April 28, 2010

"To all of the kick ass, beautiful fierce femmes out there..."

Just wanted to share this. Everyone out there, take note.

October 31, 2009

Confetti: Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Prevention Act

So I've clearly been under a rock, because I somehow missed the fact that the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been expanded, in Obama's words, because "we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits — not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear."

This is the first federal law explicitly protecting transpeople! Hope for momentum!

October 23, 2009

Comments: fixed!

Sorry if you tried to comment on a post and couldn't. We had shut down commenting to deal with some spammers, but it's open now. So, comment away!

October 22, 2009

Accommodation story - wwyd?

11:37 am
Dear Professor X,

I'm registered with the Student Disability Office and I'll need to use a computer to type the midterm. Blah, yak, blah.

Peace dude,

12:14 pm
Dear gromphus,

I can't have any midterms written on a computer given the requirements of the class as written in the syllabus. Blah blah blah.

[NB: Professor X is concerned about internet access. This is just a couple of essay questions: no math, no diagrams. There is no real reason why using an internetless computer should present a problem.]

Professor X

.......Interlude in which Student Disability Office Chats with Professor X........

4:35 pm
Dear gromphus,

If you are sure that you have to work via computer then you will have to vouch that you will not be using the internet and we will attempt to disable it. It might be really, really complicated to disable the internet on one of the computers the SDO has specifically for testing purposes, but if you really think it's necessary for you to use a computer even though I don't want you to...

[NB: The SDO computers, obviously, have no internet access.]

Professor X

Dear Professor X,

Great. Let's do that. I'm afraid it is necessary for me to use a computer, since sustaining rapid writing throughout a long exam, or for the short period of time I could keep it up, is the most efficient way to put me back on the list for physical therapy. /try 1

I'm sorry this is inconvenient for you, but I just kind of like being able to use my arm, you know? Especially since I'll lose my scholarship if I can't take a full load of classes on account of inability to do my work./try 2

No, goddammit, I am NOT going to tell you about my body. I'm already registered with the Student Disability Office; they've approved my accommodation request; is this not enough to tell you that yes, I do actually really need to use a computer to write your wretched midterm?/try 3

You've been my most interesting professor up to this point. You introduced me to actor-network theory; I was planning on taking all your classes. I always go to your office hours even though you're busy with other people because you look at our field with a usefully critical eye. Is it going to be really awkward next time I try to talk with you? Are you going to assume I'm just a troublemaker? /try 4

I love your work, but I'm not sure I would like you personally. Certainly I don't want to trust you with the knowledge of what is wrong with me. Capice? /try 5

I'm a bit surprised at your response, since no other professor has ever had an issue with my need for a computer./try 6

shit./try 7

Thank you for your understanding,

What would you write?
How do you handle these kinds of situations?
Am I being unfair to Professor X?

(And don't these experiences make it all the more wonderful when we find people who are both intellectually badass and deeply good?)

(Finally, how much do we love, love, love the wonderful people at our SDO?)

August 05, 2009


Hello friends,

I'm writing this first post to introduce myself as - dare I say it? - a new quenchista. I also have a nascent personal blog but am very excited to be joining quench, blog re:all things near and dear to me. I am a current Harvard senior, although perhaps taking time off in the fall (!) before finishing up my concentration in the Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (mostly the latter two).

This summer, I'm working at a fabulous, tiny organization that focuses on the rights and life chances of transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer people. I'm working on a range of projects, including support for the youth committee and creating youth-related resources, creating and kicking off a sustainable development plan, and serving on a committee dedicated to rewriting the organization's "Trans 101" workshop curriculum. My other past work experience is also in non-profit settings, and I hope to pursue a career doing community organizing and youth development work with trans and queer young people.

I think a lot about gender, including trans and sometimes intersex issues, and my other interests include (female, queer, and trans) sexuality, feminist praxis, and making room in academic work for activist and activist approaches. But I'm fun too! I'm a huge Red Sox fan, an aspiring foodie, and my most recent obsession is with my burgeoning collection of Nike kicks (picture to follow).

Anyway, I'm glad to be here, and I promise a real first post soon! Happy summer.


