Tag: rights

Labour MP on trans rights, climate justice and socialism

Labour MP on trans rights, climate justice and socialism

Labour MP for Nottingham East Nadia Whittome. (Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

It’s 4pm on a Monday and Nadia Whittome is trying to unobtrusively wolf down a spicy panini.

She hasn’t had lunch yet and is apologising profusely – both for eating over Zoom and for trying to talk while gently choking on her food. “I’m brown but I’ve got such a white palette, anything spicier than pepper is a bit much,” Nadia explains.

The Labour MP is quick to crack jokes – “Trans rights? What about my right to misgender people?” – but slows down as we approach the interview proper, clearly serious about her position as one of the most vocal proponents of transgender civil rights in the House of Commons.

It’s not a stance that’s gone unnoticed. Nadia has also fiercely condemned Tory equalities chief Liz Truss over changes to the Gender Recognition Act and openly called for any aspiring trans or non-binary politicians to get in touch with her for support.

Partly as a result of this unequivocal support, Nadia – who’s now been Britain’s youngest MP for almost a year – has been jointly awarded PinkNews Politician of the Year. It’s an honour that last year was won by Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt and Labour’s Jess Phillips.

But it’s not just trans rights that Nadia has been fighting for in parliament. The Nottingham East MP sat down with PinkNews to talk about how LGBT+ issues are central to her socialism, why the climate crisis is a queer issue, navigating a pandemic during her first year as a politician, and trans liberation.

Nadia Whittome: LGBT+ rights are ‘central to my socialism’

Explaining that she finds being labelled the “baby of the house” infantilising, Nadia Whittome says that as someone on the cusp of the Gen Z and millennial generations, she sees herself as representing a demographic whose lives have been defined by insecurity.

“It’s the greatest privilege of my life to represent the constituents of Nottingham East. It’s also a great privilege to represent our generation: those of us whose lives have been defined by insecurity, whether it’s the insecure job market, having to pay for education, insecure housing,” Nadia Whittome says.

“But at the same time we’re a generation that is brave, we’re collaborative, we’re open, we’re celebrating of difference. And we’re not going to get back in our box.”

“LGBTQ equality and the rights of LGBTQ communities aren’t some sort of sideshow in my socialism,” she adds. “They’re not expendable. They’re central to my socialism.

“It’s a matter of health care, education, workers rights. And it’s just a huge honour to to be made PinkNews’ Politician of the Year – especially in my first year as a member of parliament.”

Asked when LGBT+ rights became an important issue to her, the queer MP says they’ve always been important, almost innately, as it’s “always been part of my lived experience”.

And she swiftly adds that it “shouldn’t be radical” to believe that “everybody, no matter your gender, sexuality, race, class, background, disability, religion, etc, should have equal rights and equal opportunities and demanding liberation for all of those marginalised groups”.

‘Hosting climate youth strikers in parliament was my proudest moment’

It’s been a wild first year in politics, and it was a huge change for Nadia Whittome right from the get-go – she was only selected to fight the Nottingham East seat on the eve of 2019’s election being called, and in the space of one weekend her life completely changed.

Proud of her record on supporting care workers and championing minorities, she says that one of the highlights of her first year has been the platform she’s been able to give to those fighting for climate justice.

Climate change is “a queer issue, a class issue, a race issue, it’s a feminist issue”, Nadia says. “It’s the people who are most marginalised who often are going to be most impacted by climate disaster, and often, particularly in the Global South, have also done the least to bring it about.”

As a result, one of Nadia’s proudest moments from her first year as an MP was bringing youth climate strikers into parliament.

“We just got working together on a bill that would green the education sector,” she recalls, “and to put climate education on the national curriculum. I also lead a debate on climate justice.

“That was a real highlight.”

Transgender liberation ‘is for transgender people to decide’.

Nadia Whittome is clearly awkward receiving praise for her vocal and unflinching allyship to trans and non-binary communities. “I’m just doing my job!” she says. “For me, it’s clear that standing in solidarity with trans people is my duty both as an MP and a human being.”

It’s “sad” and “shameful” that trans lives have become a political debate, she continues, saying that “even for me, as a cisgender person, the exhaustion I feel [about the debate] is nothing compared to the trauma and exhaustion that trans and non-binary people must feel”.

“One day, we’re going to look back on this time, and feel shame that this was ever a matter for debate,” Nadia says firmly.

“Just as we look back on the so-called debate about gay men not being allowed in the Army or not being able to adopt children, or women being innately inferior to men, or disabled people not being worthy of earning the same wages as non disabled people.

“We’ll look back at trans rights in the same way. And I just wish that we could fast forward to the time where trans people have equal rights and are liberated.”

The MP is also clear that it is for trans people to indicate when liberation is achieved. “It’s not for me, as a cis woman, to tell trans communities when they are liberated!” she exclaims.

But she adds: “It’s a structural, systemic, baked-in inequality and oppression. So the solution is not just about tinkering around the edges. Liberation is when all the structural barriers are removed: it’s about the right to health care, it’s about education.

“It’s about the fact that trans people are far more likely to be victims of domestic and sexual violence, rather than perpetrators.

