Let’s talk about “Die Cis Scum” one more time

And keep talking about it till everyone is clear.

For my first two main posts and a clarification on DCS go here, here and here. For Natalie Reed’s post on DCS go here. For April Gardener’s commentary on DCS go here. For West of a White House’s defense go here.

Those are just some defenses I have come across when reading about DCS.  I didn’t have to read them to make my own defenses of Asher’s anonymous guest post. The gist was pretty clear to me from the start. It wasn’t to everyone.

So I want to clarify my perspective a bit.

Some of this will be a repeat. Some of this will be a conglomeration of others’ ideas meshed with my ideas. I showed you readers the posts I have read so that you can determine how I came to my current stance. None of this is meant to silence trans voices. If I misspeak for the whole of trans people in this post please call me out on it. I don’t want to do that but I am not immune to mistakes. I just want to defend a portion of the movement’s use of DCS  from this one cis woman’s perspective.

Does DCS only refer to cis who are scum rather than all cis people?:

IMO no. Die Cis Scum seems to be clearly directed at ALL cis people.

Does it matter?

That kind of depends. I have seen the argument why isn’t it called “Die Trasphobic Scum” over and over again. That begs the question do all transphobic scum deserve to die. I mean if you are insisting that a change in the words makes Asher’s post all better, then you are insisting that “cis scum” deserve to die. That is a blanket determination on all cis who are scum. I can imagine plenty of cis who are scum who certainly don’t deserve a death sentence for their transgressions.

So if you think DCS is a real threat that may eventually be enacted against any cis people scum or not, the distinction doesn’t matter. Murder is murder whether the person is a transphobe or not.

On the other hand if you think DCS is not a real threat then who it is directed at is important. We will get further into that later.

Is DCS a real threat of murder?

I think you know my opinion on this. I mean especially if you read my earlier posts that discuss the post.

Let’s hash it out one more time. There are two ways to envision DCS as a threat.

The first is whether the author means it as a threat. The second is whether members of the trans movement mean it as a threat. Surprisingly the two aren’t actually related. A rallying cry for a movement can mean something far different than it’s original intent. Consider the nature of reclaiming a pejorative. I am going to still address both because I think they are both important.

Does the author mean DCS as a threat?

Well, in the OP ze states that yes, ze intends it to be a threat. I can take this at face value or I can attempt to analyze the truth of the statement. I don’t take most things at face value but a person’s stated intent is hard not to take at face value. I am still going to analyze it. The first thing to consider is the sheer ridiculousness ot DCS as a real threat. The instant the author starts trying to act out that desire for harm, the instant the boot pushes hard enough to choke the life out of that author. I mean really, audience, you think the author hasn’t thought about the implications of acting out harm on their oppressors? I mean, directly in the post ze expressly discusses the harm and fear of living as a trans person.  The author knows. The author is pushing back on that boot. The author is defending hirself. Will the author defend hirself to the point of committing murder? I can’t say for sure but considering that there is no system in place to support the author if ze turns murderous and in fact the reverse (systemic discrimination against trans people) is very true. It makes the idea of being afraid of DCS’s author seem kind of ridiculous.

That being said, the post is meant to create that kind of knee jerk visceral reaction. There is no doubt in my mind that the author means to scare the readers into believing that their lives might be in danger. I said it before, I felt the same exact thing.  I just decided to think about it for a minute after I felt that reaction. I just realized how unlikely such a scenario would be.  I just realized that in the event the author decides to go on a killing spree, I can rest easily that justice will be quickly served. That is a privilege reserved to us cis people, we get to sleep easily at night knowing that the threat of trans on cis violence is effectively nil and that it will never effect us directly. Not one trans person can say that. No trans woman or man can ever say that they get to sleep easily knowing that the likelihood of themselves or one of their friends being murdered is slim.  Because it is never slim. It is real. It is every day. It can’t be forgotten. Asher’s post is meant to be a reminder of that. For the author, for hir cis allies, for hir trans brothers and sisters, Asher’s post is meant to serve the function of both reminding us of the reality and pushing back against that reality. It is defensive violence in its purest form.

What about DCS as a rallying cry for the trans movement? Doesn’t it mean that some will consider it a call to arms?

When people ask that question, I immediately think they haven’t been listening to the members of their movement. Every corner of the internet I have seen DCS discussed the only people that consider DCS a call actual violence is those who are against the phrase. Everywhere I see it used as a rallying point, the people who find solace in thre simple words express that they are NOT violent. They express that they do not advocate actual violence. They express that this phrase helps them cope with the reality of violence in their lives. They ask for understanding in their use of DCS as a rallying point. And allies on many fronts don’t listen. They insist DCS is a threat against them. They insist that the trans people who use it are advocating violence. That is not listening. Over and over again trans people who use the term have described how and why they use it. They have explained patiently why using violent rhetoric as a mirror to real violence does not mean that they are advocating real violence. You aren’t listening.

