Montreal Massacre: “Remember, then organize.”

by matttbastard

Record snowfall may have forced the cancellation of local commemorative events, but the memories of December 6th, 1989 remain fresh, regardless of where we wrestle with them. Though we take time today to reflect on the untimely murders of 18 women (for the heinous crime of being women), all-too-immediate events demand that we not simply remember the past, but also resolve to continue the fight for justice in the struggle for women’s equality. Eileen Morrow, coordinator, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, notes in a Toronto Star op-ed how economic strife is intrinsically linked with violence against women, and how renewed calls for austerity measures in the wake of mounting debt could have even more of a negative impact:

During a recession, the fear is that violence against women will rise while meaningful action on the issue will fall. That worry is well-placed.

The media have already reported increasing calls by women to crisis lines and police. Catholic Family Services in Durham region reported a 24 per cent increase in referrals for domestic violence in the last three months of 2008. The Canadian Mental Health Association in London reported a rise in domestic violence in the spring of 2009. Brockville reported a 100 per cent increase in domestic violence calls to police during that period.

In the spring of 2009, stories about a stunning increase in calls to shelters in Calgary, where the recession hit hard, were reported in newspapers across Canada — a 200 per cent increase in one year; a 300 per cent increase in the month before the stories ran.

A spot survey just conducted by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses bears out the continuing trend toward increasing calls for help, despite predictions that the economic outlook is positive and recovery has started.

A comparison of service delivery in the years 2007 and 2010 in 15 women’s shelters across the province shows that requests for support have increased, albeit not as dramatically has those of Alberta.

Crisis calls increased by almost 15 per cent between the two years; admissions of women and children increased by 20 per cent. Shelters had to “turn away” 44 per cent more women and children in 2010 than in 2007 because they were full. In smaller towns with fewer services, the shelters faced double the demand of larger cities.

Each year, the women’s shelter association gathers the names of women and children murdered in situations where an intimate partner is either charged or commits suicide. In 2008 and 2009, the total was 16 for each year. In 2010 (up to the present) it is 21.

Admittedly, the numbers are not scientific and cannot be decisively linked to the recession, but they are troubling. Still more troubling, however, is the possibility that governments will overlook the need to increase support for women rather than to freeze or lower to meet the demands of austerity.

Recent history only compounds concern about government overlooking the needs of women:

In the Mike Harris era of the mid-90s, cuts to women’s services and broad social programs such as social assistance and housing, forced many women to stay in abusive relationships. Murders of women increased in Canada, primarily in Ontario. Services in Ontario are still struggling to recover.

The mid-90s was a time of growing government restraint both federally and provincially, somewhat like today but far less acute. The global economy had not yet failed.

Nationally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear that national priorities are fixed on cost-cutting and reducing the $45.4 billion federal deficit. The Province of Ontario also has an $18.7 billion dollar deficit to address.

Both federally and provincially, all political parties are in election campaign mode. The timing of the federal election is a guessing game; some are guessing spring of next year. The Ontario election is fixed for Oct. 6, 2011.

As a result, no one knows which political party will be responsible for ultimately guiding the country and the province back to economic stability. What is clear, however, is that right now is the time to raise issues of women’s human and equity rights, not when an election is finally called.

Judy Rebick notes that with programs dedicated to women’s issues once again in the sights of budget-cutters, the only way to truly stand up to the forces of austerity and push a truly progressive agenda of social and economic justice for women is to challenge the casual disregard of technocratic indifference. If we are to make a measurable impact, supporters of women’s liberation must once again mobilize:

Today the women’s movement in English Canada is a shadow of its former self and the women’s movement in Quebec is weaker too. I do not believe this has anything to do with the horror at Polytechnique but rather in part because of our success and the feeling of a younger generation that equality had been achieved and in part because of the impact of neo-liberalism and the individualism and consumerism that it promotes.

But while there is a societal consensus against male violence against women today, that violence goes on unabated particularly against marginalized women like those disappeared on the downtown east side or the hundreds of aboriginal women who are disappeared and murdered without much attention from police, or the virtual slavery of desperate women trafficked into prostitution on a global scale.

