It’s a tough choice.
Our colleagues at the Palm Center at San Francisco State University this week issued a new report finding that allowing open military service for transgender people “is administratively feasible an…… more at New Report: Open Trans Military Service “Administratively Feasible”
“It’s that when I talk, it really isn’t a reflection of my soul – it isn’t a reflection of who I am.”
OMG OMG OMG YAASSS
DarkMatter – a queer South Asian artist and activist collaboration — spent the majority of Summer 2013 in Palestine (both the West Bank and ’48). We were hosted by alQaws, a queer Palestinian organization that focuses on cultural and social change around gender and sexuality in the context of the Palestinian liberation struggle. With alQaws, we conducted writing/performance workshops around gender, sexuality, and imperialism, and performed in various cities across West Bank and 48.
The original intention of our trip was to advance broader conversations around the ways in which Western queer solidarity work in Palestine is dominated by white queer bodies and ideologies. We were both concerned by how many queer people of color we organized with in the United States did not have access to an analysis of Palestine, let alone transnational imperialism/colonialism. We trace this to a carefully curated strategy to de-radicalize racial justice in this country by curtailing it as a domestic issue. Thus the racial distribution of solidarity activists is not innocuous but results from the dynamics of white supremacy and imperialism in the state, NGOs, and media
In this first thought piece we want to unpack how white supremacy has influenced solidarity work around Palestine and how that negatively impacts movements for Palestinian liberation. We use white supremacy to signify a form of privilege built from legacies of colonialism, enslavement, genocide, and other acts of terrorism and oppression committed by people with access to whiteness against other peoples. White supremacy includes psychic, cultural, economic, and social supremacy.
We trace the domination of Western queer solidarity work with Palestine by white people to four major roots in the material and social realities of White supremacy:
- As a result of (settler-) colonialism and systems of enslavement, white people dominate most material resources and institutions in the West. They frequently have the most access to capital, time, and networks to participate in solidarity work abroad.
- White bodies are generally less scrutinized by states, police, and settlers (including Zionist settlers). They are more easily able to pass through airports and other borders and to be visible without fear of racialized state violence.
- The impulse of white people to ‘help’ the foreign Other comes from a long legacy of a colonial mentality. The ‘white savior complex’ is prevalent throughout social sector work, especially global development and NPIC (non profit industrial complex) work.
White folks (and folks with access to various white privileges) frequently displace systems of oppression and power struggles to the non-West, ignoring the struggles—in which they are more materially complicit—in their domestic spaces. We believe North American queer solidarity work with Palestine, for example, is bankrupt without both an analysis of the histories of settler-colonialism and indigenous genocide in North America, and of criminalization and exploitation of black people and people of color through institutions like the prison.
Furthermore, the work that white queer bodies do (by their very presence) is reinforcing the notion that queerness most genuinely ‘belongs’ to Whiteness. This is in the political context of a gay and lesbian movement that increasingly serves the needs of elite white gay men in the West. Over the past decade we’ve also witnessed unprecedented support for a global LGBT rights movement. Several prominent Pride parades have made ‘WORLD PRIDE’ the theme of the week — discussing the rampant homophobia occurring across the world in Uganda, Iran, Vietnam, Russia, etc. The Obama Administration has allocated millions of dollars to the US State Department to fund emerging LGBT social movements abroad. Hilary Clinton declared to the United Nations that “Gay Rights are Human Rights.”
While such support might seem ‘progressive,’ with further scrutiny we realize that a global, homogenous, delocalized gay movement does not serve the needs of most sexual and gender minorities (who are not white, not financially privileged, etc). And actually, such a ‘global gay’ identity further distracts from Western imperialist and racist violence. We saw a connection here between the radical queer people of color activist movements we aligned ourselves with in ‘North America’ and queer Palestinian activism not in our shared oppression but rather our shared resistance to a white supremacist neocolonial agenda. Indeed, such a movement actually serves the interests of the colonizers: in Palestine Israeli settlers on Palestinian land and in North America white and brown settlers on Native American land.
Among Israel’s colonial strategies is ‘pinkwashing’, in which the state of Israel uses gay rights (everything from Prides to advertisements for asylum to gay tourism campaigns) as a distraction from its occupation. The result of the overrepresentation of whiteness in Palestine solidarity work has a few effects on the efficacy of anti-pinkwashing and queer solidarity work:
- Pinkwashing is about defining a consolidated queer/gayness as a ‘modern’, ‘progressive’ artifact from the West in comparison to the backwards Rest. The overrepresentation of white US queers in anti-pinkwashing movements perpetuates this narrative.
