poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Friday, July 16, 2004

Transsexual Cop Wages Human Rights Battle With Toronto Force
by Jan Prout Newscenter
Toronto Bureau 

(Toronto, Ontario)  Two weeks after Toronto Police chief Julian Fantino hosted a gay pride event in the city's gay village a transgendered police officer has gone public with her experiences of bias and abuse by the force.

Bonnie Henderson, 51, left the force two years ago and has been waging a battle with the force before Ontario's Human Rights Commission.

As Constable Ron Henderson, she was a model police officer with a stellar record.  She says that upon revealing to her superiors that she is transsexual and was about to undergo transitioning she was transferred from her duties as a school liaison officer.  As Constable Bonnie Henderson she was subjected to constant discriminatory behavior.

The abuse, she says in a complaint to the Commission, became so bad she felt compelled to leave the force. She now lives on a reduced police pension and was forced to put her home up for sale to pay for her surgery.


Police seek Jamaican singer after armed attack on gay men
Gary Younge in Chicago
The Guardian

One of Jamaica's most famous dancehall singers, Buju Banton, is being sought by police in Jamaica in connection with a homophobic attack on a group of gay men.

Mr Banton was allegedly one of a group of about a dozen armed men who forced their way into a house in Kingston on the morning of June 24 and beat up the occupants while shouting homophobic insults, according to the victims.

At least two people were taken to the hospital. Mr Banton - whose song Boom Boom Bye Bye threatens gay men with a "gunshot in ah head" - was identified by several witnesses and is wanted for questioning.

"There is a pattern of police indifference to attacks on gay men in Jamaica that goes far beyond what Buju Banton is alleged to have done in this case," said Rebecca Schleiser of Human Rights Watch, who has spoken to several of the victims. "Neither his fame nor the stigma attached to the victims should stand in the way of a full, fair and complete police investigation."


Law Profs Allowed to Sue Rumsfeld
Alleged violation of Yale faculty's free speech rights a sufficiently concrete injury to compel litigation
Lisa Siegel
The Connecticut Law Tribune

Forty-four faculty members of Yale Law School have won standing to proceed with their suit against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld over the Pentagon's demand for on-campus military recruiting in spite of its prohibition on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers.

In an early courtroom battle, U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall also found the controversy is ripe for adjudication.

The suit arose over the Department of Defense's threats to withdraw over $300 million in federal funding if the law school didn't include military recruitment in the career development services it provides to students. Ruling that the plaintiffs have standing, Hall noted that, although the university stands to lose the funding, it is the individual faculty members who are compelled "to choose between the exercise of their constitutional rights and federal funding for themselves, Yale Law School and Yale University."

Since 1978, the law school has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In light of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on homosexuals serving in the military, the defense department refused to certify compliance with Yale Law's nondiscrimination rules and military recruiters were barred from using the school's career development office, though they were given access to classrooms and other meeting spaces, as well as students' names and phone numbers.


Why some queer political activists are raising questions about the limits and long-term worth of same-sex marriage

IT LOOKS LIKE same-sex marriage is here to stay. It’s even beginning to look downright patriotic. Last weekend, on the Fourth of July, Cambridge saw one of its most prominent lesbian couples marry at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. Professor Diana Eck, of Harvard Divinity School, and her partner, the Reverend Dorothy Austin, who ministers at the famed church, wed amid a crowd of well-wishers that included Supreme Judicial Court chief justice Margaret Marshall. And not only did the brides purposely choose Independence Day for their nuptials, the ceremony’s final hymn was "America" ("My Country ’Tis of Thee"). Take that, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

But even though winning Goodridge v. Department of Public Health — and defeating various challenges to it so far — has redeemed the American Way of Life for many gay men and lesbians, some queer political activists are raising questions about the limits and long-term worth of same-sex marriage. It’s not that these activists don’t believe that same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Rather, the vital questions they pose are, "What might we lose, and who might be harmed by same-sex marriage?"

Such questions stem from a longstanding division among queer activists dating back to the ’60s. One side has stood firmly for gaining equal rights, while the other, "liberationist" side has celebrated a politics of difference, arguing that gay culture has its own ethos from which straight people could learn a thing or two about justice and love. Not surprisingly, this debate has resurfaced in what many in the gay community are calling "the great divide" over the fight for same-sex marriage.

What’s interesting this time around, however, is that alongside the well-worn plea for gay cultural liberation is emerging a critique of gay marriage based on class rather than culture. Indeed, the push to legalize same-sex marriage has been so rushed and emotionally heady — no one, not even the litigators who fought so hard for it, thought we’d win anytime soon — that complicated legal issues with particular implications for the working poor and people of color were quite simply ignored. Couple that with the desire among many gay and lesbian people to be "normal," and the result has been that a lot of thinking has taken place inside the box — and a very small box, at that.


O'Reilly misleading on same-sex marriage ... again

On the same day that Media Matters for America exposed FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly distorting same-sex marriage poll data on the July 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, he misled viewers on the issue again.

O'Reilly billed the "Talking Points Memo" segment of his July 15 show as "[t]he whole truth about same-sex marriage"; yet seconds later, he said the following: "As far as the constitutional amendment is concerned, most polls say more than half the nation wants man-woman marriage to have constitutional protection, but it will not happen because the Senate will not approve it and that's that."

O'Reilly's statement was misleading because it addressed only those polls that present the question of a constitutional amendment on marriage in a particular way. The truth is that while polls show that Americans largely oppose same-sex marriage, they also indicate that if the question offers the alternative of deciding the issue at the state level, the public prefers that over a federal constitutional amendment. As Media Matters for America previously explained, a survey (pdf) by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania from late June indicates that 48 percent of Americans oppose "an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that no state can allow two men or two women to marry each other," while only 43 percent are in favor. An ABC News/Washington Post poll (pdf) from early March showed 53 percent in favor of letting states decide the question, compared with 44 percent in favor of an amendment.

A minority of polls (see a roundup of contrasting polls here [no subscription required] or a more complete compilation here [ subscription required]) appear to show the public favoring a constitutional amendment; however, as ABC News explained in an analysis accompanying its January survey, poll results on this issue are unusually sensitive to the precise wording of the question. In general, respondents are less likely to say they favor an amendment if the questioner offers the alternative option of letting states decide the issue; they are more likely to favor the amendment when the questioner describes the proposed amendment as defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman -- but less likely again if they are explicitly informed that the effect would be to legally ban same-sex marriage.


Beyond the Witch Hunt
Reporters' access to a wider world may distance us from the public.

By Mary Sanchez

I recently began a column: "The witch hunt for the lesbians began my senior year."

The column generated much response, most of it positive. But in talking with readers who raised questions about it, I was reminded that with access comes responsibility. 
As reporters, we often experience a broader and different swath of the world than the average person. Most of us know this. The chance to live in a wider range of society is one of the reasons we are drawn to this work. But I wonder if this broadening that deepens reporters also distances us from the general public we try to reach. More on that in a moment. First, more of the column:

The witch hunt for the lesbians began my senior year.


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