August 02, 2009

Homophobia in Tel Aviv ... And at Home

I'm an ardent marriage equality activist, devoting numerous hours each week in California to try to repeal Proposition 8. In my mind, marriage equality is one more step on the long road toward social equality and the end of homophobia. But sometimes, you realize you're already on mile 118 when there are still some people stuck at the starting line.

This weekend, an unidentified attacker in a ski-mask entered the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association in Israel and opened fire on the people inside. The Center provides services for gay and lesbian youth in Israel. As a result of the attack, two people are dead (a 26-year-old man and a 17-year-old woman). At least 11 others are injured. (BBC News has coverage: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8180655.stm)

Certainly this is a horrifying and cowardly act of pure homophobia. But it shows how deep these emotions run and how truly scared many people are in this world to be accepting. Luckily, Israel is rallying against the attacker. Prime Minister Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, and the chief rabbis of Israel have all condemned the attack. While they may not always be strong on gay rights, at least they know when someone has gone too far.

As of the time I'm writing this, BBC is reporting about the incident on the front page of its news site. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/). Certainly the BBC has always been better at covering international news than American news outlets, which often focus on fluff stories and entertainment. But CNN, right now, is a huge disappointment.

The coverage is not, at this point, on the front page. In fact, the only way I've found it is by clicking "World" on the bottom under "More News". For awhile, this wasn't even under "Top World Stories" on the right, and you had to click "More World Stories" to get it. It slowly seems to be moving its way up the ranks. Mind you, this blatant act of homophobia is still not on the front page though, while "EW picks: Make a date with John & Kate" and "CNN Wire: Michael Jackson's mom goes to..." are.

Ok, ok... I know that CNN is often quick to report on entertainment before major news stories. But probably the most embarrassing part of their coverage is their "facts." Take for example the headline: "2 dead, 11 hurt in shooting at gay club in Israel." As I said earlier, it wasn't a gay club; it was a youth center providing services, counseling, and assistance to LGBT youth. Yes, CNN newsfolks, gay people are in fact capable of congregating in places that aren't clubs.

For the record, it's under "World" on MSNBC.com, and they correctly report that it was a "gay center." (Though their headline currently says the city is Tel Avi, not Tel Aviv; likely to be found and fixed by the time you're reading this.) New York Times also reports it as a "Gay Center" in their World section. So why, then, is CNN the only one who still thinks this was a "gay club"?

In the end, the event is rattling Israel. It reminds me that we have a long way to go in fighting for equality when sometimes we still need to make the case that we have a right to exist at all.

July 15, 2009

Post Your Testimony in Favor of Non-Discrimination

A couple of people approached me and said that the quench DIY ethic required required that instead of asking someone else to post written testimony, we should gather and post it here ourselves.

So, here goes. Comment below with a link to your written testimony (anonymous is ok), or email it to quench.zine@gmail.com and we'll post it here. We will only post testimony that respects the autonomy and inherent worth of all people regardless of gender identity or expression, race, sex, religion, etc.

Here is the testimony we already have found:
(Starting with what we found from a simple google search - if I found your testimony online and you would prefer there were not a link here, just email or comment and I can take down the link).
Barney Frank, congressman
Johnny Blazes
Jennifer Levi, GLAD
Lorelei Erisis

Trans Activists in Massachusetts have their acts together

Yesterday was the judiciary committee hearing for H. 1728, the transgender anti-discrimination and hate crimes bill that was called H. 1722 last legislative session.

Here is some queer press about it. I'm going to write this post assuming you've read or heard a little about it, and just give my additional impressions. If you don't know anything about it, read the article I just linked to and this primer for more info.

Firstly, our side had definitely learned a lot since the last hearing. People were armed for the heat and the wait. I saw our side coming in with their water bottles and staying for the long haul. Lots of people were dressed up, particularly those testifying. Everyone had clearly thought about what they were going to say and rehearsed. All were articulate. The panels were obviously expertly designed. Stand-out speakers included Jennifer Levi from GLAD, a high school senior who believed in justice, a panel of trans folks who had had successful experiences with their employers, parents of trans kids, and a few individual trans folks who were just great at conveying their personal experiences.

Maybe if we are lucky, MTPC will post some of the written testimony on their website so even those who weren't able to make it will be able to read some of the persuasive and powerful stories. Perhaps a few pieces of written testimony could be slected and posted with names removed? In the meantime, MTPC has posted a few stories here, here, and here.