I have said it.

I will say it again.

Die Cis Scum is an effigy. Die Cis Scum is a symbolic reflection of the fear, the actual violence that trans people (especially trans women of color) feel with every breath. Die Cis Scum is not about promoting actual violence. That does not mean some people won’t take it that way. Just as some people take the symbolic violence in books, movies, and video games and realize them in the real world. It doesn’t mean that symbolic violence is inherently dangerous. It is only dangerous in the hands of the few who might realize it.

Has anyone yet realized the violence of DCS? Has anyone pushed it past a symbolic representation?

Well there is that one time a trans woman of color defended her life against some white supremacists. We sure showed her. We sure showed any trans person who dares to defend their lives that we don’t trust you.

There is nothing even approaching reality that suggests that systemic trans on cis violence will ever happen. There is no system in place to protect trans on cis violence. There are systems in place that protect cis on trans violence.  I can’t say this enough: Any trans on cis violence (even defensive) is met immediately with swift justice ensure that it will never become systemic. Never. Won’t happen. There is no more reason to be afraid of a being murdered by a trans person who supports DCS than there is reason to be afraid of someone who enjoys Natural Born Killers.

So why are you afraid?

Probably because it feels directed at you. You are cis. You don’t want to think about dying and Asher’s post makes you think about dying. Really the post even goes a bit further and makes you think about being the victim of a hate crime. The post makes you feel fear.

That is ok I think. That is what generates these discussion. That is where we learn. Change isn’t motivated by comfort. Change is motivated by discontent. Change is motivated when the majority senses (feels) the discomfort of the minority enough to motivate change.

That is why I feel the threat of Die Cis Scum is directed at cis allies. To motivate change by making us uncomfortable. I let that discomfort motivate me to help change the world for the better. I let it be one of the many catalysts telling me that supporting trans issues is the right thing to do. I don’t let it scare me into washing my hands of a movement.

How are you going to let the discomfort of Die Cis Scum motivate you?


Calling all sluts

Since I have at least a few Canadian readers here, I thought it relevant to post an upcoming event in the London, Ontario region.

On Saturday May 12th, London’s second annual Solidarity SlutWalk will be held at Victoria Park from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

For those of you who have never heard of SlutWalk:

SlutWalk began as a small idea in Toronto in 2011 to fight back against victim-blaming and sex-shaming around sexual violence. The co-founders were galvanized into action and took their name from a Toronto police officer who referred to women and survivors of sexual assault as “sluts” and suggested women ‘dressing like sluts’ were inviting their own victimization.

It shouldn’t be new information to anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock that every time a woman comes forward about rape or sexual assault, they entire history (promiscuity, fashion, gender identity) is on trial along with those they accuse. SlutWalks attempt to end the victim blaming and slut shaming prevalent in sexual crime.

Something I found interesting which speaks to the pervasiveness of slut shaming is that SlutWalks have been around for little longer than a year. What started in Toronto spread to 200 cities world wide rather quickly. We sluts are tired of being blamed.

So, if you are anywhere near London, Ontario come out on May 12th. London’s Solidarity SlutWalk 2012 welcomes sluts of all sorts with specific inclusion of transgender sluts who face some of the highest risks of sexual violence  and are far more likely to be victim blamed into not reporting their own sexual assaults or rapes. I am especially proud that London is making a concerted effort to ensure that trans women feel as welcome as cis women in this important event for all women.

Walk together in solidarity.

Thanks to reader/commenter Anna for bringing this event to my attention.

Jumping to unwarranted conclusions

Following a link on Twitter, I saw this post on Pope Hat. I am going to just say that before this I had never read anything on the Pope Hat blog so I have no clue if this is typical. Typical or not, the post in question crosses lines of irresponsible interpretation and generally ableist language.

The theme of the post by Patrick is to basically highlight the potential problems with the recent change in federal law as it relates to what constitutes a direct threat when deciding when and how to sanction university students. The change in the law was to essentially remove “self harm” from the Title II of the ADA of what constitutes a “direct threat.”

The new wording:

Direct threat means a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided in § 35.139.

