Police Out of Pride

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Police out of Pride, out of our lives & out of business now!
GIFS by Dean Spade + Hope Dector. Featuring art by Micah Bazant.

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More on queer liberation and resistance to police & prisons:

Police + Prisons Don’t Keep Us Safe – We Keep Each Other Safe

Queer Liberation: No Prisons, No Borders

Dean Spade: History of Queers Against Police


Content Warning: This piece contains descriptions and statistics concerning the physical and sexual violence against and the murders of Dalit people.

Dalit women all over South Asia are starting and leading historic movements to end caste-apartheid and caste-based sexual violence. The #DalitWomenFight United States tour began in September, and self-organized Dalit women like Anjum Singh, Manisha Mashaal, and Thenmozhi Soundararajan have been sharing their stories no matter how persistently Hindu fundamentalists have tried to silence them.

I attended a die-in in Times Square on October 17, standing in front of the Red Steps, listening to these women’s stories and recognized that caste is something so much larger than religion. The caste system is racist, classist, and colorist. Caste apartheid is anti-blackness and anti-indigenous. An institutional system of violence, caste is a death sentence from birth, with your family’s caste ranking determining your entire life, including your job, spiritual purity, and social standing. Those at the bottom are condemned to a life of exploitation and violent discrimination. The caste system has a death count, and it is not a small one.  In 2014, over 744 Dalits were killed, many of them children burned alive at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists

Dalit Women Fight protest

#DalitWomenFight protestors, varied in age, gender identity, and color, perform a die-in in Times Square. They lie on the ground covered in fake blood behind a poster featuring an image of the Indian subcontinent, blood-spattered, titled “ATROCITY NATION #ENDCASTEAPARTHEIDNOW.”

Caste is everywhere in India and even more intensified in the diaspora, where Hindus facing xenophobia and racism, cling to fundamentalism and traditionalism for safety. Unfortunately, for Dalits and Adivasis, this foundation of the caste system in diasporic life results in an apartheid that has simply translated into a different language. In India, upper-caste Hindus, often light-skinned, receive lower interest rates for loans, better-paying jobs, and occupy most political offices. In North America, South Asian institutions carry over job discrimination, with only a handful of Dalit faculty in the over fifty South Asian and Asian Studies college departments.

India’s Hindu varna, or caste, system has been under scrutiny for decades. Divided hierarchically into five groups, the caste system consists of the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Sudras, and the so-called “Untouchables.” These pariahs have given themselves the name Dalit, meaning “oppressed,” or more specifically, “broken by oppression, but defined by struggle,” to call for the abolition of this system. Hierarchically, this system is ordered by race or color, light-skinned Brahmins at the top and Black, dark-skinned, and indigenous Dalits and Adivasis at the bottom. 

The Dalits are numbered at about 260 million in India’s 1.3-billion person population, by no means an invisible number. However, they live segregated lives, residing in separate villages, praying in separate places of worship, drinking from separate water fountains, and learning in separate schools. They are not allowed to wear shoes in the presence of upper caste people or to drink and eat from the same utensils. The caste system is a lethal one, in which Dalit women are raped, murdered, and burned, where Dalit men are castrated, where the Dalit people are slaughtered, lynched, and brutally assaulted time and time again. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, two Dalits are assaulted every hour and four Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched every day. This violence is meant to silence Dalit communities, to keep Dalit women from receiving justice.

But they cannot silence Dalit women.

I myself have a complex, yet privileged, caste identity, coming from a light-skinned Brahmin father and a darker-toned Vaishnavi non-Brahmin mother. Walking in the dusty streets of India, I would be perceived as Brahmin walking alone next to my father, yet non-Brahmin while accompanying my mother. Beyond that, I am gender nonconforming, or third-gender, unsure of my place in India and existing outside of a caste system that has yet to accommodate people like myself. It is vital, however, that I use my caste privilege to bolster the voices of Dalit women, who do not have and have never had the same opportunities as myself, let alone the privilege to ignore their caste identities as I have until now.

Only in liberation for the Dalits and Adivasis of India can we all achieve liberation. Until Dalit women are free, no woman is free.

