Women Born Transsexual is a sort of shorthand, a meme coined 15 years ago by my partner, Tina and myself. It is a way of saying transsexuals are born this way. Women Born Transsexual or WBT isn’t about patrolling borders. It doesn’t matter what age you were at transition or self awareness.
I was already on hormones and in transition when I participated in the Battle For People’s Park in 1969. I went full time between its wind down and Stonewall. For me People’s Park and the idea of “The Commons” have always played an important role in shaping me.
On 4 May 1970, the Ohio national guard shot at hundreds of students protesting against the invasion of Cambodia, wounding eight and killing four. Kent State was seared into the national consciousness. The US government had authorized the killing of its own (white) children.
But what many might not know is that a year earlier in Berkeley, California, police opened fire with buck and bird shot on a large crowd of young protesters seeking to keep open People’s Park, an impromptu community garden on land UC Berkeley wanted to use. Fifty people were hit.
James Rector, a 25-year-old visitor from San Jose, was killed. Alan Blanchard was blinded. Donovan Rundle was shot point blank in the stomach and almost bled to death. After two dozen surgeries, he would live with chronic pain for the next 50 years.
“Bloody Thursday”, 15 May 1969, was the day the Vietnam war came home. The streets of Bohemian Berkeley, the New Left’s west coast HQ, became a bloody war zone. Martial law was declared, a curfew imposed and national guardsmen with unsheathed bayonets and live ammunition occupied the town. A military helicopter doused the campus with tear gas. Many members of the Alameda county sheriff’s department had just come home from Vietnam. Some later admitted that they treated antiwar students like Viet Cong.
This pivotal event in 60s history comes back to life in an excellent new oral history, The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969,by Tom Dalzell. The book recounts the chaotic 40 days and nights from 20 April to 30 May 1969 with detail that reads like a gut punch. A large-format book, lavishly printed with hundreds of never-before-published color photographs, it is a hybrid oral-visual history that reads like watching a documentary.
People’s Park evokes haunting memories of Kent State. Republican governors in California and Ohio were running re-election campaigns and rallying their base by demonizing the student movement. The chancellors of UC Berkeley and Kent State were out of town on the days of the shootings, contributing to disorder, handing law enforcement greater rein.
In his foreword to People’s Park, Todd Gitlin explains that California’s governor, Ronald Reagan, ran his 1966 campaign on making welfare “bums” go back to work and cleaning up “the mess in Berkeley”. By the time he was running for re-election he had all but granted the national guard and law enforcement officers permission to shoot to kill: “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with, no more appeasement.”
Mark Segal was 18 years old on the night of June 28th, 1969, when he entered the Stonewall Inn. On the night of the historic Stonewall riots Segal had been living in New York for just six weeks, but he had already become immersed in the elusive Greenwich Village gay night scene. Raised by the only Jewish family in south Philadelphia’s Wilson Park housing project, Segal was no stranger to being an outsider. He told his parents he was leaving Philly to go to school in New York. In truth, he’d left to find a gay community. Watching an episode of The David Susskind Show years earlier he’d learned that gay people existed in New York and he knew then that was where he belonged.
Segal would go on to organize some of the earliest American LGBT organizations, help plan the first Pride March in 1970, found the longest running LGBT weekly newspaper, the Philadelphia Gay News, and become one of the most important figures in the alternative gay press. But on that night at Stonewall he was still a teenager just exulting in the chance to drink and socialize with other LGBT people at a time when homosexuality was still treated as a psychological affliction by the medical establishment, immoral by most religions, and criminal under law. In 1969 homosexuality was a crime in every state except Illinois.
The Mafia-run Stonewall Inn located in New York’s famed Greenwich Village was a kind of sanctuary. It appealed to the less-privileged LGBT people who couldn’t fit in among the more white-collar and buttoned-up secret societies of gays that existed at the time. If you were a well-off gay white male you went to Julius’s—the oldest gay bar in New York. If you were poor, or more radical, your home was Stonewall. The inn was a gathering place for street kids, artists, and gay people of all different races and ethnic backgrounds. It was one of the hearts of New York’s vibrant, bohemian LGBT community and it would become the birthplace of America’s gay civil rights movement.
It started when New York City police raided the bar as they had many times before. The cops were looking to bust an illegally run, Mafia-owned establishment selling water-downed liquor without a license but also came to abuse the patrons, throwing around anti-gay slurs and using the vulnerable population as a chance to arrest as many people as possible and pad their records. They had done this many times before, including just four nights earlier at the Stonewall Inn.
