Archives for category: women of color

When HR3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, started getting attention, I was initially pretty excited. But over and over when I read about it, I was dismayed to find media focusing on one piece – a sentence about redefining rape, saying that an abortion could be federally funded only if a woman had survived a “forcible rape.” Let me get this out there right away: this language is revolting, sexist, and absolutely, bottom-line unacceptable. There are many others who have written very articulately about why this is, and I don’t think I need to go into it; it is disgusting and unacceptable, period. People were angry, and rightfully so; they protested the language. What made me upset about focusing on this language is that it mostly ignored the fact that it was just a shitty sentence in a steaming pile of shit of a bill. Yes, redefining rape is egregious and wrong, but isn’t also denying low-income women basic health care?

The media’s focus on this particular language made me upset because this entire media frenzy regarding the redefining of rape is indicative of classism and racism. It ignored the fact that, even without this re-definition, getting an abortion covered by Medicaid for a pregnancy that was the result of rape – any sort of rape – is currently nearly impossible; it ignores the fact that not allowing federal funding for abortion essentially strips low-income women of their right to an easy, legal, basic health procedure. Yes, redefining rape is beyond atrocious, but when we focus on this language are we really seeing the whole picture?  While people of all backgrounds can be and are victims of sexual violence, only poor women – disproportionately women of color – will ever be denied Medicaid coverage of their abortion; it’s not a coincidence which got media attention.

Since the media blitz on HR3, the language that would have redefined rape was removed, but to what effect? We are left with a bill that will continue to deny women basic coverage, expanding prohibitions currently for low-income women into the tax code, and a Congress that can now say that they have compromised to make this a reasonable bill. Some say that HR3 is “just” codifying the status quo; others say that it is far more that “just” the status quo. But let’s be clear: the status quo is not ok. Creating a differential system of access to abortion for low-income women was as wack in 1976 as it is now, and referring to “just” the status quo ignores a very major problem.

My goal here is not to point fingers; I understand the outrage around the “forcible rape” language. But it’s hard to watch an entirely fucked up bill get so much attention without calling out the obvious: that our politicians are so deluded, so unaware about the realities of women in this country, that they are focusing their efforts to get the economy back on track on denying women control over their own reproductive lives. It’s hard to watch a bill about public funding for abortion get so much press only to hear so few voices reminding us that denying public funding for abortion is fucked up, creates a differential system of access for low-income women, and disproportionately affects women of color.

In 1977, Rosie Jimenez – a college student on Medicaid – was the first person who died because of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion the year before. Even though abortion had become legal in 1973, because Medicaid did not cover it and she could not afford the full cost of the procedure, she went to an unlicensed provider. When we talk about the status quo, we have to remember Rosie, and the hundreds of thousands of women who have since been denied access to the procedure because of Hyde ever since. History is important, y’all; let’s not forget what this is all about. The status quo is NOT OK.

A queer family at dinner, holding hands during grace.  There are three children and two women, a couple.  One appears white, and the rest black.

Photo Credit: NY Times

An article yesterday in the New York Times reveals recent census data that shows that gay families raising children in teh U.S. are more common in the south, and that Black and Latin@ gay couples are more likely to be raising children:

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.

“We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”

Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children, according to Mr. Gates, who used data from a Census Bureau sampling known as the American Community Survey. They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.

Some of this we have known for a long time – that queer people of color struggle economically far more than white queers, that queer people struggle economically more than straight people, that queer women of color are raising kids far more than gay white guys – but it is nonetheless refreshing to see it getting this kind of exposure.  LGBTQ people are thought of in the collective imagination as a group of wealthy, educated white people, and because almost no data collection captures the rest of us, social programs that address our needs are a hard sell.

What really pleases me about the data and this article, though, is the way that it shatters assumptions of where gay people are geographically.  In fact, we are everywhere, and I am ready to be done with antiquated ideas of New York and San Francisco being the only good places to be gay.   I am ready to start centering the experiences of our southern queers, our rural queers, our poor queers, our immigrant queers, our queer people of color; that people in these communities do have particular struggles, but that we also resist, and live vibrant, rich lives.

I live in New York City, and I always recoil a little when a fellow New Yorker talks about the south, the midwest, or rural areas as if they were filled with ignorant, homophobic masses.  This class-tinged insult – because let’s be clear, much of this is as much about class as it is about geography – is sadly common, and I’m ready to be done with it.

Red umbrella (symbol of sex workers' rights) with text underneath saying "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"

Today is the 7th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and there are events around the country and the world to recognize this day.  If you are in New York City, join the Sex Workers Project and co-sponsoring organizations at a free event to hear some awesome speakers and participate in a community speak-out:

Friday, December 17 · 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 West 36th Street, Second Floor Sanctuary

New York, NY

The first-ever International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was in 2003, as a response to serial killer Gary Ridgway, who claimed to have killed prostitutes because he thought no one would notice:

“I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”

It’s important to remember, though, that violence against sex workers is not only perpetuated by violent clients, but also by the state through through the criminalization of sex work. Criminalization disproportionately affects women of color, immigrants, and gender non-conforming people, and is a reproductive justice issue.

I personally want to take this day to send my love to my dear friends and loved ones who are or have been sex workers – I appreciate you.  Big ups to the hos!

image shows doors that are closed: school, heatlh, housing, seniors, youth, libraries, etc.  a barred gate (prison) is open.

Since December 9th, thousands of prisoners in Georgia have been on strike, in what is apparently the largest prisoner protest in U.S. history:

Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

pilgrims (while in front of native american folks building a wall): "they say they are building a wall because too many of us enter illegally and won't learn their language or assimilate into their culture..."

