Saturday, November 27, 2010

Drop It Like It's Hot

Good morning everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.  Part of what makes Womanist Musings a community, is our willingness to take on subjects that others completely avoid.  If you would like to participate in the conversations that happen here, please send a link to your blog or your original work to womanistmusings (at) gmail (dot) com. Please include a three line bio and an image that you would like associated with your work

It is clear to me that the regulars on this blog love to read as much as I do.  I was wondering if anyone would be interested in participating in a group discussion of a book - a sort of online book club?  Feel free to nominate a few books in the comment section.  I will put it up for a vote next Saturday and we can go from there.

Below you will find blog posts that I found interesting this week.  Please check them out and show these bloggers some love.  When you are through, don't forget to drop it like it's hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Bryan Fischer: The Medal of Honour "feminized"
Turn "Black Friday" Into "Buy Nothing Day"
Canada's Maclean's has a whiteness problem
Representing Us Right: A Black Woman's Burden
A gay soldier's life of service
Are All Johns (and Janes) the Same?
Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Guide to Command of Negro Naval Personnel
In Support of Feminist Bloggers
Reproduction and defining womanhood
Why are we so scared of a little foreskin?
Healing Down the State
Dear bigoted, privileged assholes
The Black LGBT community builds their own places of worship
Who's Your Mommy?
disability is a feminist issue
Who Me? I Couldn't Be Homophobic, I Live in a Blue State!
Canadian Government Halts Funding of GRS for Trans Inmates
Why women just don't leave abusers?
The poverty machine
The TSA as a microcosm
When a period isn't a period
A child asks: What happens when you are done being dead?
The Root Interview: Beverly Guy-Sheftall on Black Feminism


Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Friday and The Question Is.........

Reading is something that really calms me.  I don't have as much time as I used to dedicate to it but I love to talk about a good book.  So this week the question is, what book are you currently reading and if you could only recommend one book to a friend what would it be?

Chad Ochocinco Goes Nude For PeTA

I fail to understand why celebrities believe that they are doing a good thing by getting naked for PeTA.  In it's latest celebrity endorsement, Chad Ochocinco of the Bengals chose ink over mink.

 I will admit that the man is easy on the eyes, but it is not enough for me to forget my disgust with PeTA.  Though I am not a vegan, I completely understand why many are driven to fight for the end of animal cruelty. Slaughter practices in many cases are absolutely inhumane and the living conditions of many domesticated animals is atrocious.  That said, why is it necessary to support an organization that is known to be racist, fat phobic, homophobic, sexist and transphobic? 

Are Trans People Happy After Transition?

I recently came across a story at the Christian Insitute that I found extremely disturbing (I know, that is what I get for reading that nonsense).  Though I am a cisgendered woman, it troubled me to such a degree that I feel compelled to comment.

It began with the story of Bruce and Brian Reimer - a pair of twin boys born in Canada in 1965.  When the boys were babies, they were having difficulty urinating.  It was decided that a simple circumcision would deal with the issue.  Unfortunately, one of the boy's penises was burned off.  Left with a tragic decision, the parents along with the guidance of psychologist  Dr John Money, decided to raise him as a girl.  This obviously led to various issues and in the end, the child in question committed suicide. Rather than admit that this experiment was a failure, it was touted as a success in medical journals. To me, this would indicate that subconscious sex is something we are born knowing and the fact that Bruce rejected his assignment as female, means that gender identity is at least partially biological. Had the article stuck to this assumption, I don't believe that I would have felt compelled to write this post.  Instead of understanding Bruce's experience as an indication that we need to believe trans people when they tell us that their perceived gender is false, the article used it as a foundation to suggest that trans people are psychologically damaged individuals who need counseling rather than support as they negotiate their gender dysphoria.  

As evidence of this erroneous theory, the article then presented the story of Charles Kane:
This tragic story is likely to concern those who warn that gender dysphoria is a psychological problem, not a physical one. 

Earlier this month a man who underwent sex change surgery to look like a woman – then changed back – said the NHS should halt all sex change operations.

Charles Kane, who spent £100,000 on operations to make him look like a woman, says he needed counselling, not surgery.

“Based on my own experiences, I believe sex-change operations should not be allowed, and certainly not on the NHS”, he says.

Mr Kane says: “People who think they are a woman trapped in a male body are, in my opinion, completely deluded. I certainly was. 

