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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Non-apologies and Trans Characters in Hollywood.

There seems to be a weird trend where someone is called out on a mistake only for them to issue a non-apology that takes none of the blame. Making mistakes is inevitable – as humans, we’re flawed and messy. The repeating of the same mistakes and not owning up to them is what I personally have trouble with.

It can be hard to admit you’re wrong and even harder for your actions to reflect that. Our society’s obsession and subsequent intense pressure towards success and perfection makes owning up to mistake damn near impossible but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Mistakes can often offer an incredible opportunity to learn and grow more.

All of this comes in the wake of yet another cis man being cast as a trans woman in a film. In this case, Matt Bomer was cast as a trans woman in a new movie called Anything and Mark Ruffalo offered a non-apology for it. I could go on about the implications of casting men to play trans women in Hollywood – like how it sends the dangerous message that trans women are really just men or how it takes away what little roles trans actors have to portray trans characters. This is an incredibly important conversation but there are significantly smarter people with significantly better insight that have been talking about this and I’ll let them take the ropes on it.

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NYC Trans Day of Action – June 24th, 2016.

This Friday is the 12th annual Trans Day of Action! This yearly event is a protest organized by the Audre Lorde Project in New York City to call for several different demands and in some part, remember that Pride is rooted in a police riot started by trans women of color.

Pride is still really important – it allows for a celebration of a community that’s regularly erased, discriminated against, and violently beaten. But it’s started to grow more into a corporate party that, like many other things, over represents white cis gay men and where police and banks often outnumber many trans community groups in several major city celebrations. Trans Day of Action puts trans people of color back to the front and center.

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Bathroom Bills.

States like North Carolina have been making waves over the past few weeks with different pieces of legislation that are inherently discriminatory in nature – many of them focus on discriminating against LGBTQ folks in the name of religious freedom and public safety. The North Carolina bill comes as a response to the Charlotte City Council’s recently expanded ordinance that would allow for trans people of the city to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. The bill does a whole lot more though – as Camila Domonoske explains:

The new [state] law establishes a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that explicitly supersedes any local nondiscrimination measures. The statewide protections cover race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex — but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill does so much more as well. Among other things, it essentially supersedes literally any local government ordinance – from non-discrimination policies to minimum wage increases. So not only does this impact LGBTQ folks in the state but also makes any sort of citywide minimum wage increase nearly impossible and thus impacts low income and working class folks as well.

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Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).

Intersectionality is an important part of feminism and by having it be a central part of feminism, we recognize the intersecting identities that all influence our lives in different ways. Some women deal with racism and sexism compounded, others deal with misogyny, ableism, and classism, others a combination of the aforementioned or with even more issues like transphobia, fatphobia, etc. Intersectionality is important in regards to feminism though because it acknowledges the fact that we all experience life and society through a different lens and through many identities.

The reason I started off by talking about intersectionality is because there are some fractions within feminism that are exclusionary towards trans women, claiming that trans women aren’t actually women. (Hint: trans women are in fact women.) But intersectionality is important in this regard because it reminds us that we have to take into regard the many identities that shape us as individuals.

Before anything further, let’s define what trans exclusionary radical feminism is. Kelsie Brynn Jones wrote a great article about what trans exclusionary radical feminism is, defining it at the beginning as:

Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, or TERF, is a loosely-organized collective with a message of hate and exclusion against transgender women in particular, and transgender people as a whole. They have attached themselves to radical feminism as a means to attempt to deny trans women basic access to health care, women’s groups, restroom facilities, and anywhere that may be considered women’s space.

TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) have a long history of advocating against trans people (particularly trans women). One concrete example? The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, or Michfest – “a womyn born womyn” (read cis women) music festival that took place every August starting 1976 to 2015. This year’s festival was actually the last after the leaders of the festival decided to close their doors rather than make the space trans inclusive.

