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CI: Remembering Transgender Victims of Structural Violence

November 21, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, LGBTQ

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Remembering Transgender Victims of Structural Violence
by nancy a heitzeg

For Venus Xtravaganza, Brandon Teena and  more..

Tuesday, November 20th, was The International Day of Transgender Remembrance. This annual event honors those world-wide who have been the victims of anti-trans violence, a violence that is rooted in personal bias and, ultimately fear. Surely there are many victims here  – 265 were commemorated this year.. The transgendered are targeted for interpersonal violence at a stunning rate; a  report from The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs indicates that trans-women in particular make up nearly 50% of all LGBT murders annually.

But the violence experienced by the transgendered – indeed by all oppressed peoples – is structural  as well. Whatever the immediate toll of direct interpersonal violence, the daily grind of systematic barriers carries an immeasurable impact too. In a culture dominated by a rigid gender binary - one linked closely with compulsive heterosexuality – the transgendered face marginalization at many turns —  employment, housing, health care and more. (Tragically, given their major contributions to Gay Liberation, the transgendered often experience marginalization within the mainstream gay/lesbian movement as well.)

Such extreme marginalization not only creates the context that makes the transgendered targets of interpersonal violence, it is in effect a violence of its own. As Iris Marion Young notes in Five Faces of Oppression:

“Many groups suffer the oppression of systemic violence…Violence is systemic because it is directed at members of a group simply because they are members of that group… Violence is a social practice…

Group-directed violence is institutionalized and systemic. To the degree that institutions and social practices encourage, tolerate, or enable the perpetration of this violence, these institutions and practices are unjust and should be reformed.”

Of all the systemic violence experienced by the transgendered, perhaps none is so direct and well-documented as that meted out by the criminal injustice system. (Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie and Kay Whitlock is the definitive sources on the range of abuses here.) At every juncture from policing to prison, the transgendered suffer the systems’ extremes of violence and abuse. Of course, this intersects as always with race/ethnicity and class as documented below by the flow chart form the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

Today, we would like to take a moment to honor and acknowledge those transgender victims of structural violence, remembering those, be they alive or dead, who have suffered at the hand of the legal system, who have endured  criminal injustice. We highlight a few names, a few stories, with the knowledge that there are many many more to be told.

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CI: Queer (In)Justice ~ Winner of 2011 PASS Award

April 04, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal InJustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm CST.

Queer (In)Justice ~ Winner of 2011 PASS Award
by nancy a heitzeg

Each year, The National Council on Crime and Delinquency acknowledges outstanding contributions to public education on issue of criminal justice with the PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Awards.

The PASS Awards (Prevention for a Safer Society) is the only national recognition of print and broadcast journalists, TV news and feature reporters, producers, writers, and those in film and literature who try to focus America’s attention on our criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems in a thoughtful and considerate manner.

NCCD established the PASS Awards to recognize and honor the media’s success in illuminating stories that further public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare issues. NCCD is seeking stories that illustrate current realities or the promise of reform, especially those that help people understand the complex causes of crime and what must be done to prevent and control it. A critical link in successful policies related to these issues is the education of the public. The media is uniquely positioned to be this link, and we gratefully acknowledge their efforts to fulfill that responsibility.

Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie and Kay Whitlock is one of the most deserving recipients of the 2011 Award.

Congratulations!

Queer (In)Justice has rightly been described as “ground-breaking”, “powerful and productively disorienting” and “revolutionary”.

It is all that and more. Queer (In)Justice offers an intersectional analysis of the ways in which “criminalizing archetypes” shape the policing and punishment of sexuality/gender/race/class and offers a much needed critique of “hate crime” legislation and the pitfalls of continued reliance on the old law and order paradigms in pursuit of equality. Doug Ireland in his review, “Outlaws Still” says it best :

“Mogul, Ritchie, and Whitlock have collected — with meticulous, footnoted scholarship — a compendium of utterly revolting but perfectly legal persecutions of queer Americans. These stomach-turning horror stories won’t be familiar to the people who frequent those pricey, black-tie fundraisers given by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, because they mostly concern people of color, or the poor, or gender-benders, and thus often receive little publicity…

Queer (In)Justice ought to be force-fed to the staffs and boards of directors of every national and state gay organization in the hope that it might open their eyes to a reality they too often deliberately ignore. And if the Gill Foundation wants to do something useful, it should buy copies of this book in bulk, distribute them to those closed-door “Outgiving” conferences of fat-cats whose big checks have such inordinate sway in determining the “gay agenda,” and invite the trio of its activist-authors to address them.

Needless to say, dear reader, you too should make sure Queer (In)Justice has a place on your bookshelf. It’s that important.”

Yes it is. If you haven’t read it yet — please do.

In celebration of the PASS Award, Criminal InJustice is pleased to re-publish an interview with the authors. So much gratitude to all of them for this path-breaking work, and especially, here to Kay Whitlock, one of the original editors of the Criminal InJustice Series, our comrade in abolition/transformative justice, and most importantly , our friend.

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