“I needed counselling, not a sex-change operation.”

He adds: “In many ways I see myself as a victim of the medical profession.”
 I don't wish to question the lived experience of Mr. Kane, but I do believe that it is erroneous to extrapolate from his experience to suggest that all trans people have psychological issues. So many have said repeatedly that after starting hormones, having SRS, or simply living as the gender of their choice, that they are extremely happy and finally feel like who they were meant to be.  Just recently, Patti Dawn Swansson who used to be a sports columnist for the Winnipeg Sun, publicly spoke about how completing SRS has made her the happiest she has ever been.  She talked about the turmoil of living in a body that didn't match who she was.  Why is her story to be considered outside of the norm, while that of Mr. Kane is deemed representative?

Dislocating Discourses; Rewriting Boundaries.

Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

This weekend my parents friends are visiting some obscure little village in some Dusty Part of India, because they apparently have a house there -- and they didn't even know it! -- and the lovely Government wants to run it down and make a road connecting two villages, all in the name of progress that almost never reaches people it professes to help. After dinner, while cleaning up my Mum wondered out loud how different their lives would have been, had they lived in that house instead of this one in Mumbai. My sister and my cook began to imagine hilarious scenarios of stereotypical country life, of menial labour -- because bonded labour is the new funny, People Of The Olde Interwebes -- and suddenly she exclaimed, "They would speak a different Gujarati! And their English would sound like something out of a bad nightmare. I'm so glad they live here". The idea that language and dialect would be different troubled her, especially that the family's English wouldn't be as 'polished' as it is now; their past-present-futures are different when this new dialect is injected in. The friends in question started marking the differences, he said he wouldn't have been a corporate lawyer, she wouldn't have been able to work and so on. Through this dinner I was stuck with a bitter taste in my mouth thinking how easily the Other is always an intruder, a predator, dangerous; it unsettles this well-established center. The Lady in question concluded, "We could be better people living here. Can you imagine us there? We would have probably been zamindars or something" and many other UnEntertaining variants of playing the Desi Coloniser. It's always easy to claim superiority if you've already relegated a space that unbelongs and is unhinged as  different, for this is what difference boils down to, an excuse to claim, possess and punish in one swift act¹.

Long after this dinner, I was still thinking of the above conversation. I couldn’t put down exactly what unsettled me so deeply, it was only when I started rereading Spivak’s essay ‘Can The Subaltern Speak?’ did the pieces fit together. At one point she writes, “The Coloniser constructs himself as he constructs the colony”; like did this couple. While imagining this alternative life, their present life was romanticised and their rural "would-have's" were conspicuously 'backward', which is precisely why selling away that house didn't pose a big problem to them. Unfortunately, this isn't the only instance I've heard or experienced where more 'developed' or narratives of 'progress' take center stage. This week my friend put up a picture of me on Facebook dressed in traditional Indian clothes. A few people who know me from my blog and know this friend found it startling that someone who speaks so 'freely' and 'liberally' on many issues can choose to bend down tradition's way. These are times when my ethnic identity or just wearing 'ethnic' dress becomes interchangeable with embodying tradition and essentialism; the alternative is to completely disengage with this identity and embrace being 'universal' Western. What's the problem with e-showing and choosing to dapple in my ethnicity -- out here as a Hindu woman of a certain caste and class privilege -- you say? More often than not, I'm perceived as someone who doesn't necessarily have a voice or someone who is touting for my country's oft spoken about 'traditionalism'. Anyone who knows me, even a little bit, knows about my strong distaste for patriarchy. Somehow in traditional clothes, the 'me' they saw was a different one,  and immediately an inferior one. One acquaintance even wrote to me asking if everything was okay because as she put it, "This is so out of character for you!". And on Facebook, a tiny argument broke out assessing if I've changed or not; while no one talks to me just about me. This is another advantage of being Othered -- as DustyLadies, this is a common experience for us -- words fly all about you, but you will never be able to catch them. Like the figure of Sati (the widow who has to put herself on her husband's pyre and be immolated with him), there are only two readings of DustyLadies. Either some 'progressive' Westerner is telling us how terrible our lives are, because we follow certain traditions or our Male Counterparts who speak for us (like they did in the case of Sati) and almost always showcase tradition as a voluntary act. Meanwhile the woman on the pyre burns.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No More Mister Nice Guy

WoodTurtle is a Canadian Muslim feminist currently using her extended maternity leave to explore developments of Islamic feminism in the Western and Muslim world.  As a woman who wears the hijab (owns several abayas and a niqab monogrammed with her initials in pink, sparkly sequins), she writes frequently on genderized Islamophobia. She also works toward dispelling myths and stereotypes about women in Islam for both Muslims and non.