Segal was carded by the police that night but with no money to offer for a bribe, he says that he was fortunate to be quickly released. The people arrested were primarily minors, trans women, and crossdressers, which was still illegal at the time. Segal watched from across the street, terrified as the raid unraveled into chaos.
Yet the terror was mixed with other emotions.
“There was an odd, celebratory feel to it,” he says. Within moments of taking in the scene, he thought to himself, “this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”
Most people ran away to avoid arrest, but those who remained were drag queens, hustlers, runaways, street kids—the people who had nothing to lose and were willing to fight back.
In 1969, American society was all about rebellion. “African Americans can fight for their rights, Latinos can fight for their rights, women can fight for their rights, what about us?” Segal saw the social uproar of the era and thought, “why not me? Why not my people?”
For Segal, the aftermath of the Stonewall riots was a “magical year.” He played a role in starting the Gay Liberation Front, an umbrella group that became one of the first major American LGBT organizations, and helped found the first transgender and gay youth organizations, serving as its president at the age of 19.
Jeffrey Epstein may well take a lot of powerful men down with him. A new indictment on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against the hedge fund financier threatens to bring consequences to a suspected pedophile who has long avoided them. Epstein, a friend to the likes of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was a paradigm of elite impunity and the moral rot of rich men. He exemplified the kind of corruption, self-interest, and disregard for the suffering of others that compels the communities to protect their own, and the systemic injustice allows even the most vile abusers to evade legal consequences when they have shoulder-clapping familiarity with those in power. Following revelatory reporting on Epstein’s case from the Miami Herald in November and amid a new sense of seriousness around sexual abuse generated by the #MeToo movement, it seems that Epstein, long suspected of abusing children in the near-open and facing no repercussions for it, may finally face justice.
At least, that’s what it looks like for now. But Epstein has been here before: he faced federal charges for nearly identical alleged behavior in 2008, when a teenage girl and her parents came forward to local police saying that Epstein had coerced her into giving him naked massages, and then paid her for it.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding Epstein, in particular around how he made all his money, but his habits as an abuser seem pretty clear. When investigators searched Epstein’s huge Manhattan home, in a raid timed to coincide with his arrest just after his private jet arrived in New Jersey from Paris, they found “hundreds, possibly thousands” of explicit images of underage girls, so it seems likely that Epstein was also involved in the production and distribution of child abuse images. Afterwards, he would pay the girls, and get them to recruit other children.
Other victims came forward and the case eventually went to the FBI. But Epstein was given a sweetheart plea deal; federal charges were dropped, and he only pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution, a bit of legal logic that seemed to equate the coerced, abused children with adult sex workers. Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in jail and was released five months early. During his stay, he was permitted to leave jail six days a week, to go to the office. He continued to run his hedge fund during his sentence. The man who arranged this extraordinarily lenient treatment for the financier was the then US attorney Alexander Acosta, now Donald Trump’s secretary of labor.
It seems clear that Epstein was protected by his many powerful connections, as many abusers are, and because they were wealthy, powerful and famous, their protection was extremely effective at shielding him from consequence. And like other rich people, Epstein used his wealth to evade the criminal justice system, purchasing the services of skilled defense attorneys and leveraging his status in order to procure the favor of prosecutors.
But Epstein, with his opulent life of multiple homes, private jets and lavish parties for the elite that were populated heavily by girls and very young women, also benefited from a culture that interprets male heterosexual pedophilia of his type as benign or even aspirational, a facet of the good life and a privilege of the ruling class. There is a vision of the life of a very rich man that Epstein pursued for himself and that those around him approved of him having, and this vision is grounded heavily in a kind of indulgent sensualism, one in which the very rich man is privileged to enjoy lavish trips, rich wine, fine food and beautiful views.
The sexual abuse of teenage girls and young women is part of this vision; the pleasure that they afford the rich man is considered largely interchangeable with that that he gets from a rare steak or a nice cigar. But Epstein’s victims were not mere party props; they were not cocktails or expensive clothes. They were little girls. “I had braces on,” Epstein victim Courtney Wild told ABC news after his arrest. When she says that he abused her, she was 14.
Epstein was protected by his money, and by his well-positioned friends, and by the corruption of those tasked with stopping him. He was protected by the broad cultural antipathy toward treating sexual abuse as real harm, the often hostile reaction to the premise that teenage girls should matter as much as adult men. But he was also protected by an idea of teenage girls as fair game for adult men to pursue and abuse, by a chuckling acceptance of May-December “romances” that begin mid-March. But he was also protected by a vision of the good life in which girls and women are objects of pleasure more than they are subjects with their own free will and their own demands on justice, dignity and freedom. It is a life that many men still covet for themselves.
