Category Archives: safety

To people I embrace, but who take up All the space…

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful pleasure of building community with folks from around Eastern Iowa, facilitated through the equally wonderful and fabulous Trans* Oral History Project. This event was organized by TransCollaborations and we had many joyful new partnerships with the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Digital Studio for Public Humanities, and continuing ones with the Women’s Resource & Action Center, and LGBT Resource Center.

More and more our little rascally group of trans* folk and cis allies are reaching out further to seemingly unlikely partnerships that make for holistic and beautiful programming that builds reciprocity into the core values of the events.

In opening up events to the public we always do so with some hesitation. It has been a frequent enough experience that someone will derail conversations and spiral us back to a 100-level dialogue when the event is scoped as specifically moving beyond that. Or there was that one time when that person stormed to the front of the room during a panel and everyone jumped back because they thought the person was going to physically assault them (she didn’t).

These past few weeks I have been reflecting on really big questions about power dynamics, bringing folk from different social positionings into common community spaces, and notions of privilege, voice, and space.

I think that sometimes unintentional but harmful practices can ensue, when some people enter into collaborative community spaces. For the most part, in my experience, most people are really respectful and intentional of their positioning within space. But I wonder if it would feel better for everyone if we all continued working on being mindful of what we as individuals bring into community spaces. For those folk in particular, who take up buckets of space, this is particularly difficult for the rest of the group to negotiate. There is a certain tension between wanting to invite everyone into a space and meeting folks’ needs, and leaning into one person’s way of being in the world and putting all of the energy towards them.

One of the (many) joys that I have as a trans* person is finding some amazing people with giant hearts, ridiculous senses of humor, a playfulness to everyday life, and at the same time also extremely serious about social justice work, equity, and developing rich relationships with others.

I have learned an incredibly great deal being within trans* communities and people who are fierce about safe space, leaning into community building, and taking people as they come.

So it becomes difficult to navigate situations where in a community space there are some folks who embrace these values, and others who simply wander in and have no awareness of, or willing to own, the amount of space they are taking up.

I’m not writing here about folks who need communities of support to embrace them because they are isolated or uncertain about where they fit in the world, in a new self-understanding place around their identities or trying to gain a greater awareness, or want to work on being better allies to trans* communities. That feels different. I think this is more specifically in the instance where someone somewhat parasitically takes from communities but never offers anything in return in a reciprocal way – whether that is an idea, sharing a story, creating an affirming feeling for others, helping to organize events, etc.

I think that mindfulness around what we bring to spaces, and instilling reciprocity into daily practices are two extremely important areas to continue working on – particularly in social justice communities. I am certain that this is not a trans-specific issue but that perhaps these are giant questions that folks working within other social justice communities have to navigate as well.

To me it seems like a basic etiquette and social justice principle: in any space it is really important to be intentional in how you are in that space – the power dynamics that operate and the privileges that you may carry into that place. This seems key to being either a community member or working within processes of being an ally. And if you are a member of a community that is organizing something, owning that that doesn’t give you a ‘free pass’ for taking up all the space. Because otherwise, you are perpetuating power dynamics that continue to oppress people and undermine the very space that you enter into.


Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Hosted by RVAP

The entire month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP), as well as some other community groups, will be hosting events throughout the month to create spaces to talk about sexual assault, consent, and healing. Some events include a film screening of Boys and Men Healing; a social justice talk about portrayals of Asian American/Pacific Islander women in the media; and the annual Take Back the Night march. Check out the full calendar of SAAM events. SAAM 2013 Calendar

Zine Making Party

Saturday, April 6th from 4-7 pm

Hosted by RVAP and TransCollaborations

In honor of SAAM TransCollaborations and RVAP are coming together to host a Zine Making Party this Saturday, April 6th from 4pm to 7pm. It will be at the Iowa City Public Library in meeting room D. The zine will focus on queer communities dealing with issues such as consent, street violence, and healing from sexual assault. You can check out the facebook event here.

Call for Solidarity with Iowa City Trans* Communities and Concerns with Media Coverage during TransWeek!

A Call for Solidarity with Iowa City Trans* Communities and Concerns with Media Coverage during TransWeek!:

Over the last several years, many of us in the Iowa City trans* community have agreed to participate in interviews with local newspapers. Sometimes, every once in a very infrequent while, a journalist does it right, does their homework, and follows journalistic integrity practices for their discipline (as outlined in the Associated Press stylebook). However, we have found that usually our pronouns are not respected, our names have been distorted, or that the journalist simplifies our identities down to a simplistic and transnormative narrative, even when we take the time to explain that we might not fall into that medicalized discourse (i.e. born in the wrong body, etc).

