Moving Forward: A Feminist Resource Repository

Since Queer Feminism started in January 2012, the site has revolved around a lofty mission, but with very limited editorial capacity. This mission, to “[stand] in radical opposition to patriarchy through providing education and resources, fostering discussion in and out of feminist circles, and challenging openly challenging all patriarchal beliefs,” is certainly no less needed in 2016 than it was four years ago. Perhaps now more than ever, challenges including White Feminism and Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism make voices like ours necessary. But it’s also important to acknowledge that limited capacity, and the fact that this site will never be an actively-maintained, thriving periodical.

Instead, our purpose shifts to focus on the resources section, a curated directory of links relevant to the Queer Feminism mission that together comprise an amazing treasure trove of voices both celebrating and challenging the ideals of feminism. From racial justice to disability justice, challenging transmisogyny to challenging colonialism, these resources provide months of reading and are much more powerful than this site could ever be as a blog. Most importantly, the goal of this site has always been to lift up marginalized voices, and the best way to do that seems to be spending limited time on signal boosting, rather than editing and recruiting new writers. If you have a suggested resource, please feel free to leave a comment. There will be frequent updates to the resources page over the coming months, as hundreds of links are in the “to post” queue. And over time, we may split into separate topical pages for greater accessibility. The archive of posts originally published on this site will remain, as always, on the blog.

Thanks for your support, and much solidarity in your struggles for ever-increasing justice.

Call for Contributors

Hello, Queer Feminists! After a somewhat frustrating failed attempt to start an internship program (non-profit industrial complex, sigh), we’re trying to get this site active again. That means we need contributors! Do you have something to say about how feminism excludes your community, about what feminism means in your community (whether you use the word “feminism” or not), or about topics you want mainstream feminism to focus on more often? Take a look at our Mission Statement and if your idea looks like a good fit, go ahead and briefly pitch an article or series idea. We’re open to one-offs as well as more regular contributors, particularly from people of color, people with disabilities, trans and queer folks, indigenous people, and others who have typically been marginalized by mainstream feminism.

Queer Feminism Is Looking for an Editorial Intern

QueerFeminism.com, a website that defines feminism as “radical opposition to patriarchy” and seeks to shine a spotlight on the needs of communities that have typically been ignored or misunderstood by mainstream feminism, has an opening for an Editorial Intern!

We are flexible about start date (spring or summer 2014) and can offer a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience in recruiting and managing writers, promoting a feminist website via social media and other avenues, and writing for the web. Consistent with our site’s focus on typically-ignored communities, we’re open to interns with varying experiences, whether you’re a current or recently-graduated student, someone looking to switch careers, or on a non-traditional path. Though we can’t offer a stipend (no money comes through the site), we can give you relevant experience in communications, editing, and social media with a flexible work-from-home schedule and a culture committed to improving feminism for all of us. We’re also happy to work with your academic program to help you get credit or earn a stipend/fellowship from an external source.

This is a great opportunity to get proven experience in building traffic and increasing the quality of content on a site that’s looking to grow tremendously and get noticed in 2014.

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#transchat 2/3: Engaging with Our Histories

Two comments came up among my circle this week that made me think it’s time for a candid conversation among trans folks about a topic that’s not easy to sum up, and is sometimes difficult to discuss, but is vitally important. The topic is, more-or-less, engaging with our feminine or masculine histories—not to say that we ever were in fact women or men, but sometimes we do need to engage with how we were perceived when we were younger and what impact that perception, in the context of a patriarchal gender-policing society, has on us as adults.
In most cases we try to bridge gender with #transchat topics, and this one will be a bit different. Folks who were perceived to be boys are likely going to have different things to discuss from those perceived to be girls. But with all the hoopla lately about gender, trans identity, and feminism, I hope that we can sit down on Sunday and have an intra-community discussion about the role of our histories and some of the present problems we might experience, from guilt about our pasts to misogyny within the community. Some ideas for discussion:
  • Trauma experienced as a female-perceived person and the difficulty of engaging with that/talking about it as a man or non-binary person
  • Engaging with an actual history of perpetrating violence, abuse, verbal insults, etc. when socialized as male without bolstering the fucked-up “trans women are violent” narrative
  • Finding space for discussions about gender where one has actual experience that is relevant without encouraging others to misgender us
  • Cycles of abuse for trans people
  • How do we address misogyny within the trans community while still fighting external fights (ex, transformative justice approach?)
  • What is the impact of specific cultural narratives around gender on trans people and how do we address problematic aspects of how we were raised to understand gender while maintaining a cultural identity and fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry, etc?
Join us on Twitter this Sunday, 2/3, from 2pm-4pm EST, by following the hashtag #transchat to join the conversation!