Over the 4th of July holiday weekend you might’ve missed this piece of political news: This week, the U.S. House voted to defund Trump’s transgender military ban.
Politico.com reports, “During debate on a $1 trillion spending package, lawmakers voted 243-183 to adopt an amendment from Representative Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to block funding to implement the new policy, which Democrats slammed as discriminatory and arbitrary.”
And since there are only 235 Democrats in the U.S. House, that means that a handful of Republicans also voted against funding Trump’s trans troop ban.
Democratic Representative Anthony Brown of Maryland said, “The president and his administration wrongfully argue that it’s about military readiness and unit cohesion, but these arguments are the same ones that were made to keep the military racially segregated.”
However, as with most progressive votes in the U.S. House, the same vote isn’t likely to happen in the Republican-led U.S. Senate. In fact, at least one Republican representative, Ken Calvert of California, has said that Republicans shouldn’t support the House’s recent vote because it undermines troop readiness.
Trump originally announced his transgender troop ban in July 2017 via Twitter. Despite various federal circuit court-issued injunctions to stop its implementation, in January 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to lift the injunctions and let the ban begin.
According to Politico.com, “The new policy, which took effect in April, requires troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria serve in their biological sex. It also bars people with a history of gender dysphoria from joining the military unless they’ve been medically stable in their biological sex for 36 months and haven’t transitioned.”
Trump originally said the military ban is a cost-saving measure, stating, “[The military] cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Emotional abuse of children can lead, in adulthood, to addiction, rage, a severely damaged sense of self and an inability
to truly bond with others. But—if it happened to you—there is a way out.
by Andrew Vachss
Originally published in Parade Magazine, August 28, 1994
The attorney and author Andrew Vachss has devoted his life to protecting children. We asked Vachss, an expert on the subject of child abuse, to examine perhaps one of its most complex and widespread forms—emotional abuse: What it is, what it does to children, what can be done about it. Vachss’ latest novel, “Down in the Zero,” just published by Knopf, depicts emotional abuse at its most monstrous.
I’m a lawyer with an unusual specialty. My clients are all children—damaged, hurting children who have been sexually assaulted, physically abused, starved, ignored, abandoned and every other lousy thing one human can do to another. People who know what I do always ask: “What is the worst case you ever handled?” When you’re in a business where a baby who dies early may be the luckiest child in the family, there’s no easy answer. But I have thought about it—I think about it every day. My answer is that, of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest–lasting of all.
Emotional abuse is the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. It is designed to reduce a child’s self–concept to the point where the victim considers himself unworthy—unworthy of respect, unworthy of friendship, unworthy of the natural birthright of all children: love and protection.
Emotional abuse can be as deliberate as a gunshot: “You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re ugly.”
Emotional abuse can be as random as the fallout from a nuclear explosion. In matrimonial battles, for example, the children all too often become the battlefield. I remember a young boy, barely into his teens, absently rubbing the fresh scars on his wrists. “It was the only way to make them all happy,” he said. His mother and father were locked in a bitter divorce battle, and each was demanding total loyalty and commitment from the child.
Emotional abuse can be active. Vicious belittling: “You’ll never be the success your brother was.” Deliberate humiliation: “You’re so stupid. I’m ashamed you’re my son.”
It also can be passive, the emotional equivalent of child neglect—a sin of omission, true, but one no less destructive.
And it may be a combination of the two, which increases the negative effects geometrically.
Emotional abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is often as painful as physical assault. And, with rare exceptions, the pain lasts much longer. A parent’s love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a “failure to thrive” condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition.
Even the natural solace of siblings is denied to those victims of emotional abuse who have been designated as the family’s “target child.” The other children are quick to imitate their parents. Instead of learning the qualities every child will need as an adult—empathy, nurturing and protectiveness—they learn the viciousness of a pecking order. And so the cycle continues.
But whether as a deliberate target or an innocent bystander, the emotionally abused child inevitably struggles to “explain” the conduct of his abusers—and ends up struggling for survival in a quicksand of self–blame.
Emotional abuse is both the most pervasive and the least understood form of child maltreatment. Its victims are often dismissed simply because their wounds are not visible. In an era in which fresh disclosures of unspeakable child abuse are everyday fare, the pain and torment of those who experience “only” emotional abuse is often trivialized. We understand and accept that victims of physical or sexual abuse need both time and specialized treatment to heal. But when it comes to emotional abuse, we are more likely to believe the victims will “just get over it” when they become adults.
