2017, the year ahead, Gender Revolution?

Gender Revolution

Time Magazine, Transgender Tipping Point, May 2014, Laverne Cox cover
Time Magazine, ‘Transgender Tipping Point’, May 2014, Laverne Cox cover

Hosting our first GAS discussion of 2017 we look at topics for the year ahead, and how National Geographic magazine has put the “Gender Revolution” front and centre this January, much as Time Magazine‘s ‘Transgender Tipping Point‘ did in 2014.

“To a degree unimaginable a decade ago, the intensely personal subject of gender identity has entered the public square…Freed from the binary of boy and girl, gender identity is a shifting landscape…Gradually it dawned on me…how deeply bound in culture gender itself is.” – National Geographic, January 2017

National Geographic, Gender Revolution, cover
National Geographic, ‘Gender Revolution’, January 2017, cover

Is there a gender revolution or evolution, or are we just changing the labels to suit current language and expression, but the identities have always been there?

“From dinner-table conversations to children’s books, the lines of gender are being redrawn.” – Laurie Penny, New Statesman, June 2014

In February at UEA, I’ll be looking at non-binary gender identities around the world and how deeply rooted they are in different cultures.

Binary Gender Resistance

“National Geographic is trying to brainwash young people into thinking this kind of degeneracy is normal. #GenderRevolution” – Dirty Harry (@HarryCallahan_) December 15, 2016

Is ‘modern’ gender identity seen as a threat to traditional religious and/or socio-political power structures, in a similar way to that of the equality of women over the last century?

National Geographic, 'Gender Revolution', January 2017
National Geographic, ‘Gender Revolution’, January 2017

Where do the anti-reactions come from? Trivialisation, bigotry, ignorance, fear, age, faith, binary gendered people, and what can we do to counter them?

One such counter argument runs:

“Constantly in search of the “next civil rights frontier,” Time never discusses the fact that transgender surgeries do nothing to reduce rates of suicide, never considers the perspective that genital mutilation is not a solution to mental issues, and simply labels Cox a “she” despite the fact that every cell in Cox’s body contains a Y chromosome.

Cox explains that his/her story is important because we are all “insecure about our gender”:

They think, ‘Okay, if there’s this trans person over here, then what does that make me?’ We want to just coast along in a belief system that makes us feel secure, because we are a culture, as Brene Brown would say, that is intolerant to vulnerability. And if we are in a position where we have to begin to question this very basic idea of ‘A man has a penis and a woman has a vagina,’ then that’s a lot of vulnerability.

Welcome to the culture shift.” – Truth Revolt

Where is gender ‘culture’ going in 2017, and is gender just a cultural thing? And why the moral and ‘safety’ panic? Another reported wrote in 2016 about the 2015 “backlash” in America:

“Thirty-five anti-trans bills have been introduced across 12 states since 2015, according to the National Center of Transgender Equality…What the backers of these bills have done is simply pivot the target of their mid-century “think of the children” rhetoric: from gay (and lesbian, and maybe bisexual — they are not really so specific) adults they believe pose a threat by virtue of their existence, to transgender and gender non-conforming adults and youth. They cloak their panic in concern.” – Pacific Standard, February 2016

Cassie Jaye documentary film The Red Pill
Cassie Jaye documentary film ‘The Red Pill’

Does the success of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, acting as ‘great white males’, point to a traditional resistance to the gender revolution? Are men the new minority, or indeed binary women, too?

The feminist Cassie Jaye explores “Gender Politics” in her documentary exploration of MRA activism, “The Red Pill“, which comes to Norwich on January 18th & 19th.

2017 Gender Revolution

Prison, Gender, Trans, Violence, and Women’s Spaces

The Norfolk Gender & Sexuality (GAS) Discussion Group meets at the Norwich Forum Library, 6.30pm Dec 1, to debate “Prison, Gender, Trans, Violence, and Women’s Spaces”. (Facebook event)

With the furore over Tara Hudson, a trans woman, being sent to a male prison and her eventual transfer to a female one, and another – Vicky Thompson, who took her own life because she was sent to a men’s prison, and another Joanne Latham, 2 weeks later, we look at gender based violence in prison. Hudson was sent to prison for violence against a man but presented and identified as female, Latham for murder.

Prison is an area of mandatory sex/gender segregation based upon the presumption of two sexes and a majority heterosexual population. Separation based upon sex is presumed to aid management, deny sexual privilege, improve safety and risk of sexual and physical violence. All on the basis that men are more likely to harm, harass, or worse, women more than other men. If that is based on size and strength, or merely sex, we should be housing people according to height, weight, and sexuality as well! Where is the protection for gay, lesbian and bisexual, inmates? Trans prisoners, as some intersex prisoners would also, present a binary dilemma.

