Social Problems: Policy Analysis

CJ Trowbridge

Professor Jeffrey Sacha

Social Problems

2018-12-11

Policy Analysis Midterm

Imagine a child being forced to have sex up to twenty times a night by a trusted friend or significant other. This is a very typical situation for thousands of children being sex trafficked on a daily basis throughout California. Now imagine the police interrupt one of these encounters, only to arrest the child as a prostitute. Instead of taking them to safety, the police force them into the criminal “justice” industrial complex where their record will be tarnished, and they will face a lifetime of stigmatization and systemic punishment on top of the trauma and tragedy they faced as a victim of sex trafficking. Until earlier this year, this situation was actually standard practice and fully validated by California state policy. Following claimsmaking work by human trafficking nonprofits working with state senator Holly Mitchell and state assembly persons Christina Garcia, Tom Lackey, and Bob Wieckowski, a child safety bill was put forward to change this unjust policy. The new law says that children (who are unable to give consent for sex) cannot be held liable for prostitution, and that the police should be focusing on the people exploiting them rather than unjustly punishing the victims of these terrible crimes.

According to WEAVE, “Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Sex traffickers frequently groom victims and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to prevent victims from leaving.“ Prostitution, conversely, is defined under California Penal Code 647(b), “[To] Pay or accept money or other consideration in exchange for a sexual act.” The situation of being forced into sex, which countless children face, is certainly a troubling social condition, but it may surprise the reader to learn that while a significant number of people in California agree with claims made by human trafficking nonprofits that prosecuting trafficked minors as prostitutes is wrong, some on the right argue that this new child safety law is wrong. In an op-ed published on the East Coast, California Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen wrote, “Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California…. So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution.” (Ortiz) In an interview with KCRA news, the bill’s primary author Senator Mitchell responded to these misrepresentations from the right, “Children who are under the age of eighteen and cannot give consent should be treated like the victims of other crimes.”

For more than a century, the law throughout the western world has clearly established that children cannot give consent for sex. Despite that fact, it has become standard practice to hold children liable as prostitutes when they are forced by traffickers to have sex for money. This may sound like an edge case, but in fact it is quite ubiquitous. There are over a thousand cases of child sex trafficking throughout california each year, and the vast majority of the female youth in juvenile detention have been sex trafficked without any cases ever being filed. (California Child Welfare Council). According to Sacramento human trafficking non-profit WEAVE, “The average age of a young woman first being trafficked is 12-14 years old.” (WEAVE).

The standard practice in California and elsewhere has been to imprison and punish victims of child sex trafficking and not to press any kind of charges against the traffickers who perpetrate these crimes on children, while occasionally pressing charges against the people purchasing the children for sex. This law corrects this unjust practice by requiring police to focus on the perpetrators instead of unjustly attacking the victims.

In the future, I see this as becoming a valence issue. The conclusions proposed by the nonprofits fighting human trafficking are very reasonable and well thought-out. The opposition is absurd, catastrophizing, and just plain wrong even from their own standpoint. In the words of WEAVE CEO Beth Hassett, “There is no such thing as a child prostitute since children cannot give consent.” Any sex which involves a child is fundamentally non-consensual by definition. This law should not have been necessary because these truths are self-evident. The Republican claim that “prostitution by minors will be legal in California” is absurd. A minor cannot have consensual sex. A minor does not have agency to commit prostitution. Especially when those children are being forced into it, holding them as somehow responsible is just wrong no matter what perspective you hold.

In the current political climate where presidents openly boast about sexually assaulting people, and child rapists run for Republican house seats, it’s not hard to see why this issue is enduring unwarranted discussion. The biggest obstacle that claimsmakers face on issues like this is the ignorance of a determined and low-information opposition. I think the best solution to this claimsmaking problem would be building coalitions like the Prop 8 lawsuit did. The most famous conservative lawyer in the country sided publically with the gays, forcing those on the right who were looking for any reason to disagree to instead take a second critical look at the issue.

Works Cited

California Child Welfare Council. Published 2013. Accessed 2018-12-11. Prevalence of commercially sexually exploited children. http://www.chhs.ca.gov/CWCDOC/CSEC%20Fact%20Sheet %20-%201.pdf

Nichols, Chris. Politifact. “Pants On Fire for claim California legalized child prostitution.” Accessed 2018-12-11. Published 2017-01-04. https://www.politifact.com/california/ statements/2017/jan/04/travis-allen/lawmakers-claim-about-california-legalizing-child-/

Ortiz, Erik.  NBC News. “New California Law Does Not Legalize Child Prostitution.” Accessed 2018-12-11. Published 2016-12-30.

