“Trans rights: Poland’s last iron curtain”; Wiktor Dynarski

Wiktor Dynarski writes, as part of a series about Poland’s Left, on the context of trans rights in Poland. This is a timely piece, considering Poland has an out and public trans woman, Anna Grodzka, seated in its parliament. Even before MP Grodzka’s election, I had been interested in the situation(s) in Poland for the lewica (Left) not only on an institutional level but also, and far more importantly, the situation for queer, trans, and other marginalized subcultures on social and cultural levels.

Poland has a history for the last 200+ years of being subjugated, so the last several generations of Poles have always resisted something in some form no matter what their ideology. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, though, the country was taken by a new hegemony, this time with the oppressed coming to power. The resultant conservative state became dominated by neoliberal economics and Catholic theocratic morality–with formerly oppressed individuals now the institutional oppressors.

It is this broad milieu, ranging from the street-level personal to the state-level, that Dynarski addresses in his article. Perhaps the most compelling section is entitled “Not a minority“, which I quote in its entirety because it’s that incisive (emphasis my own):

Vulnerable groups (a phrasing which, unlike the word minority, concentrates on issues faced by a number of people sharing a similar feature rather than their numbers) are very often misunderstood by a society prone to judge them using simplified ideas and attitudes. When one defines themselves outside of a vulnerable group and lacks a need to engage in a dialogue with the group’s representatives, a line is drawn between the group and what can be identified as “society in general”. A line separating the two, often blocking any type of information exchange, including communication surrounding the needs of those seen as vulnerable (or even the recognition of such needs). This is where the idea of the Iron Curtain serves its metaphorical, rather than historical, purpose. Much as there was (officially) little talk about and need for democracy behind the actual Iron Curtain, today, even less is being said about trans* rights and the needs of trans* people.

What’s striking in this passage is Dynarski’s unequivocal and emphatic indictment of privilege. Privilege is often rightfully defined as something akin to invisible rights and advantages afforded a member of some dominant in-group simply due to their hereditary fortune of being born into the given in-group. While correct, this paints the privileged individuals too passively: as merely ignorant users, participants, and upholders of an oppressive system.

On the other hand, in my emphasized portion, Dynarski indicts the privileged as active participants in the oppression of minority, vulnerable people. In this case, the dominant individual is no longer just an unwitting participant in systemic domination and oppression. Rather, they actively define themselves as not-minority, actively reject the need for engagement and dialog with Others, and actively repel the needs of the vulnerable. Dynarski brings these aspects of privilege into the arena of conscious actions, where they are all exposed as deliberate moral failings of the privileged. Here we also see how personal decisions collectively build and reproduce the larger, oppressive system.

This is the sharp theoretical-practical lens that Dynarski brings with his piece. But, truthfully, it is not just Dynarski saying this. The social justice spheres on Twitter routinely employ this sharp lens via hash tags like #solidarityisforwhitewomen and #cognitivecissonance. This is a good lens to keep in one’s bag of intellectual tools. Its value lies in illuminating individual power and privilege not only in order to expose the concrete operation of oppression but also as a way of providing opportunities for the privileged to actively remedy and ameliorate their exploitive advantages. In these respects, this lens is both an ethical ontology as well as a practical methodology with perhaps an eye toward reparative justice. Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous writes more practically about how to apply this by “4 Ways to Push Back Against Your Privilege.”

Circumscribing it in the historically-powerful and geographically-appropriate Iron Curtain metaphor is just delicious poetic-justice icing on the very Polish dark humor cake. Yet, widening this metaphor out to “cracks in the wall” is equally powerful and hopeful. As Dynarski illustrates, it can be incredibly disheartening to read of the situation of queer and trans rights in Poland, for there is a wall undoubtedly. However, this wall has serious cracks. Evidence can be seen in the electoral gains of Ruch Palikota (Palikot’s Movement), the voices of leftist media, the organizational operations of Trans-Fuzja, the election of gay MP Robert Biedroń, and of course the election of trans woman MP Anna Grodzka.