Avory Faucette is a genderqueer radical feminist activist and writer.  Zie writes at the blog Radically Queer and works at the National Center for Transgender Equality.  Hir work focuses on intersections of gender, sexuality, and other identities.  Zie is particularly interested in non-binary gender and sexuality.  Zie is also an award-winning international human rights legal activist with a law degree from the University of Iowa.  Hir views stated here do not reflect those of any organization or entity.

The Challenge

The queer radical community is one that I have long identified with. Ever since I came out as queer, and later as trans*, it has been this community that I have been consistently drawn to. Regardless of what city I’m living in, I always seem to find the radical queers. I have organized with and marched along side with radical queers. From facilitating a workshop on queer activism to marching at Queer Bomb (in Austin) or the Dyke March (in Boston) to staffing a drop-in center for queer youth, I have done a lot of work with the queer community and I hope to continue. Not only because I am queer but also because these are my people and I want to work with them.

Which is why it’s so frustrating, not to mention problematic, when I’m the only trans woman of color in radical queer space. Over and over again, I find myself in a room full of cis queer women and trans men. Over and over again, I find myself in a room full of white people. The radical queer community positions itself as representative of all queer people and advocates for the needs of the queer community. It supposedly fights against those systems of power and oppression that keep all queers oppressed. And yet at the same time, trans women of color are nowhere to be seen; even though they are the most vulnerable in our community.

One has only to glance at the case of CeCe Mcdonald to see all the worst intersections and manifestation of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. She was arrested and is being charged with second-degree murder, the same charge as George Zimmerman, for being the victim of a hate crime and fighting back. She is being charged, basically, for being a poor, black, trans woman. And while there has been a very strong movement of people organizing to free her, this is the exception to the rule.

The last 20 reported cases of trans* murders have all been trans women of color. What, than, does this say about the radical queer community when we are not centering the needs of the most vulnerable in our organizing? How can we purport to create a fully equitable world if we are not making space for them?

The reason for all this is that transmisogyny and racism is rampant and often unchecked in radical queer spaces. From TWoC lack of presence to their lack of “desirability” to their outright exclusion, it’s clear that the radical queer community is not accountable to us. They assume that since white cis queers are oppressed, they couldn’t possibly be oppressive themselves. Somehow, they think that people’s queerness excuses or erases the other ways in which they are privileged. But this is a myth that needs to be constantly challenged. The radical queer community needs to be aware in the ways that they are being oppressive, especially when it is unintentional. They need to know that there are reasons why trans women of color don’t show up to their functions or their rallies. And its because you don’t represent us.

How many black and brown trans women need to die before you put our needs first? In April alone, there have been 3 reported murders. 3 women killed in a community that is already small and nearly invisible. Coko Williams, Clay Paige, Brandy Martell. And if these are the reported murders, can you imagine the number of unreported murders? The unclaimed bodies and forgotten names?

So I challenge you, dear radical, to put your money where your mouth is. If you are really committed to this work, put us first. Be aware of our struggles, of our triumphs. Hell, be aware of our existence! Don’t just mourn us when we are murdered, but celebrate and work with us in life. Actively participate in making this world a safer place for us.

But most of all, I challenge you to see us. To know us.

 Morgan is the latest in a long line of fierce warriors. She is walking in the footsteps of Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera and her own mother to achieve the collective liberation of all peoples. She maintains her own blog, www.atriptothemorg.wordpress.com, and has been published in xQSí Magazine and The Urban Resistance among others. Morgan hopes to go to graduate school for writing and to use her poems, essays and stories to challenge, inspire and incite radical action. She also really enjoys Thai food.