WEAVE. “Sex Trafficking.” Accessed 2018-12-11. https://www.weaveinc.org/sex-trafficking

Social Problems: Critical Media Analysis

CJ Trowbridge

Social Problems

2018-10-30

Critical Media Analysis Midterm Paper

The group I studied was Stand Up Placer which is a nonprofit working on the issue of the human trafficking of children, and the victim-centered approach to this issue. Stand Up Placer worked hard to get Placer County and its municipalities to take a victim-centered approach to human trafficking enforcement, treating the victims as legitimate victims rather than criminal prostitutes. I expect that most news coverage of human trafficking will be an attempt by cities to label themselves as serious about “solving the problem,” but not clear on exactly how to do so. I hope to see more victim-centered enforcement, but I don’t expect to.

In “All-out effort to bring human trafficking out in the open” from the San Jose Mercury News published January 7, 2014, author Nancy O’Malley summarizes the human trafficking situation in Oakland using the FBI as a claimsmaker, “The FBI has identified Oakland as an epicenter of trafficking in the Bay Area counties. The majority of exploited children are 13 to 16 years old, some as young as 11.” This age range is actually not unusual. The FBI’s choice of the word “epicenter” is interesting considering there have been only 350 prosecutions since 2005. For comparison, Placer County had 141 just last year. Furthermore, the author comments that she is shocked when she quotes local human trafficking nonprofit claimsmaker M.i.s.s.s.e.y. as saying that human trafficking numbers in Oakland are increasing; the common-grounds rhetorical strategy of an increasing danger or risk which potentially affects us all. This fact however is also no surprise; the numbers in Placer County have more than doubled each of the last few years. In O’Malley’s words, “There are two sides — supply and demand — that make sex trafficking of our children possible. Human trafficking exists because there is an endless and disgraceful demand for children for sex and traffickers fill that demand daily.”

The author talks about several policymaking steps which have been taken to move towards a solution on this issue. First, a Regional Intelligence Center has been established and is working closely with local police to maintain a high rate of prosecution on child human trafficking cases. Secondly, a public advertising campaign has been launched with the goal of using media coverage and billboards to inform people in Oakland that purchasing children for sex is a crime…. Yes really. The policy outcomes seem clear. Informing people that purchasing children for sex is a crime is an absurd way to attempt to address this problem. It’s a waste of advertising money which could be spent on enforcement. The uptick in enforcement with the backing of federal resources though does seem like it has the potential to create a positive outcome in the community. For now, the problem is still getting worse. We will see with time whether this strategy will be effective. As we will see in the next article, full enforcement of human trafficking laws is not a given, and this is one way in which Oakland is ahead of the game in addressing human trafficking.

In “’FINALLY BELIEVING’; Reports rise of human trafficking in Humboldt County; officials seek unified response, say bringing offenders to justice proves challenging,” published in the Eureka Times-Standard on August 26, 2018, author Will Houston argues a very different point. He quotes the local district attorney as a claimsmaker who shares that despite the same dramatic rise in human trafficking that we are seeing elsewhere (over 600 reports last year), Humboldt County has had only one successful human trafficking conviction, EVER. And that person is already out of prison. A claimsmaker referred to only as an “area official” says that one unique factor in Humboldt County which makes the problem of human trafficking more difficult to address is the deep entrenchment of organized crime related to the underground drug industry. The author also quotes the district attorney as blaming the victims for the lack of enforcement, “Ultimately, one of the biggest challenges is gaining the cooperation of survivors and victims that are being trafficked.” From the other side of the judicial power dynamic, Katrina Taylor is a claimsmaker who was also used as a rhetorical typifying example, having formerly been a human trafficking victim. The author quotes Taylor as saying, “one of the biggest problems is the victims themselves don’t even know they’re victims… I didn’t even know I was a victim. It wasn’t until I started hearing and seeing scenarios of different cases and people when I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s me.’” Taylor is now working with local organizations to try to expand education about human trafficking so that victims can learn that they are victims and seek help. At an upcoming meeting of the county board of supervisors, funding will be discussed to further study the issue.