That assumption is dangerously wrong. Emotional abuse scars the heart and damages the soul. Like cancer, it does its most deadly work internally. And, like cancer, it can metastasize if untreated.
When it comes to damage, there is no real difference between physical, sexual and emotional abuse. All that distinguishes one from the other is the abuser’s choice of weapons. I remember a woman, a grandmother whose abusers had long since died, telling me that time had not conquered her pain. “It wasn’t just the incest,” she said quietly. “It was that he didn’t love me. If he loved me, he couldn’t have done that to me.”
But emotional abuse is unique because it is designed to make the victim feel guilty. Emotional abuse is repetitive and eventually cumulative behavior—very easy to imitate—and some victims later perpetuate the cycle with their own children. Although most victims courageously reject that response, their lives often are marked by a deep, pervasive sadness, a severely damaged self-concept and an inability to truly engage and bond with others.
Imagine an opposition political party in a land being taken over by an oligarchy, headed by a would-be tyrant.
The tyrant and the oligarchy behind him have convinced many voters that the reason they feel powerless and economically insecure isn’t because the oligarchy has taken most of the economic gains and overwhelmed the government with their money. It’s because the country has been taken over by undocumented immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans, and a “deep state” of coastal liberals, intelligence agencies, and mainstream media.
This is rubbish, of course, but the tyrant is masterful at telling big lies, and he is backed by the oligarchy’s big money.
Imagine further that the opposition party will soon face another election in which it could possibly depose the tyrant and overcome the oligarchy. But at the rate they are consolidating power – over the courts, politics, and the media – this could be the opposition’s last chance.
What would it do?
Would it allow virtually anyone to seek to be the party’s candidate for president (and gain valuable brand recognition along the way) – including spiritual gurus, one-issue entrepreneurs, and minor elected officials who have never even run for state office?
I doubt it. The party would establish criteria to filter out those who had no real chance.
Would it let almost every one of them go on television to debate one other – thereby placing a premium on one-line zingers, fast talk, and rapid-fire putdowns? Would it assign them randomly to one of two nights, so several candidates with the most support wouldn’t even get to debate one other?
Of course not. Instead, it would take the half-dozen who had the best chance, and structure the debates so they could demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the forcefulness of their ideas in lengthy back-and-forth exchanges.
Would it encourage them to split the party over policy issues that almost no one understands, such as the meaning of “Medicare for all” – thereby causing some voters to become alarmed about a government takeover of the healthcare system, and others to worry the government won’t go far enough?
No. It would encourage the candidates to emphasize the larger goal – in this case, to provide health insurance to everyone, and have them explain that a so-called “public option” to buy into Medicare would eventually displace for-profit private insurers anyway, because it would be so much cheaper.
Would it let any of this deflect attention from the tyrant keeping children in cages at the border, coddling foreign dictators and inviting them to help him in the next election, shattering alliances with other democracies, using his office to make money for himself and his family, lying non-stop, subsidizing fossil fuels and downplaying climate change, claiming the media is guilty of treason, and undermining other democratic institutions and norms?
The Trump Administration’s leaked gender memo, the recent transgender military ban, and the expansion of the global gag rule aren’t coincidences. They are part of a well-coordinated, funded global movement designed to control our communities by restricting the rights and bodily autonomy of women, LGBTQI communities, and people of color — eerily reminiscent of Reagan era oppressive tactics.
For LGBTQI communities, this kind of backlash is not new. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the Reagan administration demonized our communities, as did right-wing forces around the world, spreading the false notion of the “gay plague” and blaming men who have sex with men for the transmission of the HIV virus. LGBT people were denied equal access to healthcare, faced intense violence, were stigmatized, stripped of basic rights, and often forced into the shadows. But we fought back.
Today, we know the far-right are sewing those same seeds of paranoia, creating gender panic with the use of an intentionally ambiguous organizing framework termed “gender ideology”by some and “anti-gender ideology” by others. Originating in the 1990s, gender ideology is a construct that depicts efforts to expand rights for women, LGBTQI people, and people of color, as radical, dangerous, and elitist, arguing that we are a threat to traditional family values.
What we have been less aware of is that this gender ideology movement is extremely well-funded, and well-organized across sectors and regions. While we don’t have a comprehensive map of the funding of these movements, we know the size and scope is significant. For example, the gender ideology movement’s receives a lot of funding from churches and we know their budgets are sizable; for example, Chile gave the Catholic Church $16 million in one year alone, and Russia gave the Russian Orthodox church $189 million over three years. Of course, not all of this is to oppose gender and sexuality rights, but it demonstrates the scope and capacities of these institutions.