The Deviant Body: A Queer/Trans* Perspective on Eating Disorders

As an eating disorder survivor, bodies and how they are culturally perceived is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Having wasted many years of my life trying to demonstrate—indeed, create—social value for myself by attempting to change the way my body looks, I understand that as a person AFAB* and regularly presumed to be a womyn, my value is reliant almost entirely on how well I conform to certain standards of beauty. (For what it’s worth, I conform to these in some ways, and not in others.) Social acceptance is important for most people, but for womyn-identified and AFAB people, this kind of acceptance still relies primarily on the way we look. Failing to meet these strictly-enforced standards of beauty effectively means that you are bad, undesirable, unwanted, even immoral—a waste of space, if you are even acknowledged at all.

Since my diagnosis as a teenager, I’ve tried to pay attention to how eating disorders are portrayed in the mainstream media. I don’t believe it’s changed much in the decade or so since I became interested, although I can’t back this opinion up with anything other than my own observations. Still, it seems like it’s only been within the last few years that the mainstream media has begun to really acknowledge that people other than young, white, middle- and upper-class womyn suffer from eating disorders. While the narrative is slowly shifting to recognize that men can also have eating disorders (and it grinds my fucking gears to see that these diseases are taken more seriously because of this), it is rare to see coverage of this phenomenon in people of color, gender and sexual minorities, and poor people, despite the fact that young womyn of color and poor people may be particularly vulnerable to EDs, as well as underdiagnosed and undertreated. I’ve noticed that for many people with an ED or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) with whom I’ve talked or whose work I’ve read, reducing the amount of space you take up in a capitalist, racist heteropatriarchy fundamentally against people like you makes getting smaller pretty appealing. Who’da thunk it.

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Jezebel’s Mental Illness Problem

Two recent Jezebel articles raise serious questions about the website’s perspective on mental illness.

Jezebel’s always been a hybrid of feminism and tabloid-esque gossip. Sometimes this is effective, and sometimes it’s not. But with two recent Jezebel blog posts focused on real life people living with mental illness, the latter is clearly presented at the expense of the former. Jezebel often presents itself as the go-to website for women interested in pop culture, but uncomfortable with its many demeaning and sexist realms. But as these articles demonstrate, Jezebel really is simply part of the frustrating cacophony.

In the middle of March Jason Russell, the cofounder of Invisible Children, was placed on psychiatric hold after being found naked, disorderly, and incoherent on the streets of a residential neighborhood in San Diego. It’s pretty obvious that Russell was not in his right mind. Absolute certainty about what went down is impossible, but doctors have described his behavior as part of a brief psychotic breakdown, and he has been involuntarily committed, so mental illness is a real possibility.

Nevertheless, Jezebel blogger Katie J.M. Baker chronicled Russell’s breakdown with undisguised glee in a blog post titled “Invisible Children Cofounder Arrested for Drunkenly Masturbating in Public.” She writes, “We’re not sure how to adequately express our shock and disbelief at the news that Jason Russell, one of Invisible Children’s co-founders and the star of the Kony 2012 campaign, was taken into custody last night for drunkenly masturbating in public.” Some readers reported that an earlier version of the blog post, which was later edited, called the Russell incident “delightful.” An update to the article
included video footage. “6:30 EST: TMZ somehow got their hands on video footage. It is horrifying. No wonder the guy’s on a 5150 psychiatric hold.” Baker ended her post by seeking out more embarrassing first person accounts, “Any San Diego Jezebel readers see Jason Russell dancing around in (or out of) his underwear last night? Email us.”

Baker seems to be gawking open mouthed at someone who was very likely in the midst of a psychotic episode, saying holy shit, this happens? People go nuts? Who would have thought? Whoa. She seems to be aiming for some level of ironic humor, but instead of using humor to dismantle harmful stereotypes she merely reinforces them. Crazy people are shocking and subhuman, ya’ll.