The opposition managed to appear as a living, breathing stereotype of the way that racism, homophobia, transphobia, and sexism band together. Over and over, they noted concern about the safety of those they found to be "vulnerable," such as women and children (especially teens). However, I don't think they had a single young person testify (I left early so I could be wrong). They had no women who appeared to be under 50 testify when I was there. All of these men were worried about what would happen to women in restrooms in the commonwealth, while women's organizations were testifying that they supported the bill and that the bill is good for women's safety. The young people (teenagers) who testified did so in favor of the bill. In addition to these patronizing attempts to speak for women, and in particular young women, we heard tired homophobia (think "gay agenda" and whining about same sex marriage). One person testified about what he saw as good kinds of discrimination, and all in all, I would say the group seemed hostile to discrimination and hate crimes laws in general. Finally, several speakers seemed unable to respect simple rules and customs. They talked back to and talked over the (female) judiciary chair, and one person even had to be told that there was no name-calling allowed.

As a side-note, while complaining about trans people being bathroom predators, one opponent of the bill testified that he has been hanging out near bathrooms with a video camera waiting to videotape transwomen in women's bathrooms, and promised to post the video on his website. So who's the predator now, the woman who has to pee or the guy standing outside with the video camera?

Our community turned out in large numbers to support those testifying. I noticed that in addition to a large trans community turnout including the usual non-trans partners, family, and friends of trans folks at the hearing, there were also many leaders and allies from non-trans LGB, feminist, union, and other progressive groups. I hope we can continue working together to do everything we can to get these long-awaited legal protections passed.

Below are a few photos from the hearing that appeared on GLAD's twitter of the hearing. I recommend reading their twitter for a full account of what happened. I hope others post what they saw so that we can share our experiences of the day.

May 31, 2009

What can we do to encourage giving in our communities?

In my community, a common way that people who have more than what they end encourage each other to redistribute their wealth is through house parties thrown to benefit local community organizations. I've heard of other folks forming giving circles. We also help by participating in a culture where used goods are trendy. But is all that money "saved" going to do good things?

What do you and the people you care about do to intentionally redistribute wealth? What can we all do to redistribute resources to help people survive injustice?

There are a lot of things we know about giving. We know that rich people give less as a percentage of their incomes than poor people.

And we know that rich people tend to give more often to institutions and causes that benefit mostly the rich like rich universities and museums. (They at the very least benefit the rich more directly than a group advocating for or enabling low cost local food for local low-income people, for example.)

What have you or people you know done to change the culture to one where people who have more than they need give more than 2%? Please share your ideas, tips, and strategies so that we can all learn. Because 2% is not enough.

April 20, 2009

Thoughts on 4:20. Your drugs are not "fair trade."

Each year, many progressives are drawn into a holiday that somehow manages to be both underground and mainstream. April 20, 420, or 4:20, is a day that is celebrated with extensive use of marijuana, and sometimes other drugs.

I'm not trying to be a killjoy or to ruin anyone's fun this year. I'm not going to tell you "this is what your brain will look like on marijuana" or that it's the world's most dangerous drug. But on this particularly drug-centered day, I am going to ask that you that you look at your drug purchases with the same level of scrutiny you would give to a cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, or a pair of shoes. If you care about the lives of the people who are involved in producing and delivering the goods yo use, you should think extra carefully about drugs.

Here are six reasons the drugs you are buying would probably never be certified as "fair trade."

