Dismantle rape culture, not transgender rights

[Image: A sign with multiple gender symbols and the words “Inclusive restroom.”]

Content warning: Rape and childhood sexual abuse.

I’ve been quiet for a few days because I’ve come down with yet another cold. I’ve been sick so often lately that I’m worried about my immunity, and wondering if my physical as well as mental health is being affected by all the transphobia in the news lately. This is news that I can’t ignore, as it affects me personally whenever I leave my apartment.

I’ve been collecting links on the bathroom battles, and this latest incident made me angry enough to break my posting silence. In short, a cis woman using a restroom at Target was spied on by a self-appointed restroom policewoman who was concerned about “men and homosexuals” being in there, and was “making sure you were a woman.”

If this sounds scary for a cis person, imagine how a trans person would feel in that situation. I might be less likely to be subject to such treatment when using a men’s room, but it is still a terrifying thought every time I use a stall.  I hunch over and get my business done as quickly as possible, being careful not to make eye contact with anyone on my way in or out. The transphobic wave of hate and fear-mongering has now made me feel even more like a furtive criminal rather than someone just trying to take care of basic bodily functions.

Some insist that they aren’t against “real transgenders” using the restrooms appropriate to their identities; they are just trying to prevent (cis) men from pretending to be women in order to gain access to these spaces. It’s been pointed out in many other articles (which I don’t have the energy to search for and link to right now) how unlikely this is, how a sign on the door won’t keep predators out, and how most victims of sexual assault know their attackers. And yet, the fear-mongering continues.

What these bathroom police can’t or won’t understand is that sexual assault thrives not because of gender-inclusive spaces, but because of rape culture. As this essay on Medium points out, the possibility of a woman being attacked by a “man in a dress” in a restroom is just about the only time women are not being blamed for their own rape. Everywhere else, it’s their fault for dressing too seductively, or being out too late, or they’re shamed for ruining the reputation of their rapist.

While I’m not a woman, I lived as a girl/woman for 43 years before my transition. And like many girls, I was the victim of sexual assault by someone I knew; a member of my extended family. My attacker wasn’t a trans woman or a man in a dress, and he didn’t assault me in a public place. He was a cisgender man, upper middle class, conservatively dressed, and respected in the community. I was sexually abused in his own home, for years, nearly every time I visited without my parents.

As I wrote in my blog about this abuse, the repercussions of how my revelation was handled ultimately resulted in me distancing myself from my entire birth family, likely permanently. This has made days like today, Mother’s Day, a particularly painful time to be on social media. Regardless, my point is that my experience is much more typical than the hypothetical man lying in wait to jump on a woman or girl in a public restroom.

If you really want to stop men from raping women and girls, do it by teaching them not to rape, not by punishing trans people for using public facilities. Listen to victims (and survivors); take them seriously, don’t automatically take the side of the abuser or preach about forgiveness. Stop blaming trans women for what cis men are getting away with in your own homes, unchecked and unchallenged, year after year after year.

International Respect for Chickens Day

[Image: Bertha, a colorful rooster at PreetiRang Sanctuary. White hens are in the background.]

Today, May 4, is International Respect for Chickens Day, an annual event launched by United Poultry Concerns in 2005. If you’re not vegan—or even if you are— you might wonder why we should be concerned about chickens, when there are so many problems facing humans. Or you might think that respecting chickens means raising them on “humane” farms, or eating “cage-free” eggs.

Here’s the thing: It is possible to advocate for human and non-human animals at the same time! The Food Empowerment Project, which I blogged about earlier this week, is a great example of that. So are my friends on the Black Vegans Rock advisory board, including Aph Ko, A. Breeze Harper, and Christopher-Sebastian McJetters. And so are the folks at Striving With Systems, including Aph, Christopher-Sebastian, and Justin Van Kleeck, who cares for chickens as part of the sanctuary organization Triangle Chance for All.

As Justin, the caretakers at PreetiRang Sanctuary (pictured at the top), and anyone else who works with rescued chickens will tell you, these birds are remarkable animals. They have individual personalities and a range of emotions, and they suffer greatly when treated as products for humans to consume. Chickens bred for eggs lay many times more eggs than their wild ancestors, which greatly harms their bodies, leaving them vulnerable to disease and early, painful deaths. Chickens bred for “meat” grow at a much faster rate than their bodies can handle, leading to painful disabilities and early deaths.

Virtually all male chicks in hatcheries are killed shortly after birth, and female chicks have their beaks painfully cut with a hot blade. These procedures are standard on so-called humane, organic, cage-free, and “free-range” farms. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has more information on this sad state of affairs.

There is nothing humane about eating the bodies or eggs of chickens, regardless of where they are raised. Please respect these birds by going vegan.

Happy anniversary, Food Empowerment Project!

[Image: lauren Ornelas speaks at a microphone in front of a screen reading “Food Empowerment Project 2015-2016.”]

This Saturday I attended a benefit party in San Francisco to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Food Empowerment Project. I’ve written numerous times about this wonderful organization and their founder and executive director, lauren Ornelas. The F.E.P. advocates not only for non-human animals, but also for marginalized humans, including produce workers, restaurant workers, and enslaved children. Their commitment to food justice illustrates that just being vegan does not mean that one’s dietary choices are “cruelty-free.”

Fortunately, all of the chocolate at the anniversary party passed the F.E.P. recommendations for companies that don’t source from areas that use child slavery. Of course, there was plenty of other food there too, but I do love sweets.

Chocolate candies[Image: A colorful dish of chocolate candies.]

Beautiful cake[Image: A cake decorated with flowers and leaves in icing.]

I really appreciated that the volunteers labeled the restrooms as gender-neutral for this event. This was one of my suggestions in my  presentation on gender diversity at the Intersectional Justice Conference (at which lauren Ornelas also presented).

Gender-neutral restroom sign[Image: A sign with multiple gender symbols and the words “Inclusive restroom.”]

Azuah provided amazing music.

Azuah performing[Image: Azuah sings into a microphone while playing acoustic guitar.]

Food Empowerment Project team[Image: Food Empowerment Project team members pose and smile for the camera.]

Thanks to all the F.E.P. board members and volunteers for their great work. My full set of photos from the event is on Flickr. (This set is larger than usual, to meet specific requirements that I agreed to as the volunteer photographer.) Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!