This is a pretty shocking article for me. Just a few hundred miles from Placer and Alameda counties where there is enormous enforcement and a plethora of victim resources, Humboldt county is still in the stone age in terms of dealing with the problem of human trafficking. Humboldt County is doing essentially nothing despite the fact that the problem seems empirically worse than in “Epicenter” Oakland.

Quick Meta Analysis: According to numbers taken from the article, with just 0.6% of California’s population, Humboldt County’s reported human trafficking makes up 7% of all the reported human trafficking in California, whereas Oakland has 4% of the reported human trafficking with 1.4% of the population. Humboldt County’s per capita incidence of reported human trafficking is therefore four times higher than Oakland’s, yet Humboldt county is doing nothing about it, while Oakland is labeled “Epicenter.” This seems like a very biased FBI policy which ignores the affluent white area’s HT crime rate while highlighting the poorer, blacker area’s relatively lower HT crime rate.

In “How VTAs human trafficking awareness training inspired a state Assembly bill,” The Mercury News on June 14, 2018, author Kristin Lam discusses an important new statewide bill to tackle human trafficking. The author summarizes the grounds for this policy by saying that the bill is based on important earlier work done by the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, “ the bill aims to equip public transit workers with the skills to identify and report signs of human trafficking in and around transit systems.” Assemblymember Ash Kalra elaborates, “human trafficking… occurs along our streets or along our transit nodes and our transit system… We want to make sure we do everything we can to combat the scourge of human trafficking.” The author expands, “Through the training, they learn to recognize potential red flags: related to lack of freedom and control and poor mental and physical health. When they encounter indicators of human trafficking, VTA workers follow a protocol of who to call and what to do.” This law would apply to all public transit workers throughout California because as the Santa Clara Human Trafficking Commission’s legal services chair Ruth Taube said, “Typically the traffickers move the survivors or the victims around to different cities and counties. So I think it’s important for combating human trafficking that we have consistent training.”

This seems like an interesting and novel strategy to attack the problem in a potentially effective way. Absent from the article is any projection of how many victims could be rescued through this new program. The author does go over several other efforts at similar types of exposure around human trafficking, including mandatory pamphlets placed in certain businesses by law. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen is quoted as hedging on the effectiveness of these types of strategies, “It’s hard to get details from trafficking victims about exactly why they sought help.” This seems to indicate that the official, conscious strategy is just to throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks, without much expectation of accountability for the spending or the effectiveness of the specific methods. The warrants seem clea here, but the conclusions seem vague. It is more about doing something, than about doing the right thing.

In conclusion, my initial hypothesis was correct. None of these jurisdictions seems to know what to do about a problem that is getting dramatically worse every year, but all of them want to be seen to do something. Materially, that ranges from essentially nothing as is the case in Humboldt County with its upcoming public debate on whether to research the issue, to mandatory statewide training of all transit employees as human trafficking sleuths. I was very surprised by the way the local paper in Humboldt county seemed totally fine with the fact that there is essentially no enforcement despite a far more serious crime rate than Oakland with its “HT Epicenter” moniker. There is no clear consensus about how to address the issue. Everyone is trying something different, and none of the ideas seems to be working, as the rates are still showing ubiquitous exponential growth. It is interesting to consider the converse relationship between perception and reality in Oakland versus Humboldt. I think the public would feel more afraid in Oakland before reading these articles, and more afraid in Humboldt after reading them. It’s worth reflecting on the biases that lead us to these conclusions.

A Call To Empathy!

LGBT1 – Midterm Exam

CJ Trowbridge

LGBT1

2018-10-23

LGBT1 Midterm Exam

  1. 1.

What is the problem of the gender binary? The sexual orientation binary? Explain how these binaries are both repressive and constructive. (What does it mean for power to be repressive and constructive too? Apply this to both gender identity and sexual orientation.)

 

The gender binary is a social construct which does not reflect reality. This fact creates tension for people who do not fit into the contrived metaphor of a gender binary as imposed and constructed by those in power. One of the most common reasons a person may not fit into one of the binary genders is biology. There are dozens of biological conditions under the umbrella of intersex which place a person outside the gender binary. This leads to repression towards the person by the people around them and the people in power in local culture; the intersex person is often forced into one of the binary options which does not reflect the reality of the person. Sometimes this involves surgical gender assignment of infants or children, all at the behest of the people in power who impose cultural constructs about gender on the child and parents.