Dalit Women Fight

Three Dalit women hold lit-up signs that say #DalitWomenFight


Transformative Justice Workshop Resources

On Friday, February 27th, BCRW Research Assistants and Ejeris Dixon (Founding Director of Vision Change Win Consulting) will facilitate “Transformative Justice Approaches to Sexual Violence on Campus and Beyond”, a workshop at the 40th Annual Scholar & Feminist Conference on education. We (BCRW Research Assistants) have compiled a resources guide to concepts that will be explored at the workshop with the hopes of extending knowledge and continuing conversations around these very important issues.

Scholar & Feminist XL Conference: Action on Education, featured image by Pete Railand, justseeds.org

Scholar & Feminist XL Conference: Action on Education, featured image by Pete Railand, justseeds.org

Alternative vs. Restorative vs. Transformative

I have become familiar with the terms “transformative justice”, “restorative justice”, and “alternative justice” since the beginning of my time at Barnard, in the sense that these terms are buzzwords on the current student social justice scene. However, these terms are frequently used interchangeably, and until recently I did not have a deeper understanding of their differences. Generally, alternative justice refers to justice practices that take place outside of the criminal justice system, and restorative justice seeks to repair harm through accountability practices rather than punishment. Transformative justice takes restorative justice one step further by aiming to not only respond to individual acts of violence, but also to transform communities so that structures that enable and perpetuate violence are eradicated. Transformative justice envisions communities in which responses to violence are not solely reactionary but also preventative. It is also important to acknowledge that transformative justice draws upon generations of work carried out by women of color and queer activists.

Carceral Feminism and Transformative Justice

Feminist activists and organizers initially theorized a framework of transformative justice in response to the state’s inability to stop sexual violence. White feminists have traditionally turned to the state to combat sexual violence and abuse through legislation to reform the criminal justice system (e.g. rape shield laws) and to increase police power (e.g. the Violence Against Women Act). This approach to sexual violence, labeled “carceral feminism”, does not recognize or criticize the role of the state in enacting violence and enforcing oppression. For instance, women of color who have turned to the police to escape domestic violence have in turn been brutalized by the same police officers that were supposed to help them. Clearly, we must look beyond the possibility of state justice in order to create communities in which all forms of violence would be unthinkable.

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Remembering Leslie Feinberg

I remember first encountering an article by Leslie Feinberg in Workers World where zie wrote about the legacy of queer and/or trans activists of color who participated in left, black power, queer, trans liberation, and AIDS activist movements. It was in this article that I learned about Kiyoshi Kuromiya, a Japanese American AIDS activist who was born in an internment camp and became radicalized during the Civil Rights revolution, and Ortez Alderson, a black queer radical with roots in an anti-war activism, the gay liberation front and also an ACT UP Chicago and NYC member. I deeply appreciated how Leslie documented and preserved this history of resistance, which is so often obscured by dominant narratives that treat black and queer freedom struggle as separate at best and antagonistic at worst. For Leslie Feinberg, struggles against racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, trans misogyny, police violence, and racism were united and inextricable from one another. In hir 2007 speech at a meeting of hosted Palestinian queer organization ASWAT in Ramallah, Leslie pointed to these connections: “the imperialists—the U.S. to Israelis—use the experiences of women, of gays, of transgenders as pretexts for imperialist war.” Leslie dedicated the proceeds from sales of the Hebrew edition of Stone Butch Blues to ASWAT.

Leslie’s nonfiction work Transgender Warriors, traces trans identities throughout history. Leslie’s writing for Workers World on queer and/or trans of color organizing, trans history, and interviews with Sylvia Rivera worked against historical erasure and disavowal. Hir writing for Workers World highlighted queer and/or trans of color left activism from the 1960s and 70s, figures such as Kiyoshi Kuromiya and Ortez Alderson, and moments of convergence such as the Black Panther’s Revolutionary Convention in 1970s which Sylvia Rivera, Afeni Shakur, and Huey P. Newton attended. Leslie understood that opening up genealogies of queer and trans of color resilience and resistance can counter historical erasure and invisibility. Leslie often marched with and was also arrested with Sylvia Rivera during direct actions. In Transgender Warriors, Leslie describes being at a Palestine solidarity rally in the early 1970s and seeing signs protesting the massacre at Attica prison as well as the Vietnam war: “One banner particularly haunted me: it read ‘Stop the War Against Black America,’ which made me realize it wasn’t just distant wars that needed opposing.” Leslie saw the connection between domestic racialized warfare in America and U.S. warfare abroad.

