June 29, 2007

White People Don't Underestimate Racism. Duh.

I recently read this article about a recent study. Unfortunately, the study itself was not available online for free but the article got me thinking. Here's an excerpt from the article.

To White Americans, giving up television is a hardship; being Black is not. That's the upshot of a series of studies by researchers at The Ohio State University.

As part of the studies, Whites of different ages and geographic regions were asked how much they deserved to be paid for living the rest of their lives as an African-American.

Respondents generally requested less than $10,000 to become Black. However, they said they'd have to be paid $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

"The costs of being Black in our society are very well documented," says study co-author Philip Mazzocco. "Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to Whites.

"When Whites say they would need $1 million to give up TV, but less than $10,000 to become Black, that suggests they don't really understand the extent to which African-Americans, as a group, are disadvantaged," says Mazzocco.

In another scenario, the references "White" and "America" were omitted, and participants were asked to select between being born a minority or majority in a fictional country called, "Atria." They were warned of the disadvantages that the minority group faced — the same disparities faced by Black Americans — and they said they should be paid an average of $1 million to be born a minority.

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Interesting study.*

Wait, so according to this article white people don't understand racism? They (we) deny it? How shocking!

The article goes on to interpret the article, saying that the study shows that it's not that white people don't care - they just don't understand and they need to be taught.

I think that it's great that people are working to study this issue quantitatively but the analysis does not seem to be enough. It's important to dig deeper. It's to white people's advantage to not know what's going on. After all, that way they can continue doing what they are doing and remain on the top.

I don't think it's fair to just act like by no fault of their own white people are uninformed. The implication there seems to be that racism hasn't ended yet because black people haven't put enough effort into educating white people about today's circumstances.

White people don't know what's going on because they aren't looking, listening, or paying attention.

That's what I think of this article, what do you think? It's also worth reading in the article because the researchers did some interesting work on slave reparations, too.

My question to you all is do you think studies like this are useful? Do you think that people are wasting their research on the obvious or do you think that as a tool to point out white people's blindness very clearly, they are useful? Do you think it is intentional that the analysis (and seemingly the study itself) does not focus on the ways that white people may be intentionally ignorant, or the way people with power intentionally set up a world where many white people do not learn this information? Or is that just legitimately a topic for another study?

*While I can see some flaws in the study's methodology as reported in this article, like that in one part, the study asked how much they would have to be paid to "live the rest of their lives," and in the other part they were asked about being born one race. Maybe the numbers show that white people think all racism happens in childhood? Still, the disparity between what white people thought in an American context versus what they thought in some hypothetical context that happens to be the same as an American context is stark enough that there is clearly something going on here.

June 28, 2007

A plea for your cash.

Hi everyone,

I never do this, but this matters.

Right now, if you can, please donate to the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC).

MTPC is working to make sure that the hate crimes bill protecting gender identity and expression, HR-1722 - "An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes," will be passed in Massachusetts. You can read about it here.

This legislation would strengthen hate crimes law, and offer legal protection for transgender and gender-variant people in Massachusetts.

But MTPC needs money. Badly. They have a NEGATIVE bank balance right now, due to the cost of lobbying for the nondiscrimination bill and collecting signatures at Pride. Even a little bit will make a difference. This is a GLBT organization doing grassroots activism with powerful results, and they really need your donation (no matter how small) right now.

Give $5 today. It will actually matter.

Or, throw a party and ask your friends to give a few bucks each. Or, send us an email volunteering to help sort the 1,600 postcards in support of the bill that we'd like to deliver to legislators or help get more postcards signed. Everything helps.

Donate here.

Thanks guys.

Also: There are two recent posts on TakeMassAction that address this issue: one about the recent hate crime in Lowell and the other about the need for GLBT organizations to support trans communities through this bill.

June 26, 2007

Cross-Dresser Running for Major Office in Pakistan

Thanks to al-Fatiha for this heads-up. It seems that since the popular television talk show of "Begum Nawazish Ali" (Mrs. Nawazish Ali), a.k.a. the actor Mr. Ali Saleem, was pulled for scathing political commentary of the government of Pakistan, Ali has gotten annoyed.

And decided to take his political fight to the bloody arena for political office.

That's right, Ali's running for office, but in the form best known to Pakistan - Begum Nawazish Ali.