“I’m a socialist. Trans rights and workers rights are an integral part of the class struggle.”

Finally, Nadia points – as people are wont to do – to the example of her mum, a woman in her fifties who was raised in a convent, didn’t get sex education in school, and has a lot of “cultural baggage” as a result.

“If my mum can be a trans ally and try to understand what it means to be non-binary, then anyone can.”

Swapping notes with the SNP’s Mhairi Black: ‘We disagree on Scottish independence, but we’re both socialists’

In a Guardian interview in January, Nadia Whittome said that she and Mhairi Black, the Scottish National Party MP, had swapped numbers. Did they ever go for that drink?

“So, we haven’t been for a proper drink yet,” Nadia says. “But we’ve hung out. We’ve had conversations on the terrace between votes.”

There’s solidarity between the two women because of their age and their queerness, but also, as Nadia points out, because they’re both progressive.

“Even though we’re in different parties, and we’ve got different views on the issue of Scottish independence, we’d both say that we’re socialist. We’re both feminists.”

Ending on this note, Nadia adds a final point: “And there is absolutely no conflict between being a feminist and being a trans ally. There is no conflict between the rights of trans people and the rights of cis women.

“In the fight against patriarchal violence, we should be natural allies.”

 

Indiana Continues Pressure on U.S. Supreme Court to Deny Same-Sex Parents’ Rights

Indiana Continues Pressure on U.S. Supreme Court to Deny Same-Sex

Indiana continues to press the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case that would deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be recognized as legal parents by being put on their children’s birth certificates. It doubled down in a brief filed with the court last week. Double down with me as we take a look at the case—and how parenting bloggers are inadvertently playing an odd role.

U.S. Supreme Court

The Case

Indiana is appealing a January 2020 ruling of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Box v. Henderson that said Indiana must put both same-sex spouses on the birth certificate of a child born to one of them. This right, recognized not only in that case but also in the 2017 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Pavan v. Smith, is crucial for giving children with same-sex parents the legal protection of both parents from the moment of birth.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, filed June 15th, however, Indiana maintains that the 7th Circuit ruling “is in tension with the traditional, constitutionally protected understanding that, at birth, only a baby’s biological parents have legal rights and obligations toward the child.”

In early November, however, the plaintiffs, eight female same-sex married (or previously married) couples and their children, filed a response to Indiana’s request that the Supreme Court take the case. As Mark Joseph Stern noted at Slate, this was by request of the court, and “This unusual step indicates that the justices are interested in taking up the case.” Indiana last week followed up with an additional filing of its own, responding to the plaintiff’s response.

I covered the case and its arguments in some detail in an earlier post. In brief, Indiana is arguing that it is basing its practice on biology, not on marital status. That way, it claims, it does not run afoul of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings about marital status: Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage for same-sex couples, and Pavan v. Smith, which said Arkansas may not prevent married same-sex couples from having both mothers’ names on their children’s birth certificates. Because those rulings only forbid discrimination on the basis of marital status, Indiana argues, discriminating on the basis of biology is just fine and dandy (my paraphrase).

Defining a Father

The plaintiffs’ recent response (PDF) to this argument noted that Indiana’s Birth Worksheet, which collects information for the birth certificate, “asks the mother if she is married to the child’s ‘father,’ and, if so, to identify him. It does not use the term ‘biological’ or otherwise indicate that the ‘father’ must have a genetic tie to the child.” Therefore, although Indiana says it “treats the term ‘father’ to mean ‘biological father,’” the plaintiffs say “that meaning is neither evident from the form nor supported by Indiana law, and it is contradicted by the form itself.” In other words, the plaintiffs argue, Indiana is not, as it claims, making its decisions based strictly on biology.

Indiana, in its latest response (PDF) to the plaintiffs, notes that it is true that the Birth Worksheet does not define “father” as meaning a biological father—but it then asks incredulously, “But what else would it mean?” It continues, “The word ‘father is commonly understood to mean ‘biological father’ or, as defined by Merriam-Webster, ‘a man who has begotten a child.’” That’s actually the second definition of “father” by Merriam-Webster. Conveniently, Indiana ignores the first definition, which is simply “A male parent,” no begetting necessary.

Next—and here’s the really ludicrous part—it tries to prove that “the word ‘father’ is commonly understood to mean ‘biological father’” by citing three posts by dad bloggers, at Dadtography, Dad Fixes Everything, and Mind Journal, that explore the differences between being a “father” and being a “dad.” Each argues that being a “father” is simply a matter of biology, whereas a “dad” is someone who is active in raising a child. Certainly some may make that argument—and I’m definitely all for encouraging men to be hands-on in their parenting. Yet Indiana’s lawyers are again being very selective in choosing these posts. These may be fine blogs, but we don’t know if they’re necessarily representative of widespread opinion. One can easily find just as many pieces by men who have adopted children, i.e., children not biologically related to them, and use the term “adoptive father.” (Here are one, two, three of them that I found fairly easily.) And the Dad Fixes Everything post they cite even undercuts the state’s argument by noting that “Merriam-Webster doesn’t offer much clarity on the difference between these two titles [dad and father] for men.”