- The colonial impulse to ‘save’ queer Palestine is one that reinscribes the victim narratives about queer Palestinians that actually service pinkwashing. Further, it makes pinkwashing appear as a single-issue device (that only oppresses queers), where in fact pinkwashing is a tactic of occupation that oppresses all Palestinians, of all genders and sexualities.
Anti-pinkwashing is not a ‘queer issue’; it is an issue of Palestinian liberation. We wanted to envision and practice a transnational queer solidarity that is not dominated by white people, is also not complicit in single-issue politics, and is self-reflexive about the racial and class violences that operate in solidarity activists’ domestic contexts (for us, the United States). The erasure of race and class violence and suppression of race and class warfare by gay rights is not an Israel-only phenomenon. Ultimately, though, the goal is to shift the focus away from white and Israeli settler queer bodies, even as ‘allies’, towards sexual and gender justice for all currently and formerly enslaved and colonized peoples.
Found my favorite gif.
Finding out where to go next can be the hardest thing to do. Do your research, be proud, be safe, and don’t let people drag you down.
This article has a story to accompany the good news. And for states that expanded Medicare, it’s awesome for transgender individuals seeking surgery.
Devin Payne had gone years without health insurance – having little need and not much money to pay for it.
Then Payne, who had a wife and four children, realized she could no longer live as a man.
In her early 40s, she changed her name, began wearing long skirts and grew out her sandy blond hair. And she started taking female hormones, which caused her breasts to develop and the muscle mass on her 6-foot one-inch frame to shrink.
The next step was gender reassignment surgery. For that, Payne, who is now 44,said she needed health coverage. “It is not a simple, easy, magical surgery,” said Payne, a photographer who lives in Palm Springs. “Trying to do this without insurance is a big risk. Things can go wrong … not having the money to pay for it would be awful.”
Payne learned in the fall that she might qualify for subsidies through the state’s new insurance marketplace, Covered California, because her income fell under the limit of $46,000 a year. She eagerly signed up in March for a Blue Shield plan for about $230 a month, and began making preparations for the surgery that would change her life.
A ‘Pre-existing Condition’
Among the less-talked-about implications of the Affordable Care Act is the relief it is providing to many transgender people, many of whom are low-income and who have struggled to obtain health coverage.
Getting jobs that offer insurance often has been difficult for transgender people and the cost of purchasing plans on the private market can be prohibitive. Some have been denied policies altogether after being diagnosed with “gender identity disorder,” often considered a pre-existing condition.
Without insurance, many people were unable to afford the hormones, surgeries and counseling needed to complete their transition. Nor would they have been covered in the event of surgical complications, which can include infections.
“We are still dependent on insurance and the medical community for us to be able to live authentically,” said Aydin Kennedy, coordinator of the transgender health program at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles.
Now, federal law prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating against transgender people, and it bars insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. That makes it possible for more transgender people to purchase private plans. And in states that expanded their Medicaid programs, those with low incomes may get free coverage.
The federal anti-discrimination regulations have yet to be written, but California insurance regulators have said that companies must treat transgender patients the same as other patients. For example, if plans cover hormones for post-menopausal women, they must also cover them for transgender women. Medicare, the program for the elderly and disabled, lifted its ban on covering sex reassignment surgery earlier this year.
“The law and policy are on a transgender person’s side for the first time,” said Anand Kalra, program administrator at the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center.
Conservative and religious groups oppose using government funds for transgender surgeries, questioning whether they are medically necessary, ethical or effective.
“We would oppose sex change operations all together,” said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. “But as a public policy issue, we would feel particularly strongly that taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay for it.”
A few obstacles remain for transgender patients. Not manydoctors specialize in transgender care. And while the law opens the door to insurance coverage, insurers can set conditions and don’t automatically approve payment.
“Insurance companies are making up their own rules as they go along,” said Kalra of the Transgender Law Center.
Growing up in Kansas, Payne remembers trying on her mother’s clothes and dressing as a girl every year for Halloween. She dreamt of having another life after this one, as a girl. But Payne said she mostly suppressed her feelings and tried to live up to the expectations for a male.
“I put it out of my head,” she said.
She married a woman she met at work and they had four children, now ages 7 to 22. But she never felt comfortable in the traditional role of father and provider.
“I was just horrible at it because it wasn’t who I was,” she said. So Payne became the primary caretaker, playing the “mommy role” as she worked from home doing software development for pharmaceutical companies.
She felt increasingly anxious, and in late 2012, a therapist helped her to realize that she was meant to live as a woman. Payne said her entire outlook on life changed when she started taking female hormones.
“All my anxiety and all of the bad things that I felt inside were just completely washed away,” she said.
Every binder has it’s ups and downs, being the price of it or the material, just make sure to bind safely and wear a binder that you’re the most comfortable in!!