Another common reason a person may not fit the gender binary is because they recognize it as a social construct and do not accept it as a valid structure to define themselves within. Rejecting imposed structures is a fundamental quality of humanity. We want to break out. We want to be free. We construct and define ourselves outside the rules and norms which we are given by people in power. For many people, including genderqueer, transgender, and other groups, rejecting imposed ideas of gender becomes a fundamental part of their identity. The flawed social construct of the binary is often the first thing to be rejected during this process of self-construction.

Many transgender people feel that they were born in the wrong physiological sex; a belief that is corroborated by brain structure analyses and other means. These people may decide that their true identity lies across the binary, or that it lies outside the binary. No matter what the reason is that a person may reject their place within the binary, they all hold in common the truth that the binary is a socially constructed and fundamentally invalid perspective with which to approach reality.

The sexual orientation binary is another social construct which does not reflect reality. It is the result of myths and misinformation about sexual orientation which have percolated through our post-dark-age culture to form a stew of superstitious nonsense which many people attempt to use as a lens through which to view the world. It is convenient for them to use simple concepts to describe other people. This is a major factor in the categorization and labeling of people into sexual orientation groups by those in power. The problem is that it does not reflect reality. Early sexual research showed that there is a bell curve on the spectrum between homosexual and heterosexual, with most people falling in between rather than at one end. The idea of categorizing all people at one end or the other is repressive nonsense. This fallacious concept has led to criticism and repression of people who experience both types of attraction as “undecided” or “outside the norms.”

Another problem is the fact of asexual people, who experience no sexual attraction whatsoever. These people are clearly not in one of the two categories demanded by the socially constructed idea of a sexual orientation binary.

The sexual orientation binary has another overarching problem; its intransigence or immutability. Once a person has a sexual orientation label, they are likely to conform to that label rather than exploring outside it. This intransigence is imposed by people in power through the construction of these permanent labels which themselves do not reflect the truth of all people.

 

  1. 2.

Explain the tensions between the following groups in one paragraph each: a) LGB and T, b) Traditional Trans Narrative and Genderqueer, c) LGBT vs. Queer.

 

Tension exists between Lesbigays and Transgender people on epistemological, cultural, and historical levels. Epistemologically, Lesbigays generally see themselves as part of a valid gender binary and a valid sexual orientation binary. The Bi- (binary) prefix is right there in the middle of the word “Les-bi-gay.” Transgender people fundamentally reject all or some of these ideas. Culturally, Transgender people have a history all their own. The history of their culture and movement largely took its own direction without the support or aid of the Lesbigays and their movements. The converse is true as well. Lesbigays had their own historical culture and movement which largely excluded Transgender people.

The traditional trans narrative includes an eponymous etymological acceptance of the gender binary. Trans means to cross over. Crossing over between genders implies acceptance of the gender binary. It’s in the meaning of the word “Transgender” and inescapable within that context. Genderqueer people reject the gender binary. They may change from the presentation and role norms of the gender assigned to them at birth, but they reject the idea that there are two sets of presentation and role norms to choose from. They freely accept and reject ideas throughout both sets, and outside either set. This fundamental difference between the two groups creates tension.

LGBT people categorize themselves within a small number of socially constructed identities which accept both the gender and orientation binaries to some degree. Queer people reject all of this. They reject both the binaries and the categories. Queer people see each of these labels as carrying with them systems of oppression which can simply be shrugged off by refusing to play the game of adhering to labels and categories. Their attitude and response to the question of their identity is a simple, “fuck you.” Naturally, this creates tensions between LGBT people and Queer people. Some common conflicts include hate crimes legislation, gay marriage, and gay adoption laws. LGBT people see these as necessary laws to impose equal rights for LGBT people on an unwilling Cis-Het majority electorate. Queer people see these laws as excluding anyone not named in them. The Queer solution would be to remove all government interference with marriage, adoption, etc based on any discriminatory factor, not just for gay people.