The best way to remember these 14 women is recommit ourselves, women and men, to the fight for women’s liberation and an end to violence against women. On Sunday there will once against be vigils across the country. Remember them and then organize.

“Remember them and then organize.”

We truly honour their legacy by refusing to give up the fight, even in the face of intimidation, be it from the barrel of a long gun or an autocratic prime minister’s far-right legislative agenda.

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Quote of the Day: In Memoriam

by matttbastard

Transgender Day of Remembrance is not a once-a-year deal. You don’t show up for services, murmur “lest we forget” and then promptly forget for the rest of the year. Today lives within us, because we cannot afford to forget.

Still. Today most of all, we remember those who were killed. Because we die violently, unmemorialised, and are mocked after our deaths.

Because the world sees us disposable, less than human (and who can mourn that?). Many of the dead lost their lives because they were trans women of colour, doubly disposable.

Who would mourn a thing, a that, an it?

[…]

Sometimes we forget ourselves, you know. Sometimes we think that if we look like cissexuals, pass like them (are passed like them), that they must accept us. And we forget that it is only the fact that they have assumed we have the same gender history as them that keeps them from hating us.

We do not live fake lives. We do not live as nicknames, as aka. We live hard, we love hard–we have to. And we deserve to be mourned.

— Queen Emily, how to mourn

h/t Sarah J

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Re: the passage of Prop H8: “resist racist media schemes”

by matttbastard

Via belle:

Dear Friends,

I am writing because I am disturbed by the string of articles, blog entries, and list serve threads that have come out in the last few days suggesting that the high turnout of African American and Latino voters for the presidential election was responsible for the passage of California’s proposition 8, which dealt a heavy blow to LGBT families by banning gay marriage.

These articles mistakenly imply that the struggles for civil rights for LGBT people and communities of color are separate or even at odds with each other. They deny the work that LGBT people of color do to combat homophobia and transphobia in their families and communities, often while facing racism within the queer community as well. These articles deny homophobia among white people, and they displace blame away from those who actually have the power to consistently deny others civil and human rights, and instead, charge that when communities that have long been disenfranchised and alienated from political processes begin to participate, that the results with be negative for LGBT people.

I believe all communities need to be held accountable for their homophobia and transphobia. I want to acknowledge the suffering and hardship that the passage of Proposition 8 has caused for LGBT couples and families. But, while the media casts blame on communities of color for the failure of civil rights for LGBT people, it is imperative that we struggle against the logic that tells us that struggles for LGBT civil rights and racial justice are separate, and that we examine our strategies for advancing LGBT civil rights and gay marriage and, in particular, look at places where LGBT communities have failed to align our struggles for civil rights with ongoing struggles for racial justice.

In the months leading up the election, I saw a massive mobilization within the queer spaces in which I spend time in San Francisco to get people to vote no on 8. We live in a state that has one of the highest incarceration rates in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Studies have estimated that at any time, 40 percent of black men in their 20’s in California are under control of the correctional system. Criminalization affects many LGBT people, in particular, those that may be experiencing addiction or who, lacking familial support, move to expensive cities where they may have a hard time accessing affordable housing and living-wage work. Despite this, I saw little or no public discourse among LGBT people about very important state propositions: 5, 6, and 9, all of which potentially impacted things like funding for prisons, alterations to sentencing for drug crimes, or the trying of minors as adults in this state.

In the last months, we have seen raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) throughout the state and in San Francisco. Many people immigrate here as a result of the US foreign policy of destabilizing foreign economies. Additionally, San Francisco is home to many LGBT immigrants who have come to the country seeking safety and asylum. While my inbox was flooded with emails pertaining to Prop 8, I heard from very few queer people who were seeking to mobilize around the October 31st demonstration to protest ICE raids, or other work pertaining to ICE raids, and San Francisco’s establishment as a sanctuary city.