Thanksgiving’s coming up, and I just wanted to post a couple of things before the “holiday.”

Last year for thanksgiving, my girlfriend put together a pamphlet to share with guests at a dinner we went to that night.  It’s important to remember the implications of the historical event that is celebrated every year – and the huge loss that the people who lived here experienced.  Because she is from upstate New York she put together some info on the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the people whose land that was; about their government, about early U.S. feminists being inspired by Haudenosaunee women and culture, and some other interesting bits.  They went over really well at our last thanksgiving, and we’re printing out some more for this year.  It’s just pieced together from sources listed on the back, but I’m putting it up here, if you’d like to print one for your own gatherings.  Even better, find out more about the people who lived on the land you will be on this Thursday, if you don’t know much about it. Read the rest of this entry »

angie zapata with her nephew

Angie Zapata, who was 19 when she was murdered in 2008, with her nephew.

This weekend is Transgender Day of Rememberance y’all, and I highly recommend you head on over to Colorlines to read the piece they have put up about it today.  A snippet:

At least 22 people were killed in 2009 because of their perceived sexual orientation, four out of five of whom were people of color. Half of the victims were transgender women and most of the other half, according to the Anti-Violence Project, were men who were either dressed in typically feminine clothes at the time of their murder or were generally gender non-conforming. Not one of these murders made national headlines

Go on over and read the whole thing.  This weekend, think about the trans lives lost, and tell someone you know about this.  So many times the lives and histories of the most marginalized people are glossed over, and it’s important to tell those stories of violence and marginalization.

It’s also important not to paint trans women of color as perennial victims though, so I want to point you to this awesome report by Queers for Economic Justice – A Fabulous Attitude, a participatory action research study by and about low-income queer people surviving, thriving, and makin’ it happen.  So take this weekend to remember those we have lost, remember the survivors, and educate your community.

Things are still super busy for me in non-internet land, but I haven’t forgotten about you!  There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, and I’ve got a couple of good posts in the works.  Until then, I will post little bits of awesomeness for your internet pleasure.

This time I’ve got a good one for you, one of my favorites: Salt n’ Pepa’s None of Your Business.  I love love love these women, and I think we really have these ladies to thank for bringing some fierce messages on positive sexuality and sexual empowerment that continue to resonate over a decade later.  When I get down on some of the disgusting and patronizing narratives around women’s sexuality and what we do with it – particularly around women of color, but really for women in general – Salt n’ Pepa’s message of trusting women with our bodies always cheers me up.

So in the timeless words of these talented ladies: Don’t keep sweating what I do, cuz I’m gonna be just fine.  Enjoy!

Lyrics here.


torso of a woman; the t-shirt she is wearing says "take care of each other" and has a drawing of three monkeys grooming each other.

A lovely shirt from the shop of Means of Production Printing

So many times, I want to write about horrible things on this blog.  There is so much that is wrong in the world – so much exploitation, so much unnecessary suffering.  It gets so complicated, too; once you start pulling apart hierarchies it is clear that so many things are stuck together.   Like a horrible web, once you start tugging at gender, it becomes clear that sexuality, class, race, and so much more are helping to keep things in place as they are, and as their interconnections become clear it can become so overwhelming to think of solutions.  But writing only about the ways we are wronged leaves out our resilience.  It leaves out our ability to make it work, to build what we need, to survive, because shit, we have to.    We short-change ourselves when we don’t take the time to tell these stories of resilience and resistance.  Read the rest of this entry »

White doctor draws blood from a black man in the Tuskeegee syphillis experiment. A black woman and a black man watch in the background.

Taken during the Tuskeegee syphillis study. Photo credit: Wikipedia

This morning the United States apologized for a little experiment they did from 1946-1948: infecting Guatemalan prison inmates with syphilis to test out then-brand-new antibiotic penicillin.

In the experiment, aimed at testing the then-new drug penicillin, inmates were infected by prostitutes and later treated with the antibiotic.

OOPS! SORRY GUYS!  We didn’t mean it!  Thankfully these little unsavory bits are in our past! Wait, wait a minute.  Let’s look at this story from TODAY:

The NYC Department of Homeless Services, curious to see how effectively it services the homeless, is being berated for conducting a study that left 200 families banned at random from city assistance. In lieu of gentler polling, a total of 400 families on the brink of homelessness were split into two categories: An experimental group, who were allowed to continue their use of the service, and a control group, who were banned from receiving aid for two years and told to fend for themselves.

By the way, in New York City, even though 53% of the city is black or Latino, 93% of homeless persons are black or Latino. Whose bodies are expendable?

Oh, I’m sure everyone will be cool if y’all apologize in 50 years.  Geez, sorry guys, we keep fucking it up!

via Gothamist

A woman at a rally holds a sign that says "Support Higher Education"

Photo credit: Think Progress

The buzz around the DREAM Act right now is heating up.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced last week that he would offer DREAM as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill, and that it would come to a vote soon.  The DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, would allow undocumented youth who came to the United States before the age of 16 a path to U.S. citizenship through through completion of either two years of education or military service.  A key part of this is that this bill would give young people a conditional permanent residency for a few years while they complete these requirements, and during this time they would be eligible for federal financial aid to complete school, which is currently a huge barrier for most undocumented youth who want to continue with school:  if you’re not a legal permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, unless you’ve got the money to pay tuition, you’re out of luck.  And this what immigrant youth advocating for the DREAM Act have been fighting for – just a chance to be able to make it in the country most of them feel is their home. Read the rest of this entry »