The change in the wording is a request by the Department of Justice (DoJ)as an attempt to ensure that schools do not expel students with disabilities that only pose a risk of self harm and do not pose a risk of harm to others. The basic reasoning seems to be that suicide or other forms of self harm are symptoms of disabilities and as long as they are not disruptive, expelling students, or otherwise treating students differently than non-disabled students is a violation of the ADA. The change of wording was essentially to create consistency between Title’s II and III of the ADA as well as consistency with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

It is important to note that there have been relatively few cases where colleges have overstepped their bounds with regards to suicidal students. It appears that the DoJ chose to make this move based on the potential that including “self harm” in the language can create. This is especially important on the heels of many schools changing their policies after Virginia Tech. In an effort to prevent another incident like the one at Virginia Tech in 2007, the increasingly popular new school policies would assert that the colleges can force students to withdraw if they are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

Under the new wording in Title II, colleges cannot create a policy that threatens forced withdrawal or coercively force withdrawal based on sanctions outside what would be expected on other non-disabled students based solely on the criteria of self harm. This does not mean that a student, whose self harming behavior is disruptive to other students, is not subject to sanction for the disruption. They are merely not subject to sanction on the basis of self harm.

Now back to Patrick at Pope Hat:

The first problem I encounter with Patrick’s post is the title. Now titles are commonly hyperbolic as to attract a wide audience but this one is fairly over the top:

I Pledge That In The Event My Urges To Go On A Shooting Rampage Become Irresistible, I Will Seek Help From A Professional Counselor, Or Turn The Gun On Myself, Should The Demons So Command. X_____________ (Sign Here).

Now based on what the general article is about, I see not one way this title could be applicable. First no colleges were preemptively forcing students to sign agreements that they enter professional counseling in homicidal circumstances with the caveat that they self harm if not seeking help. That would have been illegal for a college to suggest (even without the creative language) before the change in Title II wording.  The title might have been more applicable if Patrick changed the order of the phrases and it read, “I pledge that in the event my urges to go on a shooting rampage, should the demons so command, or turn the gun on myself become irresistible I will seek help from a  professional counselor.” At least in that direction it makes a little bit of sense to the rest of the story.

Patrick goes on to say that under the new law the title pledge may be illegal for a school to adopt as policy. Once again, creative wording aside, the general gist of the pledge would have been illegal anyway unless you used the reordered version. Essentially the title has nothing whatsoever to do with the article or the law in question, aside from snarky jabs at those who are suffering from mental illness.

The snarky jabs at mental illness don’t end there:

Query:  A male student approaches the Dean, distraught that his girlfriend has left him, raving that he has a gun, and he’s willing to use it.  The Dean, after counseling the student to seek help, may expel our hypothetical student (for the safety of his fellow students and college employees) if the student makes which of these statements?

A. I’ve got a gun.  I’m going to shoot that bitch!

B. I’ve got a gun. I’m going to shoot myself!

C. I’ve got a gun. I’m going to, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but, ARRRRRRGH!!!!, the orbital mind control lasers! They command me to kill!

Apparently Patrick can’t seem to show cases where students might seem homicidal without being completely delusional but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that under the new wording to Title II, schools can technically force all three to withdraw depending on the circumstances. If the school deems that a student is a direct threat to others they can be forced to withdraw (Options A and C can both be interpreted that way). If the school deems that the student is violating other non discriminatory policies, like carrying a gun on campus, the student can be forced to withdraw or be expelled. What the school cannot do is force sanctions on those students who threaten to harm themselves while not posing a threat to others.

Patrick gives us his reason for alarm in the form of a cute little anecdote of a person he went to school with:

Think I’m wrong?  Consider the curious case of Wendell Williamson, who murdered two people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, way back in the days before Virginia Tech.  Williamson and I were fellow students at the same law school.  I didn’t know Williamson, but I know a lot of people who did.  One of them, a former roommate, recalled when I called him to ask what the HELL was going on in Chapel Hill that day, “Oh yeah, that was the guy who yelled at beer.”

Meaning that Williamson would utter vague but dangerous sounding threats, to his beer, at the Henderson Street Bar and Grill, which in those days was the law school hangout.

Williamson was counseled by a dean I also knew, a man of the highest integrity and the utmost concern for his students, yet Williamson slipped through the cracks and went on a homicidal rampage.

Williamson is safely interned, today, at the North Carolina equivalent of the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

So he tells a story about a student who obviously had a mental illness and went on to murder two people. Does Patrick show at any point where this student appeared to be either homicidal or suicidal? Yelling at beer doesn’t count. It seems that Patrick just wants to lump all people who hear voices (or talk to inanimate objects) in with the “possible threat to others” category and ignore that 1) a plethora of possible causes are responsible for hearing voices (or talking to inanimate objects) and 2) the urge to commit homicide is not even mostly caused by hearing voices (or talking to inanimate objects).