LGBT1 – Sister Outsider Quiz

Audre Lorde critically approaches each of her three main intersections. She sees each of these movements as umbrellas which focus unfairly on privileged members to the exclusion of marginalized intersections, perpetuating those other forms of oppression. She approaches Lesbians as a Black Woman. She approaches the Women’s Movement as a Black Lesbian. She approaches Black people as a Lesbian Woman. In “Man Child,” she comments, “Raising Black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy.”(a, pp81) This description of America shows how she considers it at odds with each of her intersectional aspects; as a black person struggling to justify her right to exist, as a woman struggling to justify her right to exist, and as a lesbian struggling to justify her right to exist.

Many other writers take the side of the movement associated with their first adjective. (ie. Black Lesbian Woman vs Lesbian Black Woman vs Woman Lesbian Black.) Lorde does the opposite. Her perspective is to critique each movement from the perspective of the others. In An Open Letter to Mary Daly, Lorde criticizes feminism from the perspective of a Black Lesbian, “Mary has made a conscious decision to narrow her scope and to deal only with the ecology of western european women.”(b, pp75)

 

Lorde’s critique of Mary Daly shows that Mary ignores marginalized groups within the feminist movement and suggests she include examples from these groups in her publications. For example, she writes, “Then, to realize that the only quotations from Black women’s words were the ones you used to introduce your chapter on African genital mutilation made me question why you needed to use them at all.”(a pp76) Lorde goes on to question whether Daly has even read the work of black women beyond skimming it for quotes to copy and paste in order to confirm her preexisting conclusions.

The simplest suggestion Lorde has for Daly is that she live up to her own values and respond to the many criticisms leveled in the open letter, “I would like not to destroy you in my consciousness, not to have to. So as a sister Hag, I ask you to speak to my perceptions.“ (b pp78) Silence on the part of the privileged is an act of oppression, especially silence with regard to oppression. An ally uses privilege to empower and support the oppressed and to interrupt the cycle of oppression. Lorde’s simple suggestion is that Daly demonstrate the principles she espouses to, and offers support and voice for the oppressed intersections under the umbrella of feminism.

Social Problems: Local Claimsmaker Analysis

SOC 301 Social Problems

CJ Trowbridge

Local Claimsmaker Analysis Midterm Paper

Description of the group

Stand Up Placer is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Auburn, California. According to their website, the organization was founded in 1974 by a group of concerned women as a rape crisis line. The organization has grown a lot since then. Today it includes nearly a hundred people of many genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations. I had lunch with CEO Jenny Davidson to talk about how Stand Up Placer provides services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking throughout Placer County, and about what kind of impact they are trying to have on the issue of underage prostitution as a subset of human trafficking in the area. I also spoke with one of Stand Up Placer’s volunteers who works with the FBI and local police on human trafficking stings as a decoy, luring Pimps and Johns as part of a larger strategy to tackle the underage prostitution issue in a novel way.

Methodology

I selected this group because I was already familiar with the important work they are doing in the community, and because I have many homophilies with the people involved through other causes and organizations we share stakes in. The main interview took place at Panera in Auburn and lasted about an hour. I also spent about an hour attending a meeting of the Roseville city council along with several staff members from Stand Up Placer. This included Jenny who was scheduled to speak about the issue of human trafficking and child prostitution along with Roseville Police Captain Glynn. The officer was very enthusiastic about Stand Up Placer and about the work being done between the organization and the local police on the issues of prostitution and human trafficking. My last interview with the volunteer who works the front line doing stings with the FBI took place the next day at a Starbucks in Auburn. This interview lasted about an hour as well. The main sources of secondary information were the organization’s website and data published by local police, newspapers, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Grounds

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” According to Davidson, in practice in our area, this usually means young people being forced to have sex with “Johns” by a romantic partner or family member through threats of violence or other types of coercion. In most cases, the trafficking victim is underage.

Quoting from the DHS again, “Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.” When trafficking victims are caught by police, the traditional view holds that the child has committed a crime and should be held responsible as a prostitute.

According to Davidson, the problem is getting much worse, not better. In fact, Stand Up Placer has helped more than fourteen times as many survivors of human trafficking in the first half of 2018 as the entire year of 2015. They are on track to help twice as many people as last year, which was double the year before that. More than half of the survivors are minors, and almost all survivors are under 22 years old.