It was a sleepy Saturday morning on June 1, 1994. I stood next to the kitchen wall phone, shuffling nervously, heart pounding up into my brain and holding my breath while begging a coworker to take my morning shift. After a long pause they said yes, and I nearly passed out.

Within the hour I was on the train to get to the HMV on Yonge Street in Toronto, and arrived early enough to be 10th in line. For hours complete strangers chatted, sang, and joked with each other. A few came dressed to the nines in top hats and walking sticks. I'm surprised I didn't see a snake.

When the line began to move I stopped thinking rationally. This experience was happening to another person -- I was only a spectator. We walked deeper into the store, right to the back where a black table was set up with posters and commemorative books. Two burly security guards in bright orange shirts stood behind it. I shuffled closer and grew sick with excitement. After an eternity, it was finally my turn.

He signed my CD album cover and told me that he rarely sees this particular album outside of Europe. I laughed and told him that I bought it while on vacation in Germany. I found all of his obscure albums there. He smiled and I told him it was my favourite. He thanked me for coming by and before leaving I offered him a hand shake. He took my outstretched hand in his warm, black leather glove, and in mid-shake, I turned it over and kissed it.

The security guards moved quickly to stop me, but he leaned back and grandly announced, "Oh, don't worry. She's worthy."

I kissed Alice Cooper's hand.

My obsession with Alice started in 1990 when a junior-high school friend sold me his brother's Trash tape for $2. I'm not exactly sure what made me love his music from the second I pressed PLAY. Perhaps it was a mix of the leather, the glam-horrorshow makeup, gender ambiguous themes, ties to Dali and Vincent Price, the psycho-killer/innocent quixotic vaudeville theatrics, with just really good rock.  Whatever it was, by the mid-1990's I owned 24 albums, several collectibles, and knew every song by heart.

Then years later, after I converted, someone convinced me that music was forbidden in Islam, and it was no more mister nice guy for me.

I was in the midst of a very bright and shiny worldview of Islam -- a spiritual awakening that included embracing a new self-identity, a strict interpretation of hijab and an adherence to the religion that focused on the "correct way" of practice. My friends at the time, authoritative conservative message boards and Islamicfatwa banks, were very influential.  So believing that I was becoming a better Muslim by not listening to music, I did the unthinkable in the name of religion: I threw out every album I owned.*

The conservative arguments to why music is haram, or forbidden, rely on one obscure prophetic tradition claiming that the future Muslim community will make musical instruments lawful (concluding that they are therefore forbidden); it's an idle past time; it elicits strong emotional responses that stokes ones' passions (especially if it's the sultry, tempting voice of a woman); Western music is especially suspect because it is usually in praise of alcohol, promiscuity and vulgarity (Mozart certainly comes to mind, that rogue); and music normally goes hand in hand with dancing and free mixing of the sexes (especially in elevators).

What Are We Really Giving Thanks For?

I came across a thanksgiving piece that I wrote in 2008.  I decided to re-post it today because I cannot possibly improve upon it.

 Today families are going to gather across the nation to share a meal. (At least those who can afford to participate.) They will brave long lines, security at the airports, and lots of traffic to ensure that they are able to re-enact the national fable that we have come to understand as Thanksgiving Day. As the mashed potatoes and turkey are doled out, a few will stop to consider their bounty. Other than the 4th of July, could there be another day that is filled with more tradition, and pure Americana?

Hours of labour will have gone into preparing the feast. The stress of the travel will be forgotten as people begin to gorge themselves. It will be a day that will reach its climax when finally every stomach is filled beyond tolerance, and each face holds a smile. Satiated and relaxed, the family will retire to their respective couches to reflect upon a good time had by all.

Yes, it seems like a wonderful day of light hearted mirth and family bonding, until we begin to speak about the unmentionable; the suffering of the Indigenous community. The national myth includes happy compliant Native Americans, with no mention of the near genocide that occurred that makes them nearly invisible to this day in the social hierarchy.

