Violence against native and indigenous women [Revisited]

NOTE: I originally wrote most of this post a couple years ago but this is sadly still a problem and something that still needs to be discussed. The reason why I wanted to revisit this topic is because the CBC recently released a second season of their podcast “Missing and Murdered”. This season is about an indigenous family in Canada trying to find their sister, Cleo. I recommend listening to that podcast to better understand this issue and the systematic trauma that many indigenous people have had to experience and continue to deal with.

Canada and the United States have both been exceptionally horrible to the indigenous and native populations of this land. For generations and generations, we’ve broken treaties, stolen children, committed cultural and physical genocide, live on stolen land. Violence against indigenous and native women is unfortunately a part of our history and current narrative in both countries. And it’s a national disgrace.

*I do want to say that this is a rough topic to read about – it deals with rape, abuse, death, and other forms of violence. Just as a warning.

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Existing While Trans [part 1]

Being publicly and openly trans and/or gender nonconforming is a tough thing to do, even in this day and age. I wish it weren’t, as being trans/gender nonconforming is just one part of a person and is an incredibly valid part of someone’s identity and experience. Even in feminist spaces like the recent Women’s Marches, it can be tough for trans and gender nonconforming folks.

So what do I mean with I say it’s hard for trans and gender nonconforming folks? It’s true that we’ve come a long way over the years and decades and it definitely feels like there are more trans people in the public eye. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Caitlyn Jenner, and Gavin Grimm are just some of the people that have (for better or for worse) brought trans issues to the forefront of many conversations. And over the years, there have been many legislative and legal wins for trans folks around the United States.

But sadly, even with all the wins and with more folks understanding what the term/label ‘transgender’ even means, many trans and gender nonconforming folks still face many issues and obstacles for simply being their authentic selves.

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QUEER HISTORY: Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera is often most known for being just one of many that were present at the Stonewall Inn Riots in June of 1969 but her life and work encompasses so much more than that night. Rivera, now an icon for many LGBTQ+ folks, was born in the Bronx in 1951 as Ray Rivera and had a turbulent childhood. At just eleven years old, Rivera was on her own, homeless, and hustling on the streets trying to survive. Despite all the hardships she faced for her gender and presentation (as the 1960s/70s were very unforgiving towards gender nonconformity in any sense), Rivera was often very open about being transgender/a drag queen and was a long-time activist for LGBTQ+ rights.

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Supporting Trans Kids.

With one of the latest federal actions revoking federal guidelines that support transgender students to use public school bathrooms that match their gender identity. While the stance from the administration is to leave transgender rights up to the states and local schools, this move also reverses work done by the Obama administration last year and means that protections and support would vary widely from area to area.

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‘Queer’ Revisited.

I’ve written about my own struggle with using the word ‘queer’ – it’s something that I personally struggle with regularly. There are a lot of discussion online (and I’m sure offline as well) about the use of queer to be a universal term for the LGBTQ+ community. In the below video, Kat Blaque takes a question from one of her viewers about a club on a college campus using ‘queer’ as a universal term and the club essentially saying that if you don’t like it, you’ll get used to it. (The previous video Kat mentions in the below one can be found here and I definitely recommend watching both videos in relation to this conversation.)

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Not Normal.

With Trump officially in office and already starting his term off to a bang, it’s important to reiterate that all of this is not normal. The censoring of government employees and scientists? Not normal. The Press Secretary blatantly lying about the size of the inauguration crowds, despite the fact that there is clear photographic evidence to contradict him? Still not normal, no matter if ‘alternative facts’ actually exist. The Press Secretary has even started to print out tweets that Trump has issues with and holds them up at press briefings, which is incredibly bizarre and definitely not normal. Trump and those in his administration have proven several times in less than two weeks that they are willing to lie to the American public on numerous issues.

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Last Saturday.

The Women’s March on Washington and related sister marches around the world happened this past weekend and honestly, I have some mixed feelings about it all. On one hand, it was incredibly amazing to see all the crowds that showed up in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, and more. Hell, there was even a (tiny) protest in Antarctica! And I’m not going to lie: seeing the dramatic contrast between the inauguration on Friday and the march in DC on Saturday was spectacular.

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Stonewall (2015)

During its initial release and promotion, I wrote about Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall and about how the film was essentially not representative of what happened during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I wasn’t the only one to critique the film before even seeing it – the hashtag #NotMyStonewall brought up a variety of criticisms for the film and of the decision to center a cis, white gay man rather than the real life people who were present.

And for over a year, I forgot about the film. It didn’t seem to really do that well, getting only 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, and despite being friends with a large amount of LGBTQ+ folks, I honestly don’t really know anyone who actually went to see it. But a few weeks ago, I was staying at a place that didn’t have internet and because the one video rental place in town was having a special deal of renting five videos for the price of three, I decided to finally see what Stonewall (2015) was all about.

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Major!

By complete chance, I saw the documentary Major! recently and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past few months. A small part of my experience was also learning that a local nonprofit movie theater does a queer movie series and being surrounded in large part by other LGBT and queer folks. But being able to learn about and celebrate Miss Major was really the best part.

The documentary is in large part about Miss Major Griffin Gracy and her story as a black trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots, a survivor of Attica State Prison, former sex worker, and community leader/activist. Her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), for example, has supported trans women who are currently in jail and prison or who are formerly incarcerated. There are interviews from Miss Major herself and the community around her about her life and work and there’s so much love and support in this film.

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