A wall with cracks is weak. We find the cracks, we lodge ourselves in them, and we widen them. We also make more cracks. Eventually, people can walk through the cracks. Eventually, we can knock the wall down.

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Book cart:: Gramsci: Space, Nature, Politics; Ekers, Hart et al.

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I’m interested in Gramsci, certainly with respect to cultural hegemony. But this sounds promising as it applies Gramsi to space. But, really, what I need to do is read Gramsci himself before delving into these secondary sources, which is always a dicey proposition if one is not familiar enough with the primary sources.

From the Wiley-Blackwell site:

Author(s): Ekers Michael, Hart Gillian, Kipfer Stefan, Loftus Alex

Published Online: 16 OCT 2012

Print ISBN: 9781444339710

Online ISBN: 9781118295588

DOI: 10.1002/9781118295588

This unique collection is the first to bring attention to Antonio Gramsci’s work within geographical debates. Presenting a substantially different reading to Gramsci scholarship, the collection forges a new approach within human geography, environmental studies and development theory.

  • Offers the first sustained attempt to foreground Antonio Gramsci’s work within geographical debates
  • Demonstrates how Gramsci articulates a rich spatial sensibility whilst developing a distinctive approach to geographical questions
  • Presents a substantially different reading of Gramsci from dominant post-Marxist perspectives, as well as more recent anarchist and post-anarchist critiques
  • Builds on the emergence of Gramsci scholarship in recent years, taking this forward through studies across multiple continents, and asking how his writings might engage with and animate political movements today
  • Forges a new approach within human geography, environmental studies and development theory, building on Gramsci’s innovative philosophy of praxis

Authors’ bios (source):

Michael Ekers is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In addition to his interests in Gramsci, his research focuses on urban unemployment and rural relief projects in Depression-Era British Columbia, and questions of masculinity, race, and the social contribution of the unemployed. Gillian Hart is Professor at the University of California Berkeley and Honorary Professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. She is currently working on a companion volume to Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2002). Stefan Kipfer is Associate Professor at York University, Toronto. His research deals with comparative urban politics and the role of the urban in social and political theory, particularly in Marxist and counter-colonial traditions. He is the co-editor (with Kanishka Goonewardena, Richard Milgrom, Christian Schmid) of Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre (2008). Alex Loftus is a Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research focuses on the political ecology of water and the political possibilities within urban ecologies. He is the author of Everyday Environmentalism: Creating an Urban Political Ecology (2012).

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this is what male feminist transmisogyny looks like

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Transmisogyny is the subset of transphobia that marginalizes, debases, and invalidates trans women.

Transmisogyny is the most common, most caustic, and disproportionally largest form of transphobia.

Transmisogyny specifically focuses transphobia against trans women with deadly accuracy.

This is deadly serious: Casually transmisogynistic utterances such as Whedon’s normalize transmisogynistic behavior which runs from ridicule–which is linguistic, social, and psychological violence–through harassment to actual physical violence against all trans women. Moreover, intersected with racism, transmisogyny kills trans women of color disproportionally.

This is why it is important to fight transmisogyny at all levels, even at those like Whedon’s lowly tweet, toward the goal of ending transmisogynistic violence. If I’m being harsh on Joss Whedon, it is because he has been feted time and time again for being an amazing feminist, writing strong female characters, etc. So much so, in fact, that I gaslighted myself and puzzled over whether this tweet was from the real Joss Whedon. Women are not defined by their genitals. Trans women are women, regardless of their genitals.

Some other examples of what transmisogyny looks like.

Update 2014-01-27 18:53: Irae Nicole at io9 asks the same thing I did: Really Joss Whedon? Really

Update 2014-01-27 20:08: Aoife writes a more thoughtful piece on her blog.