Towards the end of hir life, Leslie worked in solidarity with CeCe McDonald, writing and visiting her in prion and getting arrested in protest of the white supremacist, anti-queer, and anti-trans violence she faced as well as of the violence of the state’s incarceration of McDonald. Arguing that zie’s Jewish, trans, working class, and lesbian identities as well as white privilege demanded that zie speak out against oppression and violences, Leslie stated “CeCe McDonald survived a fascist hate crime; now she’s sentenced as she struggles to survive an ongoing state hate crime…As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues!” Feinberg dedicated the 20th anniversary edition of Stone Butch Blues to CeCe McDonald and made a call for supporters to send in photos of solidarity, to create an archive and multimedia show of support to free CeCe, all our siblings, and ourselves.

Che Gossett is the Community Archivist and Student Coordinator at BCRW. They have also written about Leslie and hir lifetime’s work here.

Justice in the City: For the Public Good Conference

At this year’s For the Public Good Conference, which took place at Barnard College in April, participants in the morning panel on “Exploring the Public Good in New York City” addressed a range of issues from LGBTQ youth rights to gentrification. The panel provided a rare space in which activists, advocates, and academics alike came together to speak about inequality in New York City—a subject that affects each panelist in different ways but one which they were all able to address in this unique setting. Individuals on the panel included John Blasco and Nico Fonseca of FIERCE; Ede Fox, active in local politics and president of the Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform; Robert Hawkins of the NYU Silver School of Social Work; and Amanda Geller of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

The panelists first responded to a question posed by moderator Gail Cooper, who asked what the public good signifies for the City today. Blasco and Fonseca addressed the issue of LGBTQ youth of color leadership and pointed out that New York will not be a safe space if there are no safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. Many LGBTQ youth—particularly those who lack familial support—face difficulties in finding affordable housing and securing employment that pays a living wage. In addition, issues such as homelessness, policing, the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms in public schools and parks, and the lack of documented history and awareness of LGBTQ history in New York—including the historic gathering space at the Christopher Street Pier—contribute to the displacement and marginalization of LGBTQ youth. Fonseca stated, “in order to survive we have to continue moving because every space we have claimed as ours has been taken, and that sucks so much.” LGBTQ youth activists are attempting to reclaim the Pier and reverse its status as a sundown town (there is even a curfew in place now).

Others commented on the need to invest resources into the city as a whole, and to provide people with greater access to such resources. In addition, panelists remarked that public officials including the police should protect people rather than act as oppressors. This point relates to the panel’s subsequent discussion on gentrification, a phenomenon that most speakers agreed is akin to the migration of blacks to the North that occurred during Jim Crow segregation.

Gentrification, occurring in neighborhoods throughout the city, pushes people to the margins around growing wealth in the communities in which they once lived. “Gentrification looks a lot like takeover,” one panelist poignantly said. Professor Hawkins referred to his research and his analysis of US Census data that showed that although New York’s population has decreased overall in the last 20 years, it has suddenly increased in the last two years. This is directly linked to one consequence of gentrification, which includes the departure of the middle class from gentrified neighborhoods, a phenomenon, he stressed, that only exacerbates poverty in those areas. Fox noted that the areas in the City where affordable housing is needed most are also the most heavily policed places. This, in turn, establishes a dynamic between community members and law enforcement or public officials that is devoid of trust.

For the full conversation, see the video above.

Emilie is a senior studying sociology at Barnard College and a research assistant at the BCRW.