Musharraf, go die and spin in your grave. Don't step with no trannies, biotch.

NDTV India, 17 June 2007
TV show host enters political fray
By Yusra Askari

Sunday, June 17, 2007 (Islamabad)

Elections in Pakistan this year promise to be a showdown between the two exiled former prime ministers and the man in charge President General Pervez Musharraf.

However, part of the ever-changing political scenario is Ali Saleem or Begum Nawazish Ali, who is an candidate with a difference.

The popular cross-dressing television talk show host earlier this year announced his intentions to contest the next general election.

“For as long as I can remember, when I was a child, actually it was my childhood dream to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. I remember when I was younger, my mother would be on my case saying, Ali you have become a doctor and my dad wanted me to be a lawyer.”

“I became an actor because I wanted to be an actor. I am basically trying to follow all my childhood dreams. I want to go into politics because I want to be the PM of Pakistan,” said Begum Nawazish Ali, TV Show Host.

A nonconformist in conservative Pakistan, Ali's reasons to enter politics are simple.

“Basically I am an idealist, I have certain beliefs which I hold very, very dear to myself. I think we live in a country where we have so many problems, so many issues.”

“You know at every level we have problems and issues and people are extremely unhappy, and I just want to make people happy. I really want to make people happy and give back to my country.”

“I feel it is very important to motivate young educated Pakistanis to come up and take more interest in what happens to their country.”

“It is about my taking this decision and quite honestly it is not about winning or losing; become Prime Minister or not, becoming an MNA or not, the point is actually to inspire others, to motivate others to start participating in deciding their own fate really,” said Begum Nawazish Ali, TV Show Host.

Political affiliations

With regard to his inclinations towards political parties, Ali is rather clear that he supports the PPP but adds that he isn't necessarily going to be affiliated with it.

“I have been quite a staunch supporter of the PPP because I look back at the history of Pakistan, I think this is one party that has always stood for principles. This is one party that has consistently fought against the establishment.”

“So I support the PPP, but I am not necessarily going to be affiliated with any party. I'd like to contest as an independent candidate. I'd like to run my election campaign as an independent candidate, as Ali Saleem as a Pakistani, as an actor, as the person.”

“In case, I do get elected and the situation does arise, I would definitely support the PPP,” said Begum Nawazish Ali, TV Show Host.

By running for political office, Ali hopes to break barriers and preconceived notions of gender, identity, celebrity and politics, but what city does he want to contest from?

I had a very bizarre idea that I would file my nomination papers from all the major cities of Pakistan, that is, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawer.”

“But then I thought it would be too much work and that I'll be dividing my attention to many places and I wont be as focused. Islamabad is my hometown and it's a decent city, so I thought either that or Karachi.

“But only one thing scares me about Karachi and that is that the politics here can be a little dirt. Most likely the city I choose will be Islamabad,” said d Begum Nawazish Ali, TV Show Host.

Contesting from either Islamabad or Karachi, canvassing as himself or as the sari-clad, mascara-wearing Begum, Ali Saleem's election campaign truly promises to add color to this year's electoral process.

You go, girl.

June 12, 2007

Sample Trans 101

Hi everyone!

Hope you're doing well (and doing everything you can before the ConCon!). Recently, I was asked by a college student for more information about how to do a "Trans 101" training. Here is a sample agenda and outline for a Trans 101 that you can use to do a training at your college, school, religious institution, job, etc. Please feel free to leave comments with feedback and suggestions!

Trans 101 Training Agenda
(developed by the Harvard Trans Task Force):

1. Ground Rules/ Introduction:

  • DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
  • Speak from the “I”
  • Assume good intentions
  • Ask questions but be respectful
  • Use preferred pronouns
  • Go around the room and have people say their names and preferred pronouns, encourage them to make personal statements about their own feelings or ideas.

2. Experiential Intro:

  • How do you know you are the gender you identify with, without identifying any physical characteristics? Say to yourself, “I know I am ______ because….”.
  • This is gender identity, and this is the same way trans person knows their gender. Often this exercise feels challenging for people, sometimes they find themselves thinking about gender roles and stereotypes, sometimes the answer is “I just am.”