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Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project; BE Colloquium, 2014.01.16

Valerie Segrest

Nutritionist for mickle shoot tribe
Getting ppl out connected to land environment and each other

Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project
12 week class on iding and harvesting foods
Community food assessment, i.e. food maps from community members
Class for cooks
Orchard plantings

Tribal food sovereignty is a bit different bc sov in the tribal context is tied to other ideas of sov wrt to treaties and similar politics.
Also forest to table rather than farm to table
Diet is connected to identity


(treaty of Pt. Elliott 1855)
Access to food, game, etc
Identity is what we eat and what we eat is the link to the land.

Challenge bc current tribal elders came out of the boarding school era.
The knowledge that you carry is Wealth

Cooks are legitimate health practitioners in communities.

–traditional pit ovens
–boiling water in a cedar bent wood box

Muckleshoot Weyerhaeuser purchase of 90k acres for possible

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Google suggestions: “transgender self” 2014.01.13

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this is why Happy Hour is of paramount importance

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[Image: Close up of famous Internet cat, Henri Le Chat Noir, from YouTube video still. Subtitle reads: “The life of a philosopher cat amounts to nothing, without friends.”]

Full video “The Worst Noël” on YouTube.

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Paper presentation at AAG Annual Meeting; April 2014

I’m happy to say that I’ll be presenting my paper, Becoming transgressive: Transgender autonomy and action at and beyond the margins, at this year’s AAG (Association of American Geographers) conference. I will be part of a panel session discussing Assembling life at the “margin”: Critical assemblage thinking and urban marginality, organized by Michele Lancione. The paper touches on some of the themes, theory, and tactics that I’ll be eventually working on in my dissertation.

Abstract:

Among many injustices confronting transgender individuals, spatial oppression is especially pervasive. From policing bathroom access, for example, to street harassment by police, (cis)gendered urban public space, and mundane urban existence, is highly inhospitable. Yet, this oppression is applied unevenly, depending entirely on the assessment by non-transgender people of gender performance. In reality, actual transgender experience of oppression is neither static nor consistent.

Creating the other half of the double bind is political marginalization of transgender people by the LGBT movement to which they nominally belong. The acronym can be styled “GLb(t)” in order to emphasize decreasing power, agency, and resources. In response, transgender people often exercise more agency while operating beyond the margins of GLb(t). This creates an ironic “becoming marginal” by an already marginal population.

Simultaneously, trans liberation initiatives have become more agile, informal, and distributed. Transgender agents have used social media and digital networks to widen the cracks and create spaces for transgender theorizing, organizing, visibility, and action outside GLb structures. Transgender individuals are creating flexible, temporal, rhizomatic networks and assemblages that respond to the needs at hand. Theoretical constructs such as the assemblage, rhizome, and war machine, then, help identify opportunities, strategies, and tactics for transgender political action that decenter the importance of attachment to heirarchical GLb(t) lobbies and, rather, center the autonomy and agency of trans* people ourselves in the struggle for multiple arrangements of spatial and political liberation–at and beyond the margin.

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put this way, it almost sounds sexy

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[image: Twitter screenshot of me (@AmyBoldItalic) tweeting: “Diss is gonna be transtranstranstrans + spatial politics + narrative building/archiving/preservation. I think.”]

The only thing to add to that would be Information Seeking Behaviour, seeing as the need for information on everything is a huge need in trans communities. Also, I should put my librarian & information science background to use here, not only for research but also to identify practical strategies and tactics.

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Book cart: Publics and Counterpublics; Michael Warner

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Despite the dreaded Habermasian overtones of public sphere theory, this book sounds possibly interesting enough to warrant looking into, especially as it is published roughly 10 years after Nancy Frasier’s deft takedown of Habermas in her Social Text article wherein she discusses subaltern counterpublics. I freely admit I have a huge academic crush on that piece of writing.

At the same time, though, this book was published way back in 2002. I’m afraid it may yield precious little in the ways of digital/social media and networks into which I will be looking for my research. Still, it’s worth looking into what an early aughts book might give with respect to publics.

There is a book review here.

There is some sort of brief excerpt here.

There is a summary of Warner’s definition of a public here.