We are further meant to believe that the pilgrims as people of God, held no prejudice, or ambition in their hearts. We are continually reminded of their persecution, as though that absolves them of the pleasure that they took in the near destruction of Native peoples. Only the truly God-fearing and tolerant kind, find happiness in small pox decimating a population.

John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague "miraculous." To a friend in England in 1634, he wrote:
"But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protect."
This is not the only declaration that Winthrop would make. The thanksgiving that we partake in today is nothing more than the re-enactment of a celebration over the murder of over 700 Pequot people.

Happy Thanksgiving

To all those celebrating a holiday today, I hope that you have a wonderful day filled with love, friends and family.  As you take the time to celebrate all of the goodness in your lives, please remember that essentially this day is a celebration of the colonization of Native peoples and without the crimes committed against them, the world that you have come to accept as good and natural would not exist. As much as this is a time to be thankful for all of the goodness in life, it is all a day of remembrance for all of the evil that was committed in the name of Whiteness and manifest destiny.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TSA: The Full Grope

I was on twitter this morning, when phdinparenting tweeted the following: 

There is a TSA Abuse Blog now:

I have not been following the story of what I will call the public molestation of passengers and so when I followed the link, I went into a state of shock.
“He started at one leg and then ran his hand up to my crotch. He cupped and patted my crotch with his palm. Other flyers were watching this happen to me. At that point I closed my eyes and started praying to the Goddess for strength. He also cupped and then squeezed my breasts. That wasn’t the worst part. He touched my face, he touched my hair, stroking me. That’s when I started crying. It was so intimate, so horrible. I feel like I was being raped." 
And then there was this:

She says two female Charlotte T.S.A. agents took her to a private room and began what she calls an aggressive pat down. She says they stopped when they got around to feeling her right breast… the one where she'd had surgery.

"She put her full hand on my breast and said, 'What is this?'. And I said, 'It's my prosthesis because I've had breast cancer.' And she said, 'Well, you'll need to show me that'."

Cathy was asked to show her prosthetic breast, removing it from her bra.

"I did not take the name of the person at the time because it was just so horrific of an experience, I couldn't believe someone had done that to me. I'm a flight attendant. I was just trying to get to work." ...

A T.S.A. representative says agents aren't supposed to remove any prosthetics, but are allowed to ask to see and touch any passenger's prosthetic.

What Kind of Magazine Are You

It's hump day and for Americans, it's the day before you watch football and consume vast amounts of turkey.  I am sure at this point a little light hearted fare is right up your ally and so I thought we could have some fun with a quiz that I came across.  Answer the questions to determine what kind of magazine you are. At the end of my poll, I was told:

You Are a News Magazine

You are well informed and bright. You feel like you have to know what's going on in the world.

You are savvy and serious. You don't like a lot of fluff or filler in your life.

You are truly curious about people, ideas, and politics. You are very cosmopolitan.
You can usually explain the news to your friends and family members. You have a broad understanding of what's happening.
In comparison to the other polls that I have placed on the blog this is one of the few results that I am happy with.  So share in comments what the poll revealed and why it is or is not an accurate representation of you.

H/T Daisy for the poll

Has Being Fat Made me a Better Person?

I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality 

I recently read an incredibly insightful book about racism/white supremacy, called Trojan Horse: Death of a Dark Nation. One of the chapters in the book discusses the "Dead White Women's Club", those news stories that gain epic status due to the fact that they concern a missing/dead attractive white girl/woman. In this chapter, there is a hypothetical situation in which a Black woman calls a member of the media out on the lack of coverage for stories in which the victim does not fit into the "Dead White Woman" mold. She asks the woman "Are you white?" The reporter, feeling a bit put out by the questioning, tells her that yes, she is. She has NO ANSWER when she is asked WHY the only stories that are given any consideration are those of white women. Then the reporter is asked "Are you fat?" and is then told "Because if you are fat, you might as well be Black!"