3. Describing Terms – What does Transgender mean? (adapted from GenderCrash)

First, it is helpful to talk about differences between sex/gender. In our culture when baby is born first question is (let them answer) “What is it” We are “it’s” until a sex has been assigned, which shows how culturally sex tends to be attached to much greater meaning (i.e. gender/gender roles).

  • Sex refers to biological, anatomic or organic sexual markers.These are only given meaning within a social context. We are taught to think of sex as binary and gendered e.g. if you have a penis you are male and a vagina you are female. This is not always the case: there are more than 2 sexes and not everyone born with a penis is male and a vagina is female.
  • Gender Identity: self conception of one’s gender, may or may not be congruent with physiology
  • Sexual Orientation: is about who we are attracted to (commonly seen as gendered due to prescribed gender roles)
  • Transgender: is often a broad term that applies to people who embody an innate sense of gender identity other than their birth sex. Transgender can also be a term used to group various gender different communities: genderqueer, transwomen, transmen, crossdresser, transexual...
  • Transman: (sometimes "FTM" or "female-to-male"), born “female bodied,” identifies as male (it is good to clarify that "transman" and "transwoman" refer to the gender identity the person identifies with now, not the sex they were assigned at birth).
  • Transwoman: (sometimes "MTF" or "male-to-female"), born "male bodied," identifies as female
  • Genderqueer: born either male or female bodied may identify as neither male or female, or both, or either.
  • Transsexual: person whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender at birth. They transition and live full time as a different gender and generally seek the use of hormones & surgery to make their sex congruent with their gender identity.
  • Intersex (is not a transgender identity). Intersexuality is a set of medical conditions that features "congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system." That is, a person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered "standard" for either male or female. (see“Introduction to intersex activism”at www.isna.org)

What does it mean to be “in transition” “transitioning”?

  • Meaning of transitioning varies for individuals. The process from living and being perceived as the gender assigned at birth to living and being perceived as the trans-individual sees and understands self
  • Many see this as a vector: male to female, female to male (with a trans identity: trans man/woman)
  • Others may see the process as a place with an end point and don’t identify with trans identity
  • Some trans persons don’t transition, either because it does not match identity (e.g. may be genderqueer and not wanting to transition, may be a transwoman who wants to have a penis) or other reasons (access to money, health insurance, safety, etc).


5. What should I call a transgender identified person?

  • There are no universal answers
  • Echo their language use
  • It is often (but not always) most respectful to use pronouns referring to gender presentation
  • Asking, if done respectfully, should be well received.
  • There are pronouns “ze” and “hir” for individuals who reject gender binary

Some Terms to Avoid:

  • “Pre-op” or “post-op." Identifying people in terms of their genital status may feel invasive or disrespectful. Don’t ask people about their genitalia or surgeries either!
  • Try not to say “transgendered" - you wouldn’t say "African Americaned" or "lesbianed."
  • “A Transgender” is an objectifying usage - you wouldn’t say “A gay.”
  • “Trannie” may be used as a term within trans communities, considered pejorative when used by non-trans people
  • "FTM" or "MTF" may offend some - sort of like a lesbian who doesn’t identify as "straight to gay." Ask first.

6. Why Do Trans Issues Matter?

Exercise: How many ways today have you had your gender confirmed?
  • Using a gendered bathroom
  • "Can I help you “Sir/Miss"?'
  • Did you put on a shirt/tie, dress, stockings...?
  • Did you use toiletries? Which ones?
  • Attending a gendered group, women’s group, sports teams.
  • Getting told you look pretty or handsome
  • Get mail with Mr. or Ms./Mrs.
  • Flirting
  • Using your first name

7. Scenarios:

Split into small groups (pairs is best). Give each group a scenario. Have them read it to each other, discuss their possible reactions, issues involved. “How likely do you think it is that you will see this or a similar scenario this year?” After discussion, have each group present their scenario to the larger group, and share their thoughts on it.