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The Cotton Ceiling Is Real and It’s Time for All Queer and Trans People to Fight Back

The blogosphere is fired up over the cotton ceiling today, a term porn actress Drew DeVaux and other queer trans women are using to challenge cis lesbians’ tendency to support trans causes generally but draw the line at sleeping with trans women or including trans lesbians in their sexual communities.  Some cis lesbians have responded in outrage to the term (trigger warning on link for heavy transphobia), claiming that it implies sex with cis women without their consent, perpetuates rape culture, and reveals trans women’s patriarchal motives to break into their bedrooms as they presumably have broken into their bathrooms.

This spectre of rape that cis lesbian “radfems” habitually raise, centered around the supposed inherent threat of the phallus, minimizes the appalling rates of physical and sexual violence committed against trans women, particularly trans women of color and sex workers.  It also twists the picture of systemic violence to make it look like trans women are a huge, systemic threat to cis lesbians when in fact trans women as a group face incredible systemic barriers in almost every aspect of life.

Certainly there are individual cases of interpersonal violence that one could bring up involving a perpetrator of any description.  But, although I may not be 100% comfortable with the mental image of panty-ripping, I find it ludicrous to suggest that trans women, in pointing out their exclusion from lesbian sexual communities and the relationship between common lack of cis lesbian desire for trans women and the structural problem of cissexism/transmisogyny, are threatening rape of cis lesbians or perpetuating rape culture.

At one point in my life, I identified as female and as a lesbian.  I was early to feminism and I had been through some difficult heterosexual experiences.  I’m ashamed to admit that I sympathized in some ways with the radfem position.  I want to be clear in my argument here–I’m not ashamed of the fact that at that time, I wasn’t interested in PIV sex or in touching a penis. That’s a legitimate sexual preference.  My shame comes from the way I looked at trans women at that time without examining my prejudices or educating myself, and the fact that I assumed a preference for cis women was a natural preference that I didn’t need to mention aside from identifying as “lesbian.”

I pinned a misogyny that at the time I attributed to almost all men onto trans women, as well.  I assumed that sex with a trans woman would be penetrative and violent, that I wouldn’t have the camaraderie with a trans woman that I felt at the time with many cis women, that female history was somehow very important.  I didn’t think about what a trans female experience might be like, or what a trans woman’s relationship to her body might be.  I was pretty naive about sex.  I put a lot of stake in body parts because I was fumbling with my own gender, body, and sexuality.  I said that I was against transphobia but knew no openly trans people.

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Ending the Erasure of Mentally Ill Experience

Mental illness has been, and without a doubt will remain, the defining experience of my life. I’ve aspired to normalcy, I’ve fantasized about sanity, I’ve wanted to be someone without a mood disorder more than I’ve ever wanted anything else in my entire life. I recognize that this isn’t how it ought to be, but any other characterization would be dishonest.

This deep desire to be something other than what I am seems to me to have two primary causes:

1) The profound mental distress I’ve experienced and the way it’s interfered with my life.

2) The mainstream ignorance of the reality of mental illness.

Sure, the world at large knows that mental illness exists. But this superficial awareness hasn’t prevented a widespread fear and outright dislike of people living with mental illness. In a 2010 article in The L.A. Times, “Mental illness stigma lingers even though people understand it’s a brain disease,” Shari Roan reported on a study regarding attitudes toward mental illness and the mentally ill. The study looked at attitudes over time, and found little had changed from 1996 to 2006.

Roan wrote that, “For example, the percentage of people who said they are unwilling to work closely with someone with major depression was 46 percent in 1996 and 47 percent in 2006. The percentage of people who considered people with schizophrenia to be a danger to others was 54 percent in 1996 and 60 percent in 2006.”

Aware of this considerable stigma, the community of mental health advocates and organizations are focused on ending it by tackling it directly. The National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) has a monthly “StigmaBusters Alert” that focuses on harmful portrayals of mental illness in pop culture and the media. Medical websites, such as the Mayo Clinic, often have portions of their website devoted to mental health stigma. Celebrities like Glenn Close have come forward to be spokespeople against stigma.

And while all this is admirable, and I’m sure many of that these organizations have the best of intentions, I doubt this is really enough. Ending the stigma of mental illness is important, but that alone doesn’t facilitate a real understanding of what it means to live life with mental illness.

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