Dean Spade on Trans Students at Women’s Colleges

On Wednesday, April 9th, Barnard alum Dean Spade spoke at Student Government Association (SGA) town hall. At the event, entitled “Gender & Barnard: What Does it Mean to be a Women’s College?” Spade discussed the implications of Barnard’s policy of only admitting students who are legally recognized as women. After a Q&A session, the audience members broke out into small group discussions facilitated by members of FemSex, where we discussed the steps Barnard can and should take to make the campus more accommodating for trans students. As it currently stands, Barnard’s policy regarding admitting trans students is “determined on a case by case basis,” as Dean Fondiller, an enrollment administrator, stated at a recent SGA meeting. For students, this means that all documentation, including financial aid, must indicate that they are legally considered female.

Dean of the College Avis Hinkson, and Dean of Student Life Alina Wong were both in attendance. This conversation is one of many in the context of a national conversation about trans admission to women’s colleges, such as the ongoing discussion at Smith. Many members of the audience were deeply engaged, as the forum was the largest event here that placed the issue of trans students’ rights at the forefront of the discussion.

Dean Spade spoke about the enormous violence and discrimination that trans women confront on a daily basis—an experience that Janet Mock, CeCe McDonald, and other trans women and gender nonconforming panelists discussed recently at the Redefining Realness Salon honoring Mock. Barnard, whose mission claims to provide an education to those who face gender oppression, effectively perpetuates and condones the violence against trans people in denying them admission to the college. Spade addressed the practice of accepting trans women based on their legal status, stating that legal measures are inaccurate and inaccessible. In addition to the ways trans people are denied access to services and face barriers in applying for governmental documentation, Spade emphasized that there is no such thing as “legal gender” and that standards and regulations on changing gender differ from state to state.
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From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom

On April 11th-April 13th, the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program (CLPP) will be hosting its 28th Annual Conference at Hampshire College. The aim of this conference is to connect students, academics, and community activists from varying generations and communities all across the world in a collaborative effort to create, exchange dialogue, share ideas and knowledge, and inspire growth. Through this work they aspire to strengthen the movement for reproductive freedom and social change. Programming for the conference includes plenaries, workshops, panels, and trainings.

Each year the conference program features Breaking Silences: An Abortion Speak Out. The first speak out took place in 1969 by members of Redstockings, a radical feminist group. Following a discussion comprised of “fifteen male experts” from the New York Joint Legislature Committee to reform a 86-year-old law prohibiting abortion, they maintained that there was a need for women’s voices to be heard. This portion of the conference gives individuals who have had an abortion a platform to share their experience in a safe encouraging space, allowing individuals a healthy and supportive framework to have conversations and engage with their lived experiences.

Previous participants have described the experience as:

“The abortion speak out was one of the most powerful, transformative experiences I have ever had. I’ve worked in reproductive rights advocacy in a variety of ways, but I never expected this event to touch me in the way that it did.” —Jayna P.

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Reflections on Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues

Last week, I attended the Queer Dreams and Non-Profit Blues conference held by BCRW and the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. As I moved from packed room to packed room, I was fortunate to feel comfortable in a space that reminded me of the college classrooms I left behind only a few months ago. Not every conference-goer had that privilege though (as we were rightly reminded, for example, by Reina Gossett that trans* people are still considered disposable, even in queer spaces) and not everyone could take away the messages that developed in that ivory tower space. On Twitter especially, there was a constant question: how do we make these #queerdreams more accessible to folks not in those rooms or who understand these ideas in really different terms? Keeping that in mind, here are some of my takeaways from the conference.

A word cloud of terms Jordan tweeted during the conference, including: sustainability, work, rights, LGBT, Urvashi, Reina, intersectional, time, mission, expected, bad, part, people, mass, Passion, and more.