That little fictional anecdote really made me think. I have been told really care about racism and white supremacy." His comment was based on the idea that if I had grown up accepted by my white peers, I would feel no need to fight the injustices of the white supremacist system. I could not tell him he was wrong, because I DO NOT KNOW. I AM fat, and I always HAVE BEEN fat. Would I have been a different person if I had grown up a blond, bubbly cheerleader instead of a fat "geeky" chick? Maybe so... but if that is the case, then I am grateful for being a fat girl... it has made me a better person.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Subway Flasher Gets More Than He Bargained For

To be female in this world is to constantly be targeted for unwanted sexual attention.  The first time I was groped on a train, I was 13 years old.  I never saw the man's face, but I can still picture his hand wrapped around my thigh.  I still remember the fear that I felt once I realized what was going on. I obsessed about this incident for months, naively believing that if I were just more careful, that I could avoid another incident like that in the future.  The truth is, as long as one is female, there will always be men who feel that we are prey.  No matter how careful one is, it is impossible to avoid public assault.

There is a video that is currently going viral that I would like to share with you.  A woman is on a subway train and a man decides to expose his condom wrapped penis to her.  In true hollaback fashion, the victim decides that she is not going to tolerate being used like a glorified sex toy and  fights back, telling this man in no uncertain terms that there will be a penalty for his actions. He tries to deny what he did but she presses forward and assures him that if she has to walk him to the police station that he will be charged.

Placing Foster Children With A Trans Woman and Her Partner Is Apparently Harmful For Children

Religious zealots love to claim harm to children as a reason to deny rights to the GLBT community.  They are often constructed as deviant and racked by sin and guilt as a way to "other" them.  I recently came across a case in Queensland, in which a grandmother filed a complaint because her grandchildren were being fostered by a trans woman and her lover.  Apparently, this caused quite a stir in the family, because being trans gendered is supposedly against so-called Christian values. The fact that the children were removed because of gambling addiction and drinking issues within the family, apparently was not as important as the children being exposed to members of the TLBG community.
The decision that same-sex couples are allowed to foster children in Queensland has infuriated a 63-year-old grandmother who said she was passed over as a foster parent while two of her grandchildren were laced with gay men.

She said one of the men ``walks around the streets in a dress as if he was a woman.''

``It's not right,'' she said.

The case was raised in State Parliament on Monday when Rob Messenger (Independent, Burnett) asked Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves if he was aware the state had entrusted children to a transvestite.

The grandmother, who can not be named for legal reasons, said the decision to place children with homosexuals ran counter to her strong Christian values.

She said her grandson aged four and a granddaughter, 12, were taken from their mother in July and placed with the gay couple withoutconsidering the family's feelings.

``I can't understand it at all,'' she said.

``I was really upset. It has split our family even further.''

She won the support of a long-time social worker who said he knew of three cases where homosexual couples had been allowed to foster children in a Queensland regional city.

When the grandmother complained, she eventually won custody of the four-year-old, while the granddaughter was returned to her natural mother.(source)

Spark of Wisdom: Exploiting Our Pain

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky. 

I am, in general, a fan of the whole "It Gets Better" and related projects. Not because I think they will magically fix the problems out there - far from it - but because it is such a huge problem and the forces against us trying to offer any help or support are so huge that I often despair.

But mainly, beyond any kind of logic or thought, I like them because I think back the to 10, 14, 16... gods any age before 18-year old me and know how much this would have meant to me. Just how incredibly wonderful and treasured just one of those videos would have been and what it would have meant for little messed up me.

Of course, those same issues have kept me around the fringes, being unable to make a video or tell my own story or to watch many of those that have been posted without going into a big storm of Do-Not-Wantness. But still I've been following from the fringes and seeing some of what was posted.

And most I did love, so much... but then I saw a few posts by some celebrities and I thought "hmmm, is this the first time you ever noticed us?" And then I saw a couple more who seemed to be making a flying leap for "gay icon" status and loved the... marketing opportunity this provided. Especially when Katy Perry released a music video which was supposed to be all part of it - yeah, after the fetishistic "I kissed a Girl" which followed the frankly homophobic "Ur so Gay" it's going to take a damn site more than a firecracker down her bra before she's any kind of icon to me.

And then I saw the politicians and I definitely felt a lot of teetering. Sure, hope from authority figures was a good thing - but some of these guys had sketchy records at best when it came to actually doing something about our rights - and it is extremely dehumanizing to have the national government officially declare you are unworthy of respect and equality - to say nothing of extremely reinforcing for the bullies and their mindset. All in all, I was much less comfortable with people saying "it gets better" who had the power to MAKE it better now and were both not doing so - and had not done so. And it was only made worse by some of these videos sounding so much like campaigning it made me ill - I expected them to be followed by "this message is brought to you by the X party."