Eggs-pert Opinion

Another point Indiana addresses in the new filing is when a couple (like one of the plaintiff couples), used one person’s egg and the other’s womb. In the initial filing, they called this “the rarest of cases” and said little more about it. (It’s not that rare; it’s the method my spouse and I used and I know plenty of other couples who have.) Indiana now notes that state law conveys biological parental rights on the egg donor, and claims that the State’s refusal to list the gestational mother on the child’s birth certificate (where she would have had to be listed in the “biological father” spot) is “reasonable,” since she is the child’s biological mother, not biological father. “Her remedy is to file a maternity action,” they say. That’s right: after nine months of pregnancy, even when married to the person who provided the egg, the state wants a mother to jump through legal hoops to prove her parenthood. A better answer: Change the form.

Looking Ahead

Indiana continues to press its case to a Supreme Court made even more conservative with the recent addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. It even directly addresses the conservative justices who dissented in Pavan, reminding them of their dissent and offering them here a chance to finally have their way (my bold):

As three [dissenting] justices recognized in Pavan, “nothing in Obergefell indicates that a birth registration regime based on biology, one no doubt with many analogues across the country and throughout history, offends the Constitution. To the contrary, to the extent they speak to the question at all, this Court’s precedents suggest just the opposite conclusion.” This case gives the Court a critical opportunity to clarify that States may, consistent with Obergefell and Pavan, establish a biology-based system for allocating parental rights (reflected on the child’s birth certificate) without insisting that every supposed biological parent undergo genetic testing and adjudication.

The two new filings from the plaintiffs and the state have been distributed to the court for its conference on December 11, when the justices will likely consider whether to take the case. If they do, it would still be months before a decision.

Yes, even if they take the case and rule in Indiana’s favor, nonbiological parents in same-sex couples could still get second-parent (co-parent) adoptions to secure their legal rights. Second-parent adoptions, however, usually cost several thousand dollars in attorney’s fees and require an intrusive home study, background check, and court appearance in most states (though a few are simplifying the process). They can also take months to complete, leaving a child without the legal protection of both parents during that time, and at risk if the biological mother dies or is incapacitated.

As always, I’ll remind readers that even if you’re a nonbiological/nongestational mother and are on your child’s birth certificate, you should still do a second-parent adoption if you can. Only an adoption or other court order of parentage is guaranteed “full faith and credit” by other states, and secures the nonbiological parent’s legal ties to the child regardless of marital status. See my October post for more information about this. Nevertheless, having accurate birth certificates is a vital right that not only gives children the immediate protection of both parents, but also gives parents a key document that is required for completing school registrations and other important forms in our children’s lives. Denying children of same-sex parents this right is discrimination, pure and simple.

The plaintiffs in Box v. Henderson have also argued that the Supreme Court does not usually take cases “to resolve questions of state law,” but that is what Indiana is asking it to do. The Court of Appeals “faithfully” applied both the Supreme Court decision in Pavan and state law, and so nothing in the case warrants the Supreme Court’s review, they assert. Let’s hope the Supreme Court agrees and refuses to take the case. If it doesn’t, the rights of queer families will once again be on the line.

The Fallen Tracee and Sex Industry Labor Rights in “The Sopranos”

The Fallen Tracee and Sex Industry Labor Rights in "The

Outside of the Bada Bing Club Tracee lights a cigarette, soon to be followed outside by Ralphie, her lover and effectively her boss; he works with and for the owner and famed New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano. Tracee had insulted Ralphie’s manhood inside the club in front of his friends, in most ways a lover’s quarrel. Ralphie plays a doting lover, putting forth ideas of suburban homes and their child that Tracee is pregnant with. Ralphie then switches to extreme cruelty, expressing that he hopes it isn’t a girl so she won’t end up a “cocksuckin’ slob just like her mother.” Tracee pushes, screams, and punches Ralphie in the face in anger, only to have her whole body slammed against the metal roadblocks and head caved in by Ralphie’s fist. Ralphie later claims that Tracee “fell,” which, to Tony Soprano’s credit, he calls bullshit on. But Tony exclaims that Ralphie was “disrespecting the Bing” — the club, not the woman — and even in death Ralphie blames her. “It’s my fault she’s a klutz?” When her dead body is discovered, Tony and the other mobsters at the Bing stare over her body. Tony exclaims, “Twenty years old, this girl!”

The University episode of The Sopranos is one of the most controversial episodes of the entire series due to the graphic nature of Tracee’s death, having resulted in an uptick of HBO subscription cancellations — at least according to the actress who plays Tracee, Ariel Kiley. It’s the only episode within The Sopranos in which the audience can see how the New Jersey mobsters that make up Soprano’s men interact with their employees at the Bada Bing Club. It’s not that the Bing isn’t featured in The Sopranos otherwise; quite the opposite. The Bada Bing Club is in almost every episode, serving as a space for Tony Soprano’s men to not just make money but also to take out their own lack of emotional regulation on the club’s employees, from the bouncers to the dancers. But the University episode is the only one in which any of the dancers actually talks in any meaningful way; where she’s more than just an intro shot while dancing or background as grown men play at big crime. Tracee, the only named and personified stripper of the Bada Bing Club, is often brought up as an example of how The Sopranos treats women horribly — which is also true. Women are treated horribly on The Sopranos, but the reality is that if one only takes away from The University episode that the show has a problem with misogyny, well they would be actively ignoring the fact that Tracee’s murder at the hands of Ralphie didn’t just happen because she was a woman, it happened (and is excused in the world of The Sopranos time and time again) because she was a sex worker.