  1. Poor people and people of color are the ones doing time for your drug use. It's not that middle class people, suburban people, or students don't do a lot of drugs. They do plenty. I don't even need to cite statistics on the first point - you know that this is true. Drug arrests and sentences are much more frequent for people in poor communities and communities of color. There are a number of reasons for this, some having to do with the over-policing of these communities, others having to do with who has more access to private spaces. Don't just think about your dealer, but about his/her dealer and his/her dealer. Most drugs go through a lot of people who reach you. And in that chain is likely to be a large number of poor folks who are making very minimal profit and who are risking a jail sentence to get you your product. More info here, here, and here.
  2. A single drug conviction can prevent a person from receiving TANF ("welfare") or food stamps for a lifetime. This can be a conviction for possession, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, etc. So anyone caught in your chain of production and distribution who gets caught can be at an even higher risk for remaining poor. Even a person who is released following a rape, murder, attempted murder, or robbery sentence can access TANF as a safety net. Read more here.
  3. People with drug convictions have difficulty finding housing and jobs. So that person who risks arrest somewhere in the chain of drug buying can be homeless, unemployed, and unable to receive cash benefits.
  4. Immigration law allows deportation of some people convicted of drug crimes. An undocumented person may end up deported even if found "not guilty."
  5. There are no minimum wages or work conditions for drug dealers. Street-level drug dealers, who are usually those at the bottom of the pyramid, are often subject to physical and emotional abuse, threats, and incredibly low pay. Oftentimes, people cannot leave once they begin working for a drug dealer, for threat of injury to themselves or to their families.
  6. Young people are in danger all over the world because of U.S. and other "rich" countries' drug markets. Large global gangs start recruiting and threatening people young, all over the world, trying to force them to join the gangs. The U.S. public is slowly becoming more aware of the problem as a result of recent incidents near the Mexican border, but the problem is not new. Read a couple of articles on the topic here and here.
Spend your money where your values lie. Boycott the drug market until it is fair, regulated, and taxed. If you need another way to spend your money until then, consider donating to the Sentencing Project or the Marijuana Policy Project.

April 06, 2009

"Big boned," "stripper," "soft belly." Seriously?

The Washington Post recently published an article called, "An Advocate for the Shimmy," about Rachael Galoob Ortega, a former attorney who now works as a belly-dance instructor. This is an interesting premise for an story, but I found the actual article to be somewhat problematic. The reporter, Christina Ianzito, really focuses a lot on Rachel's body and appearance, and the appearance of the women in her classes, instead of her activities and accomplishments. Here are some excerpts:

Tall and big-boned, she has a soft belly that is bared and shaking along with her hips

"Wow, look at that one!" exclaims a heavyset woman with short brown hair

She injects into her instructions warm laughter and self-deprecating comments about her own "muffin top" bulging over her waistband. This substance, however, is never, ever to be called "fat" in her presence.

Saphira knew she'd never be a ballerina: "I was a big girl. It was always, always very clear to me I would never excel in it, and that I didn't have the body type to be accepted in it."

"Rachael was never the best dancer or the best-looking or any of that kind of nonsense that people think about when they think about a dance performance," remembers friend and fellow performer Susan Turner Ravin.
[Some "friend"]

She found that she had a natural talent for it, and, physically, belly dance fit her perfectly.

When Saphira runs her hands through her long dark hair while gyrating at Casablanca, she isn't too far from looking like a beautifully costumed stripper.

The thing is, if you watch the video, Rachel is not overweight. She is not a "big girl." She's not "fat." She has an extremely normal and healthy body type - and frankly, one that's not worthy of the amount of time and attention that Ianzito spends on it.

Did you find the article a little strange too?

April 02, 2009

1 in 10 Americans on Food Stamps

What's going on when taxpayers have bought companies that are paying their top employees millions and one in ten Americans are on food stamps.

I understand that the economy is in the toilet, but the country is bringing in enough money that everyone should at least be have enough income to eat.

I've been reading up on a few interesting ways local companies have tried to avoid layoffs like this one and this one. It seems like lots of employees have sharing spirits during this economy. Do you think the sharing will spread and help redistribute wealth and work more fairly?

Seeing the 1 in 10 number is a shock to me, not just because it is so high, but because it is a real wack on the head for me to realize that my friends are either not representative of the population, or are not comfortable being honest about what's going on with them. How do you think the fact that people are divided into different social groups in part based on income/class ties into all this? I imagine that if someone in my circle of friends lost a job they would be more likely to know someone who knows of a job opening (and doesn't have ten million other unemployed friends who she/he also wants to recommend for the job). To me, this makes the social aspects of class that are often ignored in favor of focusing on the economic aspects all the more obvious. And maybe exascerbates the problems that social class causes?

I <3 Bisexuals

Looks like the Bisexual Resource Center (a Boston based group) is reinvigorating. This looks like a great time to get involved.

