop by it, and then: Boom. And I believe that’s what he did — and I don’t really believe that Joe Biden’s “gaffe” was a “gaffe.” Biden meant it, and if the President hadn’t wanted to reply, he wouldn’t have.

After all, this is the administration that repealed DADT, de-fanged DOMA, has hired/appointed (if memory serves) more than 200 out gays and lesbians (not to mention the first out trans-gendered person in history), so on and so forth. This is completely of a piece with what’s been going on under Obama’s watch since day one (and indeed, since that first time he said he backed gay marriage, back in 1996).

So I’m not surprised. But I am absolutely thrilled.

On the ground, of course, it means nothing. North Carolina still has a vile new amendment to its Constitution, and gay men and women can’t run out and get hitched on the President’s say-so.

But when the President says a thing, it is huge. This, my friends, is a big fucking deal.

And a very, very proud day for America.

image source

Twitter – sometimes less than charming.

#Sayin.

Dear Asian-Americans: I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you about the GOP.

Or: The GOP – they really don’t seem to like much of anybody!

Last week, I wrote a post asking the GOP to just shut up about black people, a post which got a surprising amount of attention across the web.

In the aftermath of that, I found myself wondering: “Huh. Who is the GOP going to demonize and belittle next in this election cycle?”

And I knew: Asian-Americans. A post began to form itself in my head, one I intended to write sometime this week.

I mean, they’ve demonized and belittled gay people already:

Michele Bachmann: “If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. Personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement.” (She said this 2004, but it got a re-airing this summer).

Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus: “We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road.”

Rick Santorum: Families headed by gay parents lead to “great dysfunction.”

So ok. They hate the gays. Check.

And they’ve demonized and belittled Latinos:

Newt Gingrich: “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.” (He said this in 2008, but again, it’s been re-aired).

Mitt Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act (a bi-partisan effort to resolve the issues facing the children of undocumented immigrants).

All the candidates have completely waffled (and Romney threw in disdain for good measure) on the question of Puerto Rican statehood.

So. Latinos? Good for what are considered their generally conservative social views, but otherwise: Bad for America! Check.

And of course, women, of all colors.

Rick Santorum, regarding wanting to ban abortion even in cases of rape: “We have to make the best out of a bad situation.”

Ron Paul: We should differentiate between “honest rape” and, you know, lie-y rape.

Rick Santorum (again – he’s a peach, ain’t he?): “Look at the political base of the Democratic Party: It is single mothers who run a household. Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two parent families, you eliminate that desire for government.”

The entire GOP field: “Among the major GOP candidates… not a single one has handed over the title of campaign manager to a female.”

Women – lying bitches who don’t deserve compassion in the face of rape, who foolishly buy the lies peddled by Democrats because they’re so needy with their slutty single-parent families, and don’t really need to be in politics. Check!

AND BLACK PEOPLE - omg! So not-working and gullible and that one in the White House is so worthy of being strung up! Not American. Check.

After all of this (and the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-poor people, anti-union, anti-anyone-not-white-male-straight-and-wealthy palaver as well) clearly, the Asians were next up.

I was going to call the post forming itself in my head:

“Dear Asian-Americans – Look out, I think they’re coming for you.”

I will admit, however, that I was stymied by an inability to figure out just what the slurs might be. It’s the burden, I suppose, of being the “model minority” — you face discrimination and othering and bigotry, but it comes wrapped in words that are meant to sound like compliments. “Good at math” being one example. “Tiger mom” being another.

AND THEN THEY FREAKING CAME. And good lord, how could I have been so stupid?

I refer, of course, to the ad run not by a Presidential candidate, but by Michigan candidate for US Senate Pete Hoekstra, during the Super Bowl.

Of course! Asians are, first of all, Not American. They are Chinese, and they Want Your Economy.

They are Chinese, but in a really oddly Vietnam-y way, one which will remind you that not only are they Not American, they are Inscrutable, and Peasant-y, and Very Very Dangerous.

They are also oddly interchangeable, because the scuttlebutt is that the woman featured in Hoekstra’s ad (in which she says she’s Chinese in pidgin English while bicycling along a rice paddy in a conical hat) isn’t even Chinese-American. It’s just scuttlebutt at this point, but I would be willing to bet that Hoekstra’s campaign didn’t necessarily make a point of looking for an authentically Chinese-American person to use for race-baiting purposes.

Soooo, it’s been a super long walk to get here, but:

Dear Asian-Americans: I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you about the GOP. I could see it coming — I just had no idea how fast the Racism Train was running.

Oh, and PS: To anyone wanting to suggest that Hoekstra’s ad can’t in any way reflect on the Presidential campaign, as he’s not running for President, I say that unless and until the GOP’s Presidential candidates publicly condemn the racism (and homophobia and misogyny) in their midst? They own it. Simple as that.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,829 other followers