Every aspect of the targeted violence against Tracee, outside of the systemic violence of poverty and misogyny, happened to her directly due to her work at the Bada Bing Club. Violence from her bosses (Silvio punched her in the face because she didn’t show up to work for three days, and her lover Ralphie, a made man, technically is one of her bosses), coercive sex with a cop, and her eventual gruesome murder — which is of course then covered up quickly. Her death is but a plot point to make Tony seem sympathetic through his emotional connection to her death — but the way he justifies his interest in her death is because it “disrespected the Bing” and he constantly underplays throughout the whole third season (and into the fourth) the clear impact Tracee’s death had on him. Tracee’s death is used as a plotline for Tony’s humanization. Their connection, however minor, had an impact on Tony and him holding a grudge towards Ralphie for her death is meant to humanize Tony. As Tony is a narcissist though, it’s much more likely that he was using even her dead corpse as a way to have attention and command power. That’s not to say he didn’t care for her on some level; but that if he really cared for her, wouldn’t she have had better working conditions in the club? For some reason he couldn’t admit to the shame of grieving a whore, which is what he’s reminded of every time he would bring up her death. “But Tony, she was a whore.”

It’s difficult to watch the scene where Ralph kills Tracee for basically anyone with a stomach – and a heart – but as someone who had been literally beaten by a client while working in an abusive dungeon, watching that episode wrecked me. Not because a woman had been murdered on the screen but because a sex worker had, so brutally, and her blood-coated body was voyeuristically stared at by everyone. There is no other woman on the show who is beaten so brutally; there’s none other whose death is meant to be a statement on her life. Men in The Sopranos aren’t known for necessarily treating women amazingly but the levels of targeted disgust, control, and humiliation that was extended to Tracee would never have happened to a non sex-working woman on the show. It’s also interesting to note that Ariel Kiley, the actress who portrayed Tracee in the show, blogged that James Gandolfini himself actually made the decision to exclaim after Tracee was murdered, “Oh god, so young, only twenty years old.” The original screenplay actually had Soprano telling his men to be careful to not get blood on the carpet they were rolling her body up in. Gandolfini was right to know that the audience would react poorly to his character going the uncaring route, so instead they attached Tracee’s death to some kind of indicator of Soprano’s morality. Like yes, he is a mobster, but look at his unspoken grief? When he finally beats Ralphie to death over an abused horse (in the eleventh episode of season five, The Test Dream, which resulted in a write up in The Baltimore Sun mourning Ralpie’s death), he screams “You fucking killed her!” and we all know he’s not talking about the horse.

Even good criticisms of the show’s misogyny in this episode (and generally), do not really emphasize the fact that Tracee was a stripper. When they do, it’s always to fall into the Madonna-Whore Comparative narrative of Meadow, Tony’s daughter who loses her virginity in the same episode, and Tracee being painted of course as this victim of circumstance. The audience is meant to grasp that Meadow has been given every opportunity in life, both educationally as well as within her romantic and familial relationships. She goes to Columbia, she’s able to pursue men at her own pace sexually and she has her mother Carmela, Tony’s wife, who can offer her support. Tracee, on the other hand, grew up with an abusive mother, has a child by the age of twenty (she was pregnant with a second child at the time of her murder), and works in an exploitative working environment The Bada Bing Club. To be clear, there is nothing inherently exploitative about stripping (nor sex work in general), but the working conditions of that specific club were atrocious.

There is a lot to be said about the odd parallels of various kinds of organized criminalized labor and the often gendered (even though, not always) differences of the work, the fact that the Bada Bing Club itself serves as almost a junction of mob crime along with stripping. It’s interesting that in the world of The Sopranos their work is completely respectable, despite the body count, while with Tracee in her contexts the route that The Sopranos chose to go, instead of a thorough exploration of how these worlds intersect, the route of doom for the “fallen woman,” while their made men get big homes and outwardly happy families. Sex work is often a way for people to work their way out of poverty into levels of financial stability; Tracee was denied this dream and even have it laughed in her face right before she’s murdered.

The working conditions at the Bada Bing Club are obvious from the get go because the bouncer of the VIP room directly states that if you want to go to the VIP room and make a couple grand, you have to pay out to him AND give him a blowjob. This conversation happens twice, in the beginning of the episode and after Tracee’s murder, while the bouncer talks to the new girl hired (it’s implied she was hired to make up for the loss of Tracee in the money pool). This is also a very clear sign of an abusive working environment when you’re a sex worker in a managed space, not just the demands for extras but the fact that often the workers are so in and out that it’s barely noticed when they are gone.