More specifically, the World Congress of Families is one of the most influential far-right networks which “seeks to unite and equip leaders, organizations, and families to affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society.” In 2019, they hosted a conference in Verona less than a year following their last in Moldova, with a speaker lineup that included the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, the President of Moldova, an MP from Malawi, and the President of the WCF’s parent American organization, the International Organization for the Family.
From Poland to Brazil and Colombia to Kenya, gender ideology movements are showing up across the world and are growing in size and power. By bringing together right-wing authoritarian leaders, legislators, and civil society and religious leaders to develop policies which paint us as threats to the natural order, they are gaining legitimacy by the day, and directly restricting our rights and freedom. Their strategies take the form of police violence, anti-immigrant rhetoric, restricted access to sexual and reproductive rights, white supremacist ideologies, and the use of gender paranoia to mobilize masses of people toward these conservative agendas.
Many of Astraea’s grantees have been on the frontlines of this battle. In 2016, Colombia was making inroads in the fight for gender justice after coordinated organizing from local LGBTQI activist groups. A progressive subcommission was formed as part of the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — to ensure a sufficient gender focus in the accords. This was the first peace agreement to use a gender-based approach to ensure the inclusion of women and LGBTI people. Concurrently, the Colombian Education ministry, led by openly lesbian Minister Gina Parody, released educational materials for teachers to prevent discrimination against LGBT students.
The Colombia example reveals how the political forces behind gender ideology have existed for decades, fighting to deny the rights of women and LGBTI people. Today, they have rebranded to exist directly in opposition to gender ideology and utilize populist, fear-based messaging to attack the rights of LGBTI people and women with renewed vigor. Álvaro Uribe framed the inclusion of the rights of LGBTI people and women in the peace agreement as an imposition of gender ideology. By doing so, he equated a “yes” vote in the referendum to a vote against Christian values and the traditional Colombian family, as opposed to a vote to end the 50-year conflict.
The global anti-gender ideology movement has built and funded a network that knows few boundaries and has core shared goals — across different religions and bridging secular and religious divides. They have found messaging that resonates, and they have not limited themselves by issue, population, or even geography in their funding strategies. Where they see an opportunity, they show up.
Why are so many smart women falling for its harmful, pseudoscientific claims?
By Jessica Knoll
June 8, 2019
A few months ago, I had lunch with the writer behind one of my favorite movies of the year, the agent who made the deal and the producer who packaged the project. I wanted to hear all about the process and perhaps find an opportunity to collaborate. When the server came to take our order, I flashed to that scene in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” when Mira Sorvino walks into a diner in a striped skirt suit and asks the waitress, “Do you have some sort of businesswomen’s special?”
Had there been any sort of businesswomen’s special that day, our group probably couldn’t have ordered it. Someone was slogging through the Whole30 program, someone had eliminated dairy, and someone else was simply trying to be “good” after a “bad” weekend. The producer said it didn’t matter how “good” she was. She had lost the baby weight and though she may look tolerable in clothes, under the Spanx her stomach was a horror show. The writer said she had so much cellulite on her thighs she looked diseased. I gazed around the restaurant, longingly, wondering what the men eating cheeseburgers were talking about.
At one time, I too would gleefully have torn myself apart. I despised my body, and my devotion to changing it amounted to years of unpaid labor, starting with a bout of bulimia in high school. In preparation for my wedding, I worked out twice a day on 800 calories. From there I moved on to counting macros, replacing rice with cauliflower pellets, 13-day cleanses, intermittent fasting and an elimination diet that barred sugar, dairy and nightshades like potatoes.
Every new regimen ended in the same violent binge. I’d wait for my husband to go to bed so that I could obliterate the pantry without him asking, “Are you O.K.?” For the next few days, I would throw myself on the altar of “clean eating,” only to start the cycle all over again.
I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear “wellness.” This was before I could recognize wellness culture for what it was — a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems. But at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.
Almost three years ago, I moved to Los Angeles from New York. After death and divorce, moving is supposed to be the most stressful thing you can go through, and eating became my salve. I had a second book and a screenplay due, a new city to explore and friends to make, but I could hardly focus on any of that for how crazy I felt around food. So I did a desperate thing. I searched “intuitive eating” online.
Thanks to a stint at a health magazine, I had a glancing understanding of the philosophy, which encourages a return to the innate wisdom we had as babies — about when to stop eating, what tastes good and how it makes our bodies feel. I might have sought it out sooner if not for the part where you learn to accept how your body looks once you stop restricting food, even if that version of your body is larger than you would like.