The TERFs is a website with so many resources about trans eclusionary feminism, including what it looks like, where the term comes from, examples of real violence perpetuated by TERFs, and TERF positions on issue like trans health care and trans restroom access. Adrian Ballou and Justin Killian wrote about why the end of Michfest is good for feminism, saying among many other things that the idea of womyn born womyn spaces are strictly for cis women and alienate others. Justin Killian points out that:

When people say that some women are born female, they’re saying that other women absolutely can’t be.

The idea that [trans women’s] womanhood is not as “natural” as cis women’s is already very popular. If we were not “born women,” then the gender binary dictates that we are strictly male. We are nothing more than wells of “phallic energy.”

I fundamentally believe that trans women are women, that they are my sisters in this struggle. My feminism includes the most marginalized and the people who are both like and not like me.

Protecting and Supporting Trans Individuals.

I’ve written about this before – talking about how we need to protect all our sisters not just our cis-sters, #TransIsBeautiful and #GirlsLikeUs, resources for trans individuals, among many other posts. And I’ll always protect other trans individuals like my life depends on it because as a society, we are particularly awful at treating trans people respectfully and inclusively.

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#TransLiberationTuesday

tumblr_ntlehjNAu41u3nkrio2_1280-600x552Today, the hashtag #transliberationtuesday on Twitter is calling for more awareness and the ending of violence against trans individuals, particularly against trans women of color and black trans women. I’ve written previously about the violence that happens to the trans community and how that violence disproportionately impacts trans women of color (especially black trans women). It’s so important to realize that many of the violent crimes that currently happen against the LGBTQ+ community are in fact against trans women of color.

Just in the past eight months of 2015, there have been 20 murders of trans people and most cable and news shows have been ignoring the spike in the murders. Not everyone has been ignoring this issue – Janet Mock has been discussing this issue and read the names of those who have died while serving as a substitute co-host for Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that the issue is largely absent from many other news shows.

There are several actions across the U.S. today that are calling for trans liberation and the end of violence. And if you can’t make it to any of these actions – there are other things to do. Support organizations that help house and provide resources to trans women, support trans women directly, call out transmisogyny when you see it or hear it. These are of course just some of the things we can do to support trans women of color right now.

#NotMyStonewall

StonewallfilmAt first, I was so excited to hear that a movie was being made about the Stonewall riots that happened in June of 1969. I mean, here’s an event that had a huge influence in the LGBTQ+ history within the US and started what we now celebrate as Pride. And many of those involved were trans women of color –  including Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

But more information started to come out about the film, including the trailer and a short description from IMDB, which says that the movie is about:

A young man’s political awakening and coming of age during the days and weeks leading up to the Stonewall Riots.

And now? I’m not so excited about the movie because it is yet again whitewashing and ciswashing history and centers a white cis gay man instead of any one of the actual major players who were trans people of color. I get that the film isn’t a documentary and hot damn Hollywood is great at making fiction out of history but to continue the erasure and rewriting of history? No thanks.

One of the great things about the release of the trailer has been the critiques of the erasure and white washing. Many have taken to social media and proclaimed that this movie is #NotMyStonewall and Miss Major herself has spoken about her anger over the inaccurate portrayal of the event.

Janet Mock also talked about the movie in her segment SoPOPular! on MSNBC and brought up so many amazing points, including the hope that the director, producers, and others involved in the movie will own up to their mistakes and address the issues they created by centering a white man in their film. Monica Roberts also wrote about the whitewashing of the events and called out the fact that Sylvia and Marsha are just minor characters:

Seriously?  The mother of the trans rights movement, who jumped off Stonewall and along with Marsha played a major role in fighting for the recognition of gender variant people as the nascent movement was forming in the wake of the Stonewall rebellion is a minor character?

That’s some bull feces.

Personally, instead of spending money on the upcoming Stonewall film, I’ll be donating to the film Happy Birthday Marsha!, a film centered on some of the actual major players of the Stonewall Riots like Rivera, Johnson, and Miss Major. Apparently I’m not the only one to do something like this – there have been many others that have similarly acted in backlash to the upcoming Stonewall film.