If you work in a semi-criminalized to fully criminalized work environment, there is often no way to organize as workers, or organizing is perilous. There are no sort of protections of any sort and often the law is against you, which can be seen by the scene of Ralphie rawing Tracee as she’s forced to suck the cock of a gross cop. It’s common for sex workers to be raped by cops, both by going undercover as clients and arresting them afterwards, as well as extorting money or threatening arrest. In a study mentioned in a SWOP USA report in New York City, up to 17% of sex workers interviewed reported sexual harrassment and abuse, including rape, at the hands of the police. The likelihood of cop harassment increases if you work outdoors and are at a higher threat of surveillance; however, it can and does happen in managed spaces as well with a Chicago study referenced in the same report 30% of erotic dancers in managed spaces and 24% of street-based sex workers identified a police offer as their rapist.

When they include the brief scene of Tracee being eiffel towered with Ralph and the cop, they expressed the clear relationship between law enforcement and abusive working environments in sex work. Margaret Prescod, Founder of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, was correct in declaring that law enforcement was designed to “uphold men’s power over women in order to uphold their own power over everyone.” Even though she may have been referring to law enforcement’s tendency to ignore the serial murders of Black sex workers in Los Angeles in the 1980s at the hands of The Grim Sleeper, it’s important to be reminded that when sex workers are murder victims, especially those who work outdoors under high police and societal surveillance, their cases are labeled by law enforcement NHI, or “No Human Involved.” This term is often also used for those who are houseless or have a history of chronic drug use.

When Tracee is found dead by Ralphie’s hands, they know they have no reason to worry, because no one is coming to check up on her. The tail end of the episode shows girls gossiping at the Bada Bing about what they think could have happened to Tracee: “I heard she went outside with Ralphie and never came back.” Her co-worker replies, “Do yourself a favor, keep what you hear to yourself.” Sometimes working conditions can feel hopeless; it can feel safer to watch your own neck than show solidarity with your fellow worker. But also one can hardly blame other sex workers for trying to navigate a managed space in a criminalized system. It took me a long time to move past the fact no one came and checked in on me when I was being beaten, despite my audible yelling rooms away. It took me an even longer time to rightfully place the blame on the owner who allowed the man that beat me to return to the dungeon, even begging me to allow him a chance to “apologize” for crossing my boundaries. Managed spaces that toe the line between the civilian and criminal worlds, a part of the demimonde if you will, create difficult conditions for labor organizing because the only recognized labor deserving of protections in the eyes of society is labor that isn’t criminalized. This is seen in how the club operates with law enforcement to keep the status quo, to keep the club worker in line and silent, still allowing 50% of the profits to go to men who aren’t even in the room half the time. Envisioning a world where Tracee isn’t murdered, gets radicalized and tries to organize the club, we know Tony would have her clipped, so it’s ironic that her death is used to highlight “Tony’s Humanity,” when in all reality even if Tony did care for Tracee, he cared about his bottom line more.

The facts are that Tony Soprano made Ralphie a Captain, promoting him in the structure of the mob, after murdering Tracee, even if it was only because he felt he had no other option. Despite Tony’s disgust for Ralphie, again he chooses what he’s “supposed” to do for his business instead of processing his anger over Tracee’s death. Ralphie got to wipe Tracee’s murder out of his life, her presence barely noticed when gone, just another body on the long list of bodies that exist in the wake of the New Jersey and New York City mobsters. Tracee never gets a funeral.

But unlike the other bodies on that long list, Tracee existed to fill an archetype: the hooker with a heart of gold, the woman fallen from grace, Tony’s make-shift daughter, the whore to Meadow’s madonna. She is written so as to be pitied, a poor girl with a hard and bluntly ended life. It is also very clear from the get go that we are not to expect good things for her — after all, every time Tracee’s onscreen it’s for the audience to be reminded of how her fate is inevitably, irrelevant of what it is, completely out of her control. Either she stays at the club after an abortion, marries Ralphie, has the kid, and really gets that dreamy suburban existence never promised to girls like her, or she ends up staining some mobster’s carpet. Maybe it’s due to the brevity of her character’s presence on the show, but Tracee’s character was never allowed the nuance for an attempt at autonomy or control; she is ripped from the chance therefore forever stuck as a disposable whore to the criminals of the mob. Criminals who also approach each other with various levels of disposability, but allow real grief to coexist with that. They might kill each other but they’ll show up at the funeral and make sure their wives are taken care of after the fact — what of Tracee’s family? The Sopranos chose to let her stain the carpet but she could never get a normal good work environment nor could she lift herself up outside of poverty into some sort of middle class wet dream. Representations of sex workers in television so often exist to remind us that horrible things are not only expected for us but inevitable, excusable, and necessary for story development. When Tony Soprano has to grasp his grief over Tracee’s death, he can only comprehend his pain in the personification of Tracee through a horse named Pie-Oh-My. It’s telling that the only acceptable thing to grieve in his world is his dead horse; whenever Tracee is brought up mournfully, people downplay her death with her status as a sex worker.