Inmate violence in US prisons is actually more common between women than between men, up to three times higher for sexual victimisation. What are the facts and myths of gender-based violence and does prison distort them? For instance men are more likely to attempt suicide outside of prison but inside it is women that are more at risk where a higher proportion have mental health issues and concerns.

Where is a safe place to send trans prisoners? In the US they are 50% likely to be raped in prison. Italy has a dedicated trans jail. HMP estimates around 20-30 trans people are in UK prisons but that is likely an underestimate as I’m aware of 10-15 in my local counties.

It is, however, the argument of Germaine Greer and others that women’s spaces need to be kept safe from “men masquerading as women”. The verbal vitriol is almost violent of her anti-trans rhetoric and is something that has led several universities to no-platform her in the name of creating safe trans-inclusive female spaces for students.

What risks are acceptable in the name of free expression (that may contain verbal violence), gender identity, legal sex definition, and how should we balance them with creating safe spaces in universities, DASV/rape crisis support centres, society at large and during incarceration – for all people?

Trans Detention Experience in the USA

“According to a study by University of California Irvine professor Valerie Jenness, more than half of all transgender inmates experience rape. Prison culture also creates an atmosphere where transgender inmates may submit to sexual assault for protection from physical violence – all under the callous indifference of prison authorities.” The Guardian

“Transgender prisoners are unfathomably at risk for sexual abuse,” Chris Daley, Deputy Executive Director at Just Detention International, an advocacy group that works to end sexual abuse in detention, told VICE News. “It’s a crisis”

“A recent US study said transgender women in male prisons are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than in the general population, with 59 per cent reporting sexual assaults.”The Independent

“When we are talking about trans people, we are talking about a population who are among the most vulnerable in our prisons,” Rebecca Earlbeck, lawyer representing Sandy Brown.

“Among former state prisoners (US), the rate of inmate-on inmate sexual victimization was at least three times higher for females (13.7%) than males (4.2%)… Following their release from prison, 72% of victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization indicated they felt shame or humiliation, and 56% said they felt guilt.”

Many transgender inmates are placed in “involuntary administrative segregation, which keeps them separated and safe from other inmates.”

“I was forced with no options to be in protective custody, locked down for 23 hours a day,” said Christopher D’Angelo, a transgender male who spent six months in MCSO [Arizona] custody. He likened his detention to solitary confinement. “It just added to my isolation,” D’Angelo said.

Earlier this year, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was looking to relocate around 25 of the nearly 70 transgender women (there are also a half-dozen or so trans men) that it houses on a nightly basis somewhere more permanent and together, incorporating the 2015 revised trans policies that it has been trying to improve since 2009 and 2011. Barely two-thirds of US facilities are even following the 2011 guidelines.

“The transgender detainees will likely be housed in their own area of the women’s facility, but may be allowed to “mingle” with other female detainees, according to ICE officials.”

Whilst the declared trans women detainees may make up just 0.22% of the 34,000 held, they account for 20% of the sexual abuse cases in detention, and that’s the confirmed reported ones – many are not.

“[US] Immigration officials say they have a model facility in Southern California that only houses gay and bisexual men and transgender women. While some 75 transgender detainees are housed across the country every night, the California facility only houses an average of 44 gay, bisexual and transgender individuals at a time.”

ICE has now cancelled those plans leaving trans immigrants and asylum seekers at risk until improved policies are adopted, although LGBT and immigrant-rights advocates had actually opposed the move because the facility in question had a notorious reputation, disputed by GEO Group and its apparent 100% standards accreditation. Instead, the updated ‘Transgender Care Contract Modification’ policy would allow trans women detainees to be housed in facilities matching their gender identity – a policy the UK adopted in 2011/12, though judging by recent cases, not wholly adopted.

Trans Detention Facilities in Italy

It is thought that Italy has a total of some 60 transgender prisoners but a specialist centre in Tuscany was planned to house about 30 people. The BBC’s Duncan Kennedy, in Rome, said that until now [2010] transgender prisoners have been located in women’s prisons where they are often segregated for their own safety. Guards were to undertake special training in how to treat transgender prisoners before the prison block was to open near Empoli, in Tuscany, in March 2010.

“It’s a great idea. It will not be a ghetto but a way to avoid the experience of isolation in ordinary prisons,” said Regina Satariano, the head of the Italian Movement for Transgender Identity.