So Do-Not-Wantness was warring with growing pissed-offness when I came across 2 new videos for the UK version of It Gets Better videos by David Cameron, our new Prime Minister and Theresa May, our new Equalities Minister.

The F.B.I. and the NSA Are Not Cool: By Kola Boof

Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.”  She blogs at Kola Boof. com

There’s a line in one of my most famous poems that goes “America is my husband now, and he is good to me”.  I recall feeling whimsically patriotic and grateful when I first wrote it, but now nearly twenty years later, as I add myself to a growing list of public figures who’ve admitted to experiencing some form of warrant-less surveillance by agencies of the United States government, I am reminded of yet another famous saying; a more ominous one that my Nilotic ancestors have passed down for centuries—“an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile…hoping it will eat him last”.

Please understand that as I use this opportunity to discuss my personal experiences with surveillance-harassment and what I consider to be attempted mind manipulation by Federal agencies, I am in no way reneging on my love or allegiance to the American government or to America as a nation.  I would gladly die for this country, because this country not only saved my life, but has given me a voice.  As well, I am in no way withdrawing my previous warnings to the American people about the realities of Arab Muslim terrorism and the fact that I believe as someone from the Afro-Arab world that there are serious and absolute orders for malicious devastation aimed at this country via various modes of foreign terrorism.  If I sound like Bush and the Republicans, sorry—but regarding terrorism, that is what I believe.

What I am doing is what I have always done as a bestselling novelist, poet, memoirist, critical thinker and public speaker on women’s and poor people’s issues—I am leaving a record of what I witnessed, the things that happened to me in my life, as I do feel that I have a responsibility to legitimize what are often considered “laughable” or “paranoid” claims of N.S.A. surveillance and continued F.B.I. “Cointelpro” by other less powerful citizens, because I do know their claims to be true and to have merit.

First understand that I came to the United States from Sudan as a child orphan in December 1979, adopted by an African American family in Washington D.C., and that I became a U.S. citizen as an adult in 1993 before returning to North Africa in 1994 where I ended up living a very sinful life in the arms of very dangerous men (more on that in a minute).  I eventually stopped partying and appearing in Arabic B-films around the end of 1996 and found my calling as an anti-slavery activist and writer in 1998, at which time I returned to the United States, married a wonderful Black man, gave birth to two sons and began to receive notoriety for my published works. 

In early 2002, after the leaders of my homeland’s government in Sudan (specifically Hasan al Turabi and Gamal Ibrahim) put a fatwa (order for assassination) against my life due to the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim content of my novels and poems I was placed under protection of U.S. Federal agencies and given a multitude of “alternative identities” to live under.  I went to the bank with one legal name; the library with another name; paid taxes with yet another legal name—all synchronized by the U.S.  To my horror, I found out that a few of the “identities” I had been assigned are dead people.

So you see, unlike most people who have come forward about NSA harassment, Cointelpro and warrant-less surveillance, I was actually being “protected” by the government and had no reason to fear that I would be invaded or compromised in any way.

But in late 2002, my whole world came crashing at my feet when journalists at England’s London Guardian newspaper contacted the U.S. State Department about a story they were planning about me and revealed what was then my darkest secret—a secret that out of shame and embarrassment I had hoped I would take to my grave—the fact that I had once been the mistress of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.  Even worse than that, I had been, before Bin Laden, the mistress of Sudan’s Vice President Hasan al Turabi, the mentor of Bin Laden.  I had also worked at the Palace in White Bride for Moamar Khadafi and for Egypt’s President Mubarak at the resort Sharm el Sheik as a “paid party girl.”

In 2002, these kinds of revelations absolutely terrified the American government.  Immediately my children and I were threatened with deportation.  We were placed on the Patriot Act’s “Suspected Terrorists” list; I was debriefed in Washington, D.C. as to any and everything I could possibly tell them about Osama Bin Laden.  But because I had not realized that he was a terrorist during the six months I had lived with him in Morocco in 1996, I had no information that was useful.