The November ballot contained several important city initiatives that could have affected the livability of our city both for low-income people of color and for many queer people. Proposition K, an initiative to decriminalize prostitution would have helped sex workers in this city to make major strides in their ability to organize for their rights and safety, allowing them to better protect themselves against violence and police harassment. Despite the fact that many, many young LGBT people in this city earn their livings as sex workers and daily face risks to their safety, and that two trans women working as sex workers lost their lives while working in San Francisco in 2007, I saw shockingly little effort among LGBT people to educate themselves on the realities facing sex workers or the background on Proposition K, let alone to spread any word about it.

Similarly, proposition B, which would have mandated that the city set aside part of its budget for affordable housing was defeated by SF voters. In a city with a history of racist schemes of redevelopment and displacement (SOMA in the 60’s, Justin Herman’s redevelopment of the Fillmore, illegal evictions in the Mission in the 90s, contemporary cuts to county welfare, and most recently, the gentrification of Bayview—to name a few), San Francisco voters have failed to stand up for working families’ ability to live affordably in this city—a city with where remaining working class communities of color face major threats of displacement. Despite the fact that white LGBT people often play complicated roles in the gentrification of the city and displacement of communities of color, I saw no media reports released on November 5th scrutinizing the voting trends of white LGBT San Franciscans on Propositions B, N, K, 5, 6, or 9, as juxtaposed to the numerous articles scrutinizing the voting habits of Black and Latino voters on Prop 8. And despite the overwhelmingly negative outcome of several important local and state propositions, outcry among the wider LGBT community seems to have been reserved only for Prop 8.

As a young, queer, person living in San Francisco, I feel very strongly that affordably in this city is vital to the creativity and well being of the LGBT community of San Francisco. As a white person living in the Mission, I have to think and act critically in regards to the complicated role I play in the gentrification of this neighborhood and the larger schemes of displacement within this city. I love my queer life and love living in this city. I get to witness the ways of living and congregating, making new families, new cultures, and envisioning new worlds that are possible living in a city with so many other brilliant and creative queer people. While I would like to lend my support and compassion to the people who lost the right to marry this week, I also question the logic that tells me that my only struggle as an LGBT person centers around my right to marry, rather than my ability to live and create in many other ways within a city I love. Affordable housing is central to the vitality of the LGBT community in San Francisco, to all communities, and while I sign petitions to support marriage as a right, I would like to see LGBT Californians take a serious look at the fact that housing, healthcare, and freedom from incarceration are also civil and human rights.

I would like to see LGBT Californians talk not only about their right to receive their partners’ health benefits but about universal healthcare. I would like to hear us talk not just about how many LGBT people’s partners cannot receive citizenship rights because of a lack of marriage rights, but connect this to struggles for immigrant rights in this state. I would like to hear LGBT people not only talk about how their families are discriminated against, but think about how many families in California are living in alternative family structures because of the mass incarceration of parents with children.

The passing of Proposition 8 is a sad day and indicative of the work that lies ahead, however, as we heal from these blows, I would like to challenge us to consider how our struggles are bound up with struggles for racial and economic justice, and how our fight for civil rights, and the health of our communities could be strengthened by taking these connections more seriously. Above all, I would like to challenge us to resist racist media schemes that, during our moment of need and a moment of possibility, are attempting to pit LGBT people and supporters against communities of color in California.

I apologize for the hasty construction of this, but time is of the essence. I welcome your thoughts.

In struggle,

Adele Carpenter

Rewind my selekta:

[W]hile the media casts blame on communities of color for the failure of civil rights for LGBT people, it is imperative that we struggle against the logic that tells us that struggles for LGBT civil rights and racial justice are separate, and that we examine our strategies for advancing LGBT civil rights and gay marriage and, in particular, look at places where LGBT communities have failed to align our struggles for civil rights with ongoing struggles for racial justice.

This.  Less hateful, divisive rhetoric, more reflection, reorientation and preparation for the next stage of the struggle, plz.

sign the petition to repeal Proposition 8!

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