The blurb from Amazon:

Most of the people around us belong to our world not directly, as kin or comrades, but as strangers. How do we recognize them as members of our world? We are related to them as transient participants in common publics. Indeed, most of us would find it nearly impossible to imagine a social world without publics. In the eight essays in this book, Michael Warner addresses the question: What is a public?According to Warner, the idea of a public is one of the central fictions of modern life. Publics have powerful implications for how our social world takes shape, and much of modern life involves struggles over the nature of publics and their interrelations. The idea of a public contains ambiguities, even contradictions. As it is extended to new contexts, politics, and media, its meaning changes in ways that can be difficult to uncover.Combining historical analysis, theoretical reflection, and extensive case studies, Warner shows how the idea of a public can reframe our understanding of contemporary literary works and politics and of our social world in general. In particular, he applies the idea of a public to the junction of two intellectual traditions: public-sphere theory and queer theory.

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No cisrespect, but…: NPR

I was a bit jolted when I clicked on a Facebook link entitled “Transgender Issues Gain Prominence for 2014”. Seems like a reasonable title. Yet when I clicked, this title comes up:

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I was blindsided by the historical whitewashing and cis-washing (in other words, the erasure of trans people) done by the title, honestly. This ostensibly little detail is the only part of the story that I’m focusing on in this post. It’s not so little when the wording stands out so aggressively and beats me and other trans folk with its lack of contextual understanding of LGBT history.

I’ll give the NPR staff the benefit of the doubt; I don’t believe they are intentionally ignoring transgender history; yet they are complicit in and illustrative of the sustained cis-washing of GLb(t) historiography. Certainly, a great many gay activists and Gay Inc. (HRC and related high profile orgs that work cautiously and rake in all the money) have done impeccably well in entirely erasing trans women of color especially and trans women in general out of the struggle for GLb(t) rights.

Media outlets take “respectable” white cis gay men and lesbians at their word far too easily due to the systemic, institutionalized, and social privileging and power of non-trans (cis) people over trans people (this is known as cis-supremacy), as well as the unhealthy mountains of white supremacy present in the GLb(t) movement. It would have been nice for NPR to do their historical research. And it is, equally, a reminder to trans folk that we must keep speaking and telling our histories, individual and collective.

It was, of course, trans women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major, who bled in the streets at Stonewall in 1969. It was trans women who rioted at Compton’s Cafeteria in August 1966 three years before Stonewall. As respectable gay men were engaging in cautious and assimilationist politics, transgender women, sex workers, and queer youth were engaging in a more militant, visceral, impatient, and physical struggle.

It was trans people and people of color setting many of the proverbial fires that would “blaze the path” for LGBT rights. Black and brown trans women bled in 1969 so that buff white men today could hoist rainbow flags and neon thongs at Pride. (Semiotically: black and brown are absent from the rainbow flag but the source of the rainbow is white.)

I’m not exactly knocking historical homophile politics categorically (not now, anyway). However, the fact remains that the neo-homophile politics of today’s Gay Inc. largely appropriate the history, memory, and blood of the militant activists because it’s the sexier story. At the same time they are ignoring (erasing) the racial and class and gender composition of those activists. Trans women were pushed out of the early post-Stonewall gay rights movement. Their pivotal roles in its foundation are now muted and erased in the white, cisgender, wealthy, gay retelling and marketing of queer history.

The gay rights bus has undoubtedly come a long way toward equality. But it has done so by repeatedly jettisoning transgender rights and concerns out the window because they deemed trans folk too freaky and not respectable enough for the cautious, tepid strategies of the mainstream gay/lesbian movement, a movement started in no small part by trans women in response to the sustained harassment of trans women. Sylvia Rivera said of the bus:

…I’m tired of sitting on the back of the bumper. It’s not even the back of the bus anymore—it’s the back of the bumper.

Trans people are not some new passengers on this bus. We have been there all along, lighting a path for it and getting shoved out of the way and driven over by it. The rearview mirror of GLb(t) history reveals a shamefully bloody road rather than some shining, blazing path.

And that’s why NPR staff came up with this awful title. By the implication that we are following this path, we are again dragged behind this bus.

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