A word cloud of terms Jordan tweeted during the Queer Dreams, Nonprofit Blues conference

Violence and Anti-Violence: A Movement?
LGBT Anti-Violence Work and Movement Infrastructure

Something that stuck with me in this first panel I attended was a quote from Beth Richie: “I don’t think that this country has a consensus that violence is a bad thing.” Listening to the panelists talk about anti-violence work, naming organizations and their structures, I couldn’t move past the idea that violence is not just a private and individual thing. Messages we get about violence so often revolve around humanizing it, putting a face to the victim or perpetrator, that sometimes the larger causes become lost. There are layers to it: the simple idea that some people deserve violence or that some people must be punished for their actions. But what happens when that hurts the community they are part of? It may bring more police into an area or cause greater silence amongst those who are victimized to know that the punishment is jail time for someone they know. The panel had no grand solutions, but they talked at length about how service providers in anti-violence often believe themselves to be part of a “movement” without really addressing these issues of bringing different types of violence – deportation, arrest, etc. – into spaces that really need other forms of community healing.
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Safe Spaces, Queer Spaces & Public Spaces

This post is part of a series of reflections on the interdisciplinary winter seminar, “Mumbai At Home and in the World: Gender, Sexuality and the Postcolonial City.” BCRW Associate Director Catherine Sameh introduced the seminar in part 1, and BCRW Research Assistant Nicci Yin reflected on occupying space in an urban environment in part 2.

Growing up in Washington, DC and then moving to New York for college, I’ve been surrounded by “open-minded” and “accepting” people my whole life, the types of people who wear rainbow pins and have HRC bumper stickers because they’re “allies.” Of course this kind of liberal support is important for the queer community, but it also means I’ve been conditioned to perform queerness in public urban spaces in a specific way, especially as a femme-lesbian who is rarely read as queer. While not a revolutionary notion, my trip to Mumbai forced me to rethink queerness, and how queerness is embodied and embedded in different spaces. Perhaps because I’m a queer woman living in New York City, whenever I see two men or two women holding hands or snuggling in public I assume they’re a romantic couple – not “just” friends. Yet walking around Mumbai constantly challenged me to rethink my notions of public affection, public space, friendships and romance. Mumbai is a city much like New York, where the streets are almost theatrical in their variety of people and activities. Every time I stepped outside my apartment in Mumbai, I saw a different set of women holding hands while crossing the street, or men sitting in each other’s laps on a park bench.

Group of about 18 college students in an auditorium setting, listening as one studnet [Liz] talks into the microphone.

Liz Gipson (holding microphone) talks with other students at the Mumbai Winter Seminar.

This constant and seemingly banal performance of affection caught me off guard at first. Yet Mumbai’s notions of platonic affection – which in the US is rarely so publicly physical – eventually became normalized for me. When talking to the two women from Lady Shri Ram College about public affection – both romantic and platonic – they were surprised to hear my interest in the culture of platonic public affection. They didn’t give a second thought to these couples, just as most New Yorkers probably wouldn’t to a man and a woman holding hands on the subway. To them, it was part of the white noise of the city and they struggled to articulate why people hold their friends’ hands. In turn, when asked why it was commonplace and accepted to hold your partners’ hand in New York I stumbled over my own explanation. When, why and where is public affection acceptable?

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Gender-based Violence and Sexual Rights: Intersecting Forces in Women’s Lives

Originally published by International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region at http://www.ippfwhr.org/en/blog/gender-based-violence-and-sexual-rights-intersecting-forces-women%E2%80%99s-lives

The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women kicked off last week in New York. Its focus is on the elimination of violence against women and girls. Nine of the 45 countries that comprise the commission, tasked with negotiating an agreed conclusion document, hail from Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet every country in the region (and the world) has a stake in this major event.

Marchers hold a banner stating "For a life free from Violence Against Women and Girls!"

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains an all too pervasive reality for women and girls in the region, regardless of religion, cultural context, or socioeconomic status. While the roots of such violence are vast and complicated, the impacts are equally immense and wide reaching. In particular, GBV is linked to sexual and reproductive health. Although it is difficult to draw a direct, causal relationship between the two, the issues are closely woven together to form an important backdrop for the lives of women and girls in the region.

Experiencing violence can set in motion a pattern of poor reproductive health that is hard to undo. Worldwide, studies show that women who report abuse by an intimate partner are also more likely to report poor general health, including reproductive health. Women experiencing violence are also more likely to report depression. In Latin America in particular, with only a handful of exceptions, national-level studies show that women experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner are also more likely to have unwanted or unintended pregnancies. Women experiencing abuse also report higher incidents of miscarriage and induced abortion.

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