Sadly the Pozzale facility, near Florence, was put on hold. An academic case study – ‘Section D: a Tertium Genus of Incarceration? Case-study on the Transgender Inmates of Sollicciano Prison‘, was recently published (Dec 2014) presenting “a socio-legal analysis of the condition of transgender inmates and of the policy choices (or the lack of them) concerning their incarceration in Italy, based on our case-study of Section D of the Italian Prison of Sollicciano, Florence.”

“…different scenarios share the same conceptual roots: normative binarism and the resulting impossibility of engaging in a political discussion concerning the condition of transgender inmates. Therefore, the second consideration lying at the heart of our study and defining its theoretical and practical framework consists in the necessity of interpreting the complex relations between law and gender, and prison and gender… The condition of transgender inmates globally is evidence of the failure of essentialist policies, grounded on normative binary categories, and the reduction of the social world to the male/female opposition. Employing theory, i.e. critically rethinking the categories of our social space, seems the most logical solution, but logic is not the strong suite of the law (nor of politics). As a result, while legislators envision solely male and female prisoners (and the corollary male and female issues), many correctional institutions are confronted with troublesome ‘specters’ who fail to conform to the legislator’s rational, biopolitical plan…

…Sollicciano is one of the few Italian prisons in which a
tertium genus of incarceration, not provided for by law, has been informally established. The second consideration is the high percentage of non-EU inmates housed in Section D, and the predominance, within this group, of Latin-American inmates, with a significant majority of Brazilians. The last consideration, which lies at the heart of our study and defines its theoretical and practical framework, is the necessity of interpreting the complex relationship between law and gender, and prison and gender. This ‘critical triangle’ defines the object of our study: the theoretical and practical interrelation of law, gender, and rights.”

Trans Detention Experience in the UK

Government estimates of numbers are vastly under-reported. 20-30 is just the tip of the iceberg when there are around 10 in one county alone, to my knowledge, and often 2 or more in each prison, and there are 136 prisons, 82,000 male inmates and 4,000 female inmates. Based upon typical trans statistics that would indicate a few hundred trans inmates, at least. Self-inflicted deaths in custody this year number 43, at least 2 of which were trans, 5% of the total from a population of perhaps 0.5% of inmates (less than 1 in 2000 according to the Government, 0.05%), so at least 10-100x more likely to take one’s life when imprisoned in facilities not matching their gender identity.

Trans and prison reform activists petitioned the Government for over a decade before the PSI 07/2011 Care and Management of Transsexual Prisoners guidance (March 2011) was brought in. I met with prison officers in the few years leading up to that and found that some were taking common sense into their own hands already and in one instance allowing trans women, both pre and post-op, to be moved to the female estate. That, it is not being followed fully 4 years on is a scandal that has led to several high profile deaths in custody.

In ‘Rethinking gendered prison policies: Impacts on transgender prisoners‘,
Sarah Lamble co-founder of Bent Bars Project and a lecturer at Birkbeck School of Law, says:

Law enforcement officials have a long history of targeting, punishing and criminalising people who do not conform to gender norms. As feminist criminologists have shown, for example, women who fail to conform to femininity norms are often policed and punished more harshly in the criminal justice system than those who adhere more closely to societal gender expectations (Carlen, 1983, 1985; Heidensohn, 1996). Likewise, traditional norms around masculinity and femininity still operate as key modes of discipline, power and regulation within carceral settings (Sim, 1994; Carrabine and Longhurst, 1998; Crewe, 2006). Although the role of gender norms within the penal system is widely recognised, little attention has been paid to their specific impact on transgender people.

Joanne Latham

A transgender prisoner was discovered dead in her cell at an all-male prison, the BBC reports. Joanne Latham, 38, serving life for two attempted murders, was found hanging by a prison officer at HMP Woodhill (category A) in Milton Keynes in the early hours of Friday 27 November. That she was a patient at the secure Rampton Hospital in 2011 may evidence mental health issues. She had apparently only publicly identified as female this year.

Vicky Thompson

Transgender woman Vicky Thompson was found dead on Friday 13 November at “England’s most overcrowded prison” all-male HMP Leeds (category B), where the infamous violent prisoner Charles Bronson was briefly held. It currently holds 550 more people than the 669 person prison was designed for, with the contingent additional health and safety risks that brings. Thompson identified as female and requested female prison incarceration for her 12 month sentence. She said if she was sent to a male prison she would likely commit suicide. her solicitor described the 21 year old as vulnerable. So sending her to Britain’s second most suicidal jail was not clever thinking. HMP Leeds is second, to HMP Brixton, with “77 self inflicted deaths in custody since 1978. There has been at least one death every year since 1986. From 2010 the number of prison officers has fallen from 383 to 260.”