Warrants

The traditional view that child prostitutes should be held responsible has recently come under scrutiny. Groups like Stand Up Placer are reframing the issue. Talking about child prostitution is an issue with many positions, but when child prostitution is phrased differently becomes human trafficking; a valence issue. The traditional view ignores the obvious fact that child prostitutes are typically victims of human trafficking. They are being coerced into this kind of work through threats and other means. The real criminal is the trafficker. They are taking advantage of vulnerable children and forcing them into prostitution.

According to one of Stand Up Placer’s FBI sting volunteers who I interviewed, an average child in the trafficking industry in our area is forced by the trafficker to have sex with up to ten “Johns” per night. The child is not the criminal here. The idea of punishing a child caught in a bust after they were just forced to have sex with a dozen “Johns” becomes inconceivable to the person who was arguing for punishing criminal child prostitutes under the traditional view of the issue

I think Stand Up Placer’s use of typifying examples and an excellent rhetorical strategy to redirect attention from what used to be considered criminal children to the real villains, traffickers, is an excellent and effective strategy for accomplishing the change they sought to make on this social problem.

Conclusions

Through recent legislative, judicial, and policy accomplishments, the bizarre traditional view is changing. Stand Up Placer is one of the organizations at the forefront of this issue, working with local police and policymakers to change the priority from targeting children who are victims of human trafficking, to instead targeting traffickers. “It’s been years of work to get here,” said Davidson.

When I visited Roseville city council with Stand Up Placer, Roseville Police Captain Marc Glynn described the new strategy around the human trafficking issue in the area. As quoted in the Press Tribune, “Our crime suppression unit will be a victim-centered approach focused on supply and demand. The ‘supply’ will involve undercover operations where we rescue the victims and arrest the pimps,” Glynn said. “The ‘demand’ part of it is where we will set up sting operations where we use ‘reverse Johns’ (in an effort to entice and catch the traffickers). This operation will be a positive move in the right direction.”

Councilman Scott Alvord responded, “I’m really appreciative [sic] how (Roseville Police Department and Stand Up Placer) are working together… You guys (Roseville Police) are catching them and you guys(Stand Up Placer) are taking care of the victims.”

Per Councilman Alvord’s comments, survivors of human trafficking have the need for many important services such as therapy, legal, medical, and housing services. Stand Up Placer provides all of these things free of charge to any survivors who need them.

This change in perspective to treating victims as victims instead of criminals marks a new chapter in enforcement around human trafficking in Placer County and especially in Roseville. No longer will children and other victims of human trafficking be subjected to punishment or treatment as criminal prostitutes rather than the victims of human trafficking that they really are.

Audience

Stand Up Placer does outreach through seminars taught at schools and organizations around the area, as well as through awareness events like Take Back The Night. Many of these outreach methods are targeted at survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence which are other issues the organization deals with. The majority of the human trafficking survivors who come to the organization are coming not from media outreach but directly from police stings. They are rescued and taken to Stand Up Placer in order to get those critical services and start rebuilding their lives.

Relationship with/use of media

Stand Up Placer has a weekly TV show on local public access TV where they talk about important issues relating to human trafficking. They also use social media and lots of outreach events and fundraisers to reach a wide audience with their important message. Most of the substantive policy work they do is done directly with local officials or through Federal intermediaries like Title IX or the FBI.

Transgender History by Susan Stryker

I read this book as part of a LGBT studies class at Sierra College for my degree in Social Justice. It’s a great read and eponymously covers the history of an important marginalized group in America; transgender people.

As always, I am happy to share the audiobook with any friends who want a copy.

This book is an excellent introduction to many of the concepts and terms related to the history of transgender issues in America. There is a big focus on intersectionality and the related history of the women’s movements and the LGBT movement.

One thing I especially liked is the way she compares gender and sexual orientation to language. Humans are definitely wired to have language, but we are not wired with a particular language. Likewise, we are wired for sex, orientation, and gender, but not for a specific sex, orientation, or gender.

“Str8 4 trans ONLY” [Draft]

Sublimation Is The New Reaction-Formation For Homophobia

Freud argued that all neurotic or psychologically atypical behavior is caused by dissonance. He defined dissonance as when the person one is, is different from the person one feels one should be. He argued that this causes what he called repression; the dissonance is pushed into the unconscious mind, where it is expressed through several defense mechanisms.