Here's the info that a reader sent me:

Bisexual Resource Center Volunteer Night
Eat, Talk and Get Involved
Wednesday, April 8th
7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Boston Living Center, 29 Stanhope St, 2nd floor
Right by the Back Bay stop on the Orange Line

The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) is looking forward to another incredible year and we need your help! The BRC raises awareness about and creates community around bisexuality. With our 25th anniversary coming up in 2010, we have lots of exciting preparations in the works.

If you'd like to see what the BRC is all about and how you can get involved, please come to our Volunteer Night. We'll have snacks, postcards to sign asking our representatives for LGBT rights, and announcements on available volunteer opportunities, including:
- making signs for Pride
- blogging about the bi community
- assisting with mailings
- tabling at related events
- helping distribute the latest edition of "Getting Bi"

We invite everyone -- bi folks, lesbian/gay/straight allies, and people with no label at all -- to check out our Volunteer Night and get involved!

RSVP to let us know you'll be dropping by.

Come on bi!
Besides having a chance to meet some other great bi-friendly people, and share some refreshments, you'll also have an opportunity to win a bi-fab door prize!

Who wouldn't want to volunteer for the bi resource center? Especially if it involves food. And hopefully meeting new people, too.

Amazing Comic

You gotta love XKCD.

March 24, 2009

the haters get ready - will justice succeed over tired stereotypes?

As I was walking through the state house today, I saw a piece of litter on the floor and, do-gooder that I am, I leaned over and picked it up.

Okay, you all know that's not true. I accidentally kicked a piece of paper on the floor and when it landed, I thought I had dropped myself, so I leaned to pick it up. It turned out to be a flier from the opponents to the gender identity and expression equality bill. Here it is below.

It smacks of desperation, trying to use stereotypes and bizarre phobias to manipulate people to oppose the bill. Quenchistas, what do you think about the flier? Help respond to this nonsense. Explain in the comments what you think is wrong with it, how you would make a counter-argument, and how you would help more middle-of-the-road people who aren't quite as far out to the right as the people who made this flier what's wrong with this flier and why to support trans rights.

March 20, 2009

I admit it, I still wanna quench

Hey quenchistas,

I have a question for you all. Do you still want to quench? Do you still want to read quench? If you're a writer, do you still want to write for quench?

I've been looking for some more interactive itching of my queer antiracist, well basically anti--bad things and pro-good things (like "people should be allowed to choose their own identities") itch, and quench was always one of those best places to scratch it.

I know posts have been down recently, but our stats say people are still visiting, and I'm wondering if people are still interested. Perhaps we can use the comments of this post to discuss why we are still/no longer interested?

I for one am interested in using this space to keep learning, growing, and being pushed in new directions. Plus, I like all of you. (Except for icarus - for her, I reserve only hate.) But I admit that I haven't been making the effort recently, and starting today, I will try to make the effort.

What do others think? (Even if it's something short - boy will I be bummed if there is so little interested that no one even comments about whether there is interest).

March 13, 2009

Free Pie for Pi.

If you're not dating a hot math nerd, you may want to reconsider before tomorrow...

Free pie at Petsi Pies in Somerville, MA tomorrow on National Pi Day!

You get 10% off for every 10 digits of pi that you know - and 100 digits gets you an entire free pie.

Sadly, I can only get to 3.1459 and then I get overwhelmed.


March 06, 2009

Rage-inducing story of the day

This is really upsetting and horrifying:

A Brazilian archbishop says all those who helped a child rape victim secure an abortion are to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

The girl, aged nine, who lives in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, became pregnant with twins.

It is alleged that she had been sexually assaulted over a number of years by her stepfather.

The full story here. The archbishop told press that "the law of God was above any human law."

Is it also the law of God to force a child to suffer? I really don't understand how someone could blindly impose religious doctrine in a situation like this. I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts.

March 03, 2009

Hey! Free stuff! - Updated

So, as y'all probably know by now, I love free stuff.

Recently, I embarked on an experiment to see how many free samples of stuff I could get mailed to me by requesting it on the internet. I was really surprised by how many samples people will mail to you. There are a few good sites. I especially like Hey, It's Free! because they try to screen out any spammy/scam links.

I am going to keep y'all updated on what I actually receive in the mail.

So far, I have received:

Yay for free stuff! Stay tuned for what else comes in mail.

GLAD challenges the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court

GLAD has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Boston on behalf of eight married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied federal legal protections available to spouses because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Very exciting. You can learn more and get updates here.