Tara Hudson

Transgender woman Tara Hudson was moved from a men’s to women’s prison after protests. She was imprisoned for assaulting a bar manager. She had been living full-time for 6 years as a woman since the age of 20.

A petition that called for Tara Hudson to serve her sentence in a women’s prison attracted 159,000 signatures. At the same time another petition by Cardiff University SU Women’s Officer, Rachael Melhuish, wanted to no-platform Germaine Greer from speaking due to her transmisogynistic views.

Greer’s view has been labelled as radical by those feminists who embrace intersectionality, but Hudson’s treatment at the hands of the Prison Service shows the opposite. If anything, Greer’s disdain is indicative of how we view transgender people as a society. By denying Hudson the right to serve her time in a female prison, our legal system is entirely aligned with statements from Greer such as “Just because you lop off your penis… it doesn’t make you a woman.” – Ella Griffiths in The Independent

Paris Lees

How The Prison Service Is Failing Trans People by Paris Lees

Germaine Greer

Paris Lees on Germaine Greer and whether she should be “no platformed”.

Abigail Tarttelin on Germaine Greer:

When you tell Germaine Greer to sit down and shut up because of her views on transgender women, you become a misogynist too. Trans women’s and cis women’s issues intersect, but they are not identical.

Whether you agree with Greer or not, she is not inciting hatred or violence. She is not disregarding the rights of trans people to transition, or to be referred to by their chosen pronoun. She is exercising her freedom of speech.

Feminism is essentially about freedom. Freedom from oppressive gender roles, freedom to be who you are, and to say what you think. Trans politics have benefited enormously from feminist politics; because of feminist agitators, traditional gender boundaries have been destabilised, and legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 protects trans people from discrimination.

Some material above has been borrowed from Katy Jon Went‘s article – Sex & Gender in Prison, Time to Think outside the Binary for Trans Prisoners.

Just For Men – Marketing, Masculinity and Male Stereotypes

The Norfolk Gender & Sexuality (GAS) Discussion Group meets at the Norwich Forum Library, 6.30pm Nov 3, to debate Masculinity and Male Stereotypes as portrayed in Just for Men Product Marketing. (Facebook event)
 
For something so ‘tough’ masculinity seems so fragile. For many years, feminist critics have questioned and challenged the ways in which capitalism profits from unnecessary and oftentimes damaging gender stereotypes. Men and masculinities can be said to suffer greatly from the impact these stereotypes have.
 
In this group we will discuss the current state of masculinity, and examine the impact they may have on people’s lives. Topics of discussion could explore the impact that ‘toughness’ has on the mental health of men, how some masculinities become marginalised under the assumed (hetero)sexual virility of men, and the ways in which some boys are literally ‘dying to become men’.
 
Man Size Buttons Yorkie
Yorkie – Man Size Buttons

As a means of exploring these topics, we will look at advertising across the ages. We will look at how recent campaigns market to men and question the impact this may have on not only the lives of men, but everyone else too. We will ask: why is Coke Zero for men, but Diet Coke for women? Why are men being sold ‘man crisps’ (McCoys), ‘not for girls chocolate’ (Yorkie) and ‘smell like a man’ (Old Spice). We will ask, where does irony end and harm begin in some of these campaigns? Is it just to make money, or are men fundamentally different, requiring different products?

We will think about how all of these little everyday reminders in advertising build an overarching idea of gender, one that impacts everybody.
 
Those coming to the discussion might like to explore the following links:

Gendered Products

 
 

Articles

“Recent research shows that loyal customers often get upset when a brand associated with men expands to include products perceived as feminine. Senior Lecturer Jill J. Avery discusses the problem of ‘gender contamination.'”
 
“Marketing companies take on gender contamination, the idea that when women flock to a product, men flee.”
 
Men buy Mars, women prefer Galaxy via the Independent (2011)
“Gender targeting is advertising industry’s secret weapon. If you thought food choices had nothing to do with gender – think again.”
 
The Selling Of Masculinity via Dr NerdLove (2013)
“many men look to popular culture for sources of information what male behavior is supposed to be and how we’re supposed to display it. Unfortunately, mass media doesn’t send the greatest of messages about how to be a man. In fact, we are regularly bombarded with messages selling the idea that masculinity is violent, physically aggressive and sexually domineering and that anger and stoic toughness are the only appropriate emotions for men to display…”
 
[tw: suicide] “A report by the mental health charity CALM has found that men are struggling to cope with the pressures and expectations of their personal and professional lives…”