When will the day come where we have representation in which we are not dead at the end, abused, or exploited? When will we have our days in the sun, with stories of joy and community? In some ways The Sopranos portrayal of Tracee did allow for levels of connection to sex working characters that many audiences usually wouldn’t have had at that time (the episode aired April 1 2001; Tracee died before 9/11). However, even the things that they use to humanize her are based in pity for her life. This often happens in portrayals of people who trade sex: they’ve gotten caught up in something outside of their control, they’re going to be harmed, and even if they have a heart of gold, they’re going to be victimized in some way. In reality, even though there are people who are survivors within the sex industry, the things that lead to victimization is the combination of criminalization, stigma, and poverty. Imagine a world where Tracee wouldn’t have had to suck that cop off because she wouldn’t have had the law at her throat for saying no. Imagine a world where she could sue Silvio for punching her in the face. There are so many creative and innovative routes a person’s life can take; so why do so many media portrayals attempt to decide our destinies for us? I would love to know in the current timeline in The Sopranos reality if the Bada Bing still exists and if the dancers have more control of the business now; I want a Bada Bing Club Collective. The Sopranos is an amazing story that still rightfully grips audiences to this day, but imagine an alternative world where Tracee survived, where she got revenge on Ralphie and Tony let her walk scot free. Imagine if our liberation was a plotpoint instead of our demise? The Sopranos wasn’t willing to.

Priti Patel becomes an unlikely bottom rights advocate with plan to fully decriminalise the sale of poppers

Priti Patel becomes an unlikely bottom rights advocate with plan

The UK’s notoriously anti-LGBT home secretary Priti Patel is planning to fully decriminalise the sale of poppers.

Not usually known for liberal stances on anything, Patel confirmed on Wednesday that she is “minded” to explicitly exempt poppers from laws banning former ‘legal highs’.

Alkyl nitrites, popularly known as poppers, are sold in the UK as room odourisers but are commonly inhaled recreationally. The drugs are particularly popular among gay men, both as a party high and because they relax the anal sphincter muscles for anal sex.

Plans to ban poppers were put forward in 2016 by then-home secretary Theresa May as part of a crackdown on ‘legal high’ drugs, but the drugs were confirmed to be exempt from the law after a revolt from gay Tory MPs.

At the time, the technical exemption was made on the basis that the drugs only have an “indirect” psychoactive effect – but subsequent legal rulings have cast doubt over whether they are sufficiently cleared from impact by the legislation.

Priti Patel is ‘minded to explicitly exempt’ poppers from blanket drugs ban

On Wednesday, Patel requested advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on carving out a more explicit exemption from drug laws for poppers, in a letter setting out “the Government’s priorities for the ACMD work programme commissioned for the next three years.”

In the letter, first reported by the BBC, the lifelong opponent of LGBT+ rights noted the use of drugs “by homosexual men as an aid to sex.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel
Home Secretary Priti Patel (Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

She wrote: “The lawfulness of the supply of poppers is [currently] uncertain. I am minded to remove this uncertainty by explicitly exempting poppers from the 2016 Act.

“I would seek the ACMD’s advice on an exemption. My officials will work with you to provide more detail on the proposed wording of an exemption as you consider the issue.”

The issue is listed as the lowest priority of those outlined, which also includes a request for an investigation into cocaine use by young men, and “advice and analysis of trends in drug trafficking on the dark net”.

Poppers are not addictive, but ‘excessive’ use can have long-term problems

A 2019 study of poppers use in Australia concluded that there is little evidence to suggest they are in any way addictive or detrimental to mental health.

The research by the University of Technology in Sydney, which involved 800 gay and bisexual men, found that the drug does not show “typical dependency characteristics, including health, social, legal and financial problems, and no correlation between popper use and mental health or psychological stress.”

Although poppers may not be addictive, they are not without some long-term health risks and should be used sparingly.

Poppers increase blood pressure which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. If inhaled excessively, the chances of a drop in blood pressure and fainting are higher, along with vomiting and struggling to breathe. Studies have also indicated that they could cause other lasting damage to your eyesight, sexual performance and immune system.

Florida student regains bathroom access in major win for transgender rights

Florida student regains bathroom access in major win for transgender

A federal appeals court delivered a major victory in transgender rights by ruling a Florida high school violated the law by refusing to allow transgender student Andrew Cody Adams to use the restroom consistent with his gender identity.

The decision relies heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination.

Adams, now 19 and a former student at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla., said in a statement he’s “very happy to see justice prevail, after spending almost my entire high school career fighting for equal treatment.”

“High school is hard enough without having your school separate you from your peers and mark you as inferior,” Adams said. “I hope this decision helps save other transgender students from having to go through that painful and humiliating experience.”

Tara Borelli, counsel at the LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal, which represents Adams, said in a statement the court “sent a clear message that schools must treat transgender students with the same dignity and respect as any other student.”

“The trial court was correct when it ruled that the law requires that Drew Adams be treated like every other boy and be allowed to use the boys’ restroom,” Borelli said. “We are glad the court saw the school board’s policy as unjust and discriminatory, and affirmed the inherent dignity of transgender students.”

via Washington Blade

Surprise surprise, the ‘toxic debate’ around trans rights is harming the UK, says expert

trans-rights-2020-world-health-organization-gender-identity-disorder

Thousands of transgender people and their allies take to the streets for London’s first ever Trans+ Pride march on 14 September, 2019. (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The departing chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said that the “toxic debate” over trans rights will prove damaging to UK society if it continues.