Patrick seems to miss also that this murderous cohort of his might not have been able to be removed before or after the change in wording. Threatening beer does not indicate a direct threat to self or others. In hindsight, yes he was a threat to others. Without the corrective lenses of hindsight however, there is simply no way to determine if Wendell’s ramblings (based on the information Patrick gives us) indicate anything homicidal or suicidal.

Basically nothing in Patrick’s post is even near related to the removal of “harm to self” from Title II. It seems he is more interested in droning on about people who hear voices than address any real problems with the change in wording. It is not that there aren’t actual problems with the new interpretations of the law though.

This report by National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM), gives three tricky cases decided by The US department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and compares them in the wake of the change in the law. One of the biggest problems with the change is that it has left colleges with few options in how to handle suicidal students. Many colleges are not equipped to properly treat suicidal students and, yes, if a student commits or attempts suicide on campus, it can be a terrible burden on other students. The problems are exacerbated by the fact that DoJ has not responded with much in the way on guidance on how the new wording affects their ability to sanction students who are suffering from a disability that causes them to be suicidal/self harming. Without much guidance schools are forced to either find new ways of addressing suicidal and otherwise self harming students or face penalties under the new interpretations.

Schools can still force students to withdraw if they are disruptive in their self harming behavior. Where the line is drawn is whether a college forces a student to withdraw based on their disability it seems. If self harming behavior is documented as disruptive and reasonable restrictions are placed on the “disruptive behavior” alone, the student can be forced to withdraw or be expelled based on continued violation of those restrictions. They cannot be forced into abiding by policies that are not imposed on other students who do not have a disability.

The biggest issue with the new wording of Title II seems to be the nuance. Schools no longer know where they have legal grounds for forced withdrawal of self harming/suicidal students. The lack of certainty is forcing colleges to rethink the options they make available for students in their mental health services. That could be a good thing over all. I still would like to see the DoJ and OCR communicate more with colleges to define parameters for what is acceptable when sanctioning self harming students. Clear guidelines will ultimately mean colleges can at least try to take the right steps. Without clear guidelines they seem to be feeling their way through the maze one case at a time.

Clear guidelines aside, there is no indication that the new change in wording will remotely result in a “voice talking to me therefore must kill” type scenario like the one Patrick from Pope Hat suggests. I have no clue why he addresses it at all. Maybe it is just an easy way to demean people with mental illnesses. Whether it was his intention or not, repeated able-ism is surely the impression I got from his piece covering a pretty important change in the law.

A few words

Tomorrow I hope to report on a wonderful day of fun and celebration at the UC Pride festival in Cookeville TN. I hope I can walk my children into the park and not have to explain to them why there are hateful people with signs, yelling and calling people names, threatening eternal torture with Hell fire. If I have to explain it I will. I don’t hide the world from them. They will learn that the intellectual ancestors of those same people held their bibles high as they hurled their hatred at slaves who dared to defy that bible and be free, that they were the same people whose religion justified segregation and who fought hard against women’s suffrage, who called interracial marriage an abomination to their god. My children need to know the world they have inherited. More than that, though, tomorrow I want them to see some of the good we have brought into the world. We have fought hard to be able to stand in the open and celebrate freedom and acceptance in a world where once people could only hide. They should be proud of that and so should you.

I’ve been sitting at home watching Cosmos and so I would like to lead into this weekend with some words from Carl Sagan:

In our tenure of this planet, we have accumulated dangerous, evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. We have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring passionate intelligence — the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity.
Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet earth. But, up and in the cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile, blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.

And with that I bid you good night.

Breaking the Silence

If you visited our blog yesterday you probably found up to 24 posts containing a video about the Day of Silence. If you still don’t know what the Day of Silence is, then you watched none of them.

I opted to be silent yesterday on the web because I want to break the silence surrounding bullying LGBTQ youth everywhere. My school years were before DoS was created (a grassroots effort if ever there was one). My friends got jumped for being gay. My friends got harassed for “looking gay.” I escaped only because bi-girls are a novelty. Inside and outside of school, bullies were tolerated, condoned for the terror they created. The tide is shifting as we all learn to find our voices and break the silence that keeps the wheel of hatred turning.

If someone is a bully, don’t be silent. Don’t expect the victim to stand up for themselves. Speaking out against bullies is our place because we have the voices, the privilege of not having someone choking the words out of us. Every time you watch the boot of oppression press on someones neck and don’t say something, you become an accessory to violence, to hate.

You are the bullies’ silent partner.

You are not my ally.

Allies speak.