Sample scenarios (you can adapt them to your particular campus/institution/group):
  • You're in the BGLT Center (or Women’s Center) before an event, and you're chatting with your friend who wants to tell you a crazy story about his hook-up last night. He says: "Remember that cute boy I went home with last night? Well, it turned out he was really a woman. Or he used to be. Or she. Or whatever. I left because, dude, I'm gay." How do you respond?
  • You overhear a conversation between two women about how best to make sure a campus space is safe for women. One of the women suggests making sure that the Center should be only open to “real women.”
  • You're at an event with a bunch of friends you ask someone what pronoun they prefer and the person asks you to call them "she." A few days later, you're in the dining hall and all of your friends are calling her "he."
  • At an event, a friend reveals that she is trans and would like you to use the pronoun “she.” Later in the day, you're talking to her blockmate and use the pronoun “she.” The blockmate says “Don't you mean “he”? How do you respond?
  • Your friend tells you that someone told him he was using the “wrong” bathroom. How do you respond?
  • A few of your friends are discussing someone's new girlfriend. Someone says "I heard your girlfriend is trans - so, you're not a lesbian anymore, eh?"
  • A friend of yours who is a self-identified lesbian approaches you and tells you about a date she had with a man you know. You express surprise, because she has previously told you that she doesn't date men. She replies: “Oh, he's trans.
  • Someone comes up to you before class. You name was in the campus newspaper in an article about trans issues. They ask you when you had surgery and why.
  • You're in the restroom and someone confronts you about your right to be there. How do you react?
  • You're dating someone who's trans. Your best friend asks you, giggling: “So, how do you have sex?” How do you respond?
  • Someone close to you is genderqueer and has asked you to use a certain set of pronouns. When talking in their presence, you use the wrong pronoun. How do you react?
  • You go on a group outing, and you don't know someone's gender and you want to talk to them. How do you figure out which pronouns to use for them?

8. Being trans often means having to face daily obstacles:

Brainstorm a list of obstacles:

  • Discrimination (maybe engage group to identify stereotypes/misinformation they have heard about trans people): work, housing, healthcare, physical attacks, hate crimes.
  • Specific obstacles at your institution: bathrooms, housing, health care...
Ways to help:

  • Join GLBT campus organizations that work for trans rights.
  • Join MTPC and help lobby for the nondiscrimination bill.
  • Donate to MTPC.
  • Help with Trans 101 trainings at your school, religious institution or job.
  • Think of ways to signal that you are trans-friendly and trans-inclusive (for both individuals and institutions)
  • Changes you want to advocate for at your university (bathrooms, nondiscrimination code, etc) and strategies for doing so.
  • The role of housing staff at universities (for training involving housing staff or administrators): an increasing amount of incoming college freshman are out as trans – either transitioning or already transitioned. Also, there are students already in dorms who may be seeking support with rooming issues or other concerns. New gender neutral housing option is important step. It is necessary to have a consistent policy.
  • In your role, think of anywhere students’ names and or genders are listed, think of places where gender comes up (bathrooms).
  • Distribute copies of Trannys Talk Back or other publications by trans people about their experiences.
9. Wrap up. Have people go around and each say one thing that they learned during the Trans 101 and/or general reflections and feedback on the session. Thank them for coming.

June 11, 2007

Help save same-sex marriage in Massachusetts!

Hi everyone,

If you are in Massachusetts right now, we need you.

There is a Constitutional Convention on June 14th (this Thursday) that could put gay marriage on the PUBLIC BALLOT. This would be a very bad thing, and could result in the loss of the right to marry for same-sex couples in Massachusetts.

Here are three things you can do right now to help:

1. Look at these interactive maps.
Contact your friends and family and ask them to contact their legislators. Take a look at the interactive maps above to see who the anti-marriage legislators are. If you know people who live in the cities or towns highlighted in red, make sure they know how important it is for them to contact their legislators.

2. Contact your legislators, write to your newspaper, call, donate, or volunteer.

3. Attend the Constitutional Convention.
State House, Beacon St. (Park Street T Stop)
Boston, MA
On: June 14, 2007
From 7:00 am to 3:30 pm

The anti-marriage orgs will be bussing people in from out of state, so it's really important that we have a strong showing at the Convention.

This Thursday, our legislators will vote on a discriminatory amendment that would take the right to marry away from same-sex couples.

We have one last chance to stop this amendment before it goes on the ballot.

Take a moment right now to help protect marriage equality for generations to come.

June 09, 2007

Website of the Day

Check out RetailMeNot. They have coupon codes (with success rates and comments) for lots of online stores. I just saved $1.17 on something. Yay.