Wow. We, for one, are well and truly shocked by this.

David Isaac, who departed Saturday (August 8) following four years at the agency, suggested in an interview with The Observer that “both groups” may have more in common than believed and urged them to engage in “respectful listening” to move forward.

But while a “toxic” atmosphere may pervade online chatrooms and social media websites, the trans rights debate in the UK is undoubtedly weighted.

As rumours heave that the ruling Conservative Party are set to roll back trans rights in what activists are comparing to “Section 28”, monitoring groups have highlighted that the trans community are hounded, dehumanised and demonised by the UK’s mainstream media on a regular basis.

Crucial reforms to the Gender Recognition Act  – the bedrock of gender recognition law in the UK – have been punctured by delays, seeding a drawn-out battle steeped in transphobic vitriol from some lawmakers and anti-trans groups determined to stymie the life-changing reforms.

Trans folk have, in the meantime, been subjected to rocketing rates of discrimination against them, whether it be the biting words from columnists or transphobia that curdles into violence.

Former head of top human rights group: ‘Toxic debate is shutting down freedom of expression and stifling discussion’.

“We’ve been calling for greater protection for trans people, but I’m concerned, not just about the polarisation, but also the toxic nature of debate, which is about shutting down freedom of expression and stifling discussion,” Isaac said.

“We have to acknowledge there are lots of difficult issues in relation to women-only spaces, but shouting at each other doesn’t help anybody. We need to move beyond that toxic debate so talking to each other, engaging in respectful listening even if you disagree, that’s the way forward.”

Isaac stressed that the EHRC supports the GRA reforms, which make it easier for trans folk to acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate, which, in the eyes of the law, recognised that their gender identity matches that of their sex.

These reforms are also overwhelmingly supported by women – 57 per cent – according to a YouGov poll on behalf of PinkNews. 

‘We as a society would suffer enormously if in a decade’s time we were still having this debate.’

Isaac urged the two camps to “listen to other views”.

“There are lots of women who have been physically abused who are fearful, and we’ve got both groups who are anxious about being physically abused and are the subject of hate crimes, and this is currently the very thing that unites them,” he said.

“It’s just that we’ve got a few areas [where there is disagreement] – toilets, refugees and the age at which young people can actually begin treatment or block their hormone development – but on the rest there is real consensus, and we never talk about that.”

The GRA reforms have been repeatedly hampered by government ministers, which Isaac said was “disappointing”. He called on decision-makers to look to countries such as France, where trans folk can change necessary gender markers without medical or government intervention, as a blueprint.

However, he said that such counties are “are more liberal environments where there is less polarisation,” reflecting a recent report by the European Commission that placed the UK’s legal recognition of trans people among the very worst in Europe.

“They haven’t had the same toxic debate, and we need to learn from that and work out how we can replicate that,” he said.

“We as a society would suffer enormously if in a decade’s time we were still having this debate.”

 

After 15 years, our dedication to LGBT rights remains the same

Anthony James and Benjamin Cohen outside Downing Street

Today marks 15 years since PinkNews founder Benjamin Cohen put the very first rudimentary version of this website live. He’s been reflecting on the past 15 years in this Twitter thread.

You can join MyPinkNews here.

Making it Easier to Secure Nonbiological Parents’ Rights: Take Action in 3 States

Making it Easier to Secure Nonbiological Parents' Rights: Take Action

Yes, even in Massachusetts, which led the nation in marriage equality, married same-sex couples who use assisted reproduction still need to do lengthy, expensive, and intrusive second-parent adoptions in order for their children to have ironclad legal ties to both parents. A new bill would greatly simplify the process. Bills in New Hampshire and Rhode Island would also streamline the recognition of nonbiological parents—but they all need your support.Crib

It’s true that married same-sex couples who use assisted reproduction in any state may now put both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates—the U.S. Supreme Court said so. (Indiana wants to change that, but that’s another post.) Birth certificates do not have the legal weight of an adoption or court order of parentage, however, especially across state and national boundaries. Every major LGBTQ legal organization has long advised the nonbiological or nongestational member of such couples to get second-parent adoptions or parentage orders.

Second-parent adoptions (or “confirmatory adoptions,” in newer parlance) in Massachusetts (and most other states), however, cost money (usually two to three thousand dollars) and require an intrusive home study, a court appearance, a background check, a notice to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), a missing children’s register search, and a minimum residency period. Whew. The process cannot be started until the child is born, and then usually take several months, leaving the child vulnerable should something happen to the biological or gestational parent.

Bills currently in the Massachusetts Legislature, H.1485 in the House and the identical S.1013 in the Senate, would remove all of the above burdens and merely require same-sex couples, married or not, to submit some paperwork in order to do a second-parent adoption—no lawyer, court appearance, home study, or any of the other stuff needed. Not only is this easier on the couples, but it reduces the burden on DCF and the courts, thus also reducing the cost to the state. The bills have been voted out of committee; they now need to come to a vote on the floor.