Our Request of You
We ask that if the Daily Iowan (and this only applies to the Daily Iowan) contacts you to comment on TransWeek! that you reply with the following statement. Additionally, if a reporter from the Daily Iowan asks for a quote during a TransWeek event, please also consider not engaging and mentioning something like what appears below:

I am not able to grant you an interview on TransWeek! events for this year. While I appreciate the DI attempting to cover social justice issues, as they are vital to creating an affirming and safe place for all people – trans-identified folk included – on this campus and in our Iowa City community, it has been brought to my attention that your news organization does not honor the Associated Press’ guidelines on how to work with and report on transgender populations. Recently a trans-identified person requested that their birth assigned name be removed from an on-line story, from the DI, for privacy and safety reasons and that request was denied. Therefore, in solidarity with trans* communities in Iowa City, I cannot consent to an interview until you change your policies. A blanket policy on not changing or updating stories might be “equal” in that it is applied to everyone. However, equality is not the same as equity. Trans* populations have specific concerns and needs that cisgender populations may or may not have to negotiate with media sources.

**Trigger Warning**: Violence in our Neighborhoods

Dear internet: I’m sorry this is my first real post. I don’t know how to do blogs but feel like this trans* group needs some postings up here on the lived experiences of trans* folk in Iowa City and I have got to get this shit out of my head and heart because if I don’t, well, I imagine not falling asleep until about 4am or so and as a graduate student who relishes sleep – when it comes – that isn’t acceptable.

I had a lovely day with friends – catching up with folks I haven’t seen in several years, leaning into their painful stories of loss, checking my own stories of the summer, and connecting with new folks as well. A perfect convergence of good coffee, conversations, stories, laughing, crying, heartache. joy

I came home later this evening and my heart was full and singing with all kinds of warm fuzzies. I cracked open a celebratory beer (yay for building community!) and lit a cigarette (yes, I am a shameful smoker and won’t smoke around folks that I know are non-smokers for those who don’t know my dirty secret). My peace was interrupted around 11:30pm as I witnessed, on my porch, a man screaming at his girlfriend that he hated her “stupid bitch fat face” and spitting at her. Then he started hitting her……..

I hesitated. No, strike that. I froze.

For all of the feminist philosophy that has been ingrained in me for 15 years this was the moment where it seemed to count.

She was weeping, and then laughing, and then demanding that he call his friends to let her in the house. She seemed to fear for her safety. I feared for her safety.

And then…something happened in my body where I felt like I was reliving some (recent) past experiences and reached my threshold. I called the cops. I don’t often like institutionalized criminal punishment. In fact, as a trans* person I fucking despise it. I have been bullied (read: emotionally abused) by the very forces that I called upon. But as a small person who appears to most as a sissy faggot guy, I wouldn’t dare put my body in the line of their argument.

So I called 911 for the first time ever, in my entire existence and made a very sociological report: A white man in his early 20s named {X} is yelling at, spitting on, and hitting his girlfriend named {C}. I live at (fill in address} and if you are standing in front of it, it is to the left. There was silence on the phone and then the woman asked me if I said he was hitting her. Violence is one of those things that different cultures interpret differently. I almost said, “maybe” but then I remembered the sobbing of girlfriend {C} and her sob-talking “You hit me.” And in that moment I was caught between the consequences of this call and the politics of institutionalized racismsexismtransphobiaheternormativityablesimandonandsoforth So I mustered up energy, for {C} and myself and said that yes, I was sitting on my porch and watching this happen and I couldn’t be a passive bystander any longer.

What works in my favor, as a bystander, is that I assume most other dudes assume that a “fellow-bro” would never call the cops, never report this kind of “thing” that has been so thoroughly ingrained in our collective culture and particularly for men (it seems) that both {X} and {C} were thoroughly shocked when the cops arrived.

But his behavior triggered something in me. I imagined being {C} and screaming I love you, as my boyfriend assaulted me emotionally, physically, verbally.

The cops came within 5 minutes (sometimes, perhaps the system works). And then a giant screaming match ensued with {X} screaming about his fucking lawyers and disheartingly, {C} pleading for {X} to calm down and put