With great fatigue, I even began the process of being deported.  Then suddenly during the government’s investigation of the estate turned hotel where Osama and I had lived (La Maison Arabe), they interviewed the estate’s owner, Prince Fabrizzio Ruspoli, and the Prince not only remembered me, but remembered feeling very strongly that I had been held there against my will by Osama’s men and that I had not been happy to be Osama’s mistress.  As more and more information about my past was pieced together, the authorities saw that I was not a threat to American security and that I had simply been a naive young woman caught unawares by the numerous sink holes that await struggling model-actresses in any booming society be it western or Arabic.

I was allowed to keep my American citizenship, stay on my husband’s ranch in California (as well as several “safe houses” the government provided), and although I was then and still am on the “Suspected Terrorists List” and was still being given a new identity card every six months by one of the Witness Protection agencies, I was gradually allowed to see my level of federal protection lessened so that my children and I could resume a normal existence.  Their father and I split up during the interim, because of all the publicity and scandal.  The children and I, however, were being protected.  I found myself stuck on the internet all day because I couldn’t go anywhere.  I can honestly say that during that period of roughly four years, it was a pleasant experience that was mutually agreed upon and featured none of the down-right illegal horrors that were to come later at the hands of what I am convinced is the NSA (National Security Agency).

You should realize that it was also during this time that I was becoming something that the government and especially the men at Witness Protection were totally against—famous.

They warned me that if I was famous, then they’d have a terrible time protecting me due to freedom of the press.  Though I did initially try to cooperate with them, my very public activism against the genocide in Sudan coupled with the American release of my books, the internet craze and the breaking news of my past involvement with Osama Bin Laden spun me into a web of sudden and uncontrollable attention from the media and various political groups.  Before I knew it, I was at terrible odds with the Tom Brokaw-looking government people who were not just protecting me, but had become some type of honorary family members.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sick Day

Hello everyone, it is storming here in Niagara Falls.  My fibromyalgia is flaring and I cannot even roll over without pain today.  I am going to take the rest of the day off and hopefully tomorrow I will  feel better. 

Newsweek Appropriates Hindu Imagery

I first looked at the above image and thought are you freaking kidding me.  Obama is posed as  “Shiva the Destroyer” doing the “dance of death.” There can be no doubt that this is appropriation.  I must admit that I don't know a lot about the Hindu faith, but I do know using anyone's religion in this manner is offensive.   

This image can also be understood is an attempt to other Obama.  He has gone to great length to assure the American populace that he is a Christian man.  Despite regularly attending church for years many still believe that he is Muslim.  Though the Muslim and Hindu faith have nothing in common, many will see this image and  internalize the idea that Obama is not American. There is certainly a Hindu population living in the U.S., but because of Christian hegemony, those practicing other religions are seen as outsiders. This image plays upon the thought process of those who continue to believe that Obama is lying about his identity and it could not possibly have been an innocent selection.

What were your thoughts when you viewed this image?

Transgender Day of Remembrance in Retrospect

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

This year's Transgender Day of Remembrance was a learning experience for me, thanks to a discussion on my own blog, Tranifesto, about the real benefits of TDOR if the majority of those observing it with ceremonies and events are middle-class and white, when the majority of those being remembered are trans women of color and/or women who struggle economically.

Colorado, where I live, is somewhat unique in that Greeley, a small, rather rural, and definitely conservative town in our state, was the first venue in the country to return a hate-crimes verdict against the murderer of a trans woman. In 2009, Allen Andrade was found guilty of both first-degree murder and a hate crime in the brutal slaying of Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old Latina trans woman.

Angie Zapata's mother and family attended last year's TDOR in Denver, as did the mother of Fred Martinez, Jr., a young Navajo individual who was brutally murdered in 2001 in Cortez, Colorado, for expressing a feminine gender. 

This year's Denver-area TDOR ceremony was a very tastefully done memorial that brought a wide range of individuals together to remember those killed in the past year and beyond.

One of the speakers was Bryon Large, an Colorado immigration attorney who just won asylum for Alexandra Reyes, a trans woman who fled to the United States from Mexico after her family beat her and tried to kill her because she is trans. Ms. Reyes, who lives in the Denver area, had planned to attend, but was unable to do so because she has been overwhelmed by the attention that she has been receiving from the media since she was granted asylum a few days ago. But the positive note of the evening was that another brutal murder has possibly been averted. 

After the TDOR controversy arose on my blog, I spent some time trying to find out more by reading other blogs and articles in a similar vein. Very valid points have been made, and I am happy to be more educated about another side to the ceremonies.