Sarah Prager, a Massachusetts mom (and the author of two great books on LGBTQ history), shared with me her personal experience and why she believes this legislation is so important:

After you’ve wanted to have this child together, figured out conception together, been there through the pregnancy and delivery, cut the cord, been up in the middle of the night, and every single other thing a parent does when their child comes from one of the people in a marriage’s body, adopting that child feels like an insult, as if the child were not already yours. The fact that we have to do it at all is a problem, but as long as we don’t have a biological connection we do have to protect ourselves. The least the state can do is make that process less painful for us by not requiring humiliating home visits, court appearances that require time off of work, or invasive questionnaires. This bill would change the current process to just a few simple, clear forms to be mailed in, which would help families like ours immensely.

My own experience supports this. My spouse and I lived in New Jersey when we started our family via reciprocal IVF (my egg, her womb) nearly two decades ago. I would have had to adopt my own genetic son, but we worked with a lawyer to petition the court for a pre-birth order of parentage. We still had to pay the lawyer and make a court appearance, but we were both legal parents from the moment of birth and avoided both the home study and the absurdity of me having to adopt a child who carries my DNA. Now we live in Massachusetts, and I’m committed to helping improve the process here as well, especially since the state has had second-parent adoptions since 1993. It’s about damn time the process caught up with the reality of our families.

The New Hampshire Legislature also recently passed similar legislation, which provides a simplified second-parent adoption process (and also expands it to include unmarried parents). It awaits Gov. Chris Sununu’s (R) signature; GLAD is urging people to contact him about this.

Simplified processes for recognizing nonbiological/nongestational parents are a growing trend. California has had such a process since 2015 and New Jersey enacted similar legislation earlier this year. Several other states have also enacted slightly different methods for quickly and easily securing a nonbiological/nongestational parent’s rights—California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Washington State now offer simple, free Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) forms that can be filled out at the hospital. (See my longer post about them.) Massachusetts offers these as well, but only for unmarried couples (though another bill now in committee, H. 139, would expand them to married couples).

Legislation pending in Rhode Island could mean VAPs there as well; the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, H7541, includes them among several updates to parenting laws in the state. It was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee last week and will get floor votes in both Houses on July 16.

If you live in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island, now is the time to take action.

  • In Massachusetts, call or e-mail your state senators and representatives immediately (the legislative session ends July 31) and ask them to support passage of H.1485 and S.1013. Also call Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D; 617.722.1500) and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (D; 617.722.2500). If you have a compelling personal story, by all means share it. GLAD and MassEquality in a webinar on July 10 also suggested emphasizing increased efficiency (less clogging of the courts; less burden on DCF) and reduced costs—practical considerations that may sway lawmakers. A few other talking points are on this Fact Sheet from GLAD (pdf).
  • In New Hampshire, call Governor Sununu’s office at 603.271.2121 and ask him to sign HB1162.
  • In Rhode Island, call or e-mail your representatives and senators this week, before the vote on Thursday, and ask them to support the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, H7541. Find a sample letter here.

If you don’t live in these states but have friends or family there, please pass on this information. Follow GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders for updates on this and other legislation in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and other New England states.

Thanks to Patience Crozier, GLAD senior staff attorney, for providing me with some background for this piece.

SCOTUS victory for LGBTQ rights – Lesbian.com

SCOTUS victory for LGBTQ rights – Lesbian.com

BY NCLR

“For the first time, this historic decision ensures that LGBTQ people have nationwide employment protection and represents a monumental step that will help to create a safer working environment for everyone.” — Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR Executive Director

To say we were happily surprised this morning is an understatement. Just last week the federal administration repealed HHS rules protecting LGBTQ people from denials of healthcare, even though the Affordable Care Act prohibits such discrimination. That callous targeting of vulnerable communities happened on the same day we remembered and mourned those lives lost in the Pulse Orlando shooting.

Today is a celebration! The Supreme Court of the United States has now issued its ruling in three Title VII cases, holding —in no uncertain terms— that LGBTQ people ARE protected from discrimination under federal law.

“This is a huge victory not just for LGBTQ people, but for our country, which benefits enormously when LGBTQ people are permitted to participate and contribute on equal terms,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of NCLR. “Today’s decision will be remembered as a watershed in the history of LGBTQ rights, even as our country continues to grapple with the brutal legacy of racism. The transgender movement owes a particular debt of gratitude to Aimee Stephens, who courageously fought this battle in the final months of her life.” — Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director

WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU: HISTORIC SUPREME COURT TITLE VII RULING
with NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
12:00 PM (PT)/3:00 PM (ET)
REGISTER NOW

While LGBTQ people now have legal protection from discrimination at work, we still have a long way to go to secure comprehensive federal protections for our community. But this ruling gives us something we haven’t had in a long time: Hope. This ruling opens the door to progress. We will continue to fight for equality and we will continue to win.

Tags: lesbian legal rights, lesbian rights, NCLR

Posted & filed under Activism.