One famous example is homophobia; the fear of being homosexual. People who are homophobic are afraid that they are homosexual, and this fear is pushed into the unconscious mind where it manifests through what Freud called reaction formation. The person acts like the opposite of what they fear they really are. In the case of homophobia, the person typically behaves in a hypermasculine way. They try to prove to themselves and others that they are not homosexual through hypermasculinity which often includes misogyny and hypervigilant fear and hate of people with atypical sexuality and gender identity.

There is a very interesting thing happening in our culture today. It’s not new, but it’s more visible than ever and seems to be growing.

Freud argued for another defense mechanism called displacement or sublimation. This is when a person acts on their subconscious fear by using a substitute object and an elaborate excuse or metaphor to explain their behavior in order to make it more acceptable to themselves and to others. This allows them to behave according to their subconscious desires while still officially identifying as the opposite.

In recent years, there has been a huge surge in personal ads, gay dating apps, and in gay culture at large of people who identify as straight and are looking only for transgender people. Scrolling through Grindr at present, I can see dozens of nearby examples. I believe this is a clear example of displacement/sublimation. These people do not outwardly identify as homosexual, but want to act on those subconscious urges. Joining a gay sex app and then adding an all-caps headline to their profile that they are looking for trans people only allows them to dip a toe into their true selves while still identifying as the opposite.

Being a straight guy means being attracted to women. So if a straight guy approaches a trans man, then they are calling that person a woman. This is a very abusive behavior, deliberately misgendering the trans person. If the straight guy approaches a trans woman, this alone is not inherently abusive.

This is probably a very cathartic experience for people who are homophobic, but it is an expression of mental unhealth. It is an expression and extension of a deep problem which is not being addressed and is likely to escalate until actually dealt with.

There is also a long history of “gay panic” where a homophobic person is doing something like this and suddenly has a crisis of identity and decides to injure or murder the other person involved to prove they are not homosexual. This effect can be exacerbated by Post-coital Tristesse where some people feel intense sadness and guilt after sex, leading to unusually intense reactions against their partners. Venus Xtravaganza is a famous example. She was a transgender sex worker who described numerous instances of this happening to her in the documentary Paris is Burning, and she was eventually murdered by a John.

There is also the fact that self-identified straight men have the highest undiagnosed HIV and STI rates of any group, and the poorest attention to sexual health.

There are many examples of ways this phenomena can negatively impact transgender people as well as homophobic people, but it is also possible to imagine scenarios where both groups are empowered and enabled to find that palliative catharsis in the experience.

I interviewed an expert in human trafficking and sexual violence who said that most self-identified males define good sex as sex that ends in them having an orgasm and vice versa for bad sex. This expert also said that most self-identified females define good sex as sex that doesn’t hurt or doesn’t involve physical violence, and vice versa for bad; with neither party making any mention of the female-identified party achieving the orgasm which is assumed for the male-identified party.

There is a clear line between healthy sexual encounters and abusive encounters, and there are many behaviors and actions which are good indicators of future violence and abuse. Power and control dynamics and any physical violence are both excellent indicators of future abuse and violence.

In the words of atheist Elizabeth Gilbert, “[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”

BQT: Notes From Conversation with J.T.

J.T. is a leading member of a prominent LGBT organization. I asked specifically about managing perceptions around “colonization” and “appropriation” when working on issues related to attendance diversity in large LGBT organizations.

His advice was simple. Give the power to the people. Recruit leaders in underrepresented communities and empower them to create new events the way they want to.

He said just like early American racial integration, the issue must at first be forced on to the unwilling majority audiences in the city, and that they will learn to accept it. Empower the underrepresented to be their own leaders, and no one can accuse you of appropriating or colonizing those groups.

Sacramento Pride 2018

I was very proud this year to march with Sacramento’s Bolt Bar, a gay alternative bar which is a big participant in the leather and fetish communities in the Northern California area. The Bolt also hosts an annual Mr Leather competition whose winner goes on to International Mr Leather.

I carried the Trans pride flag. This is an important and underserved group in the gay community. I am proud to do my part to support them as an ally..

 

The truck that followed behind us as we marched towed a trailer containing a puppy mosh pit! Photo credit to my friend Professor Scott Kirchner. It was very funny to see many dogs in the crowd reacting to the puppy mosh pit as though they were real dogs. I am still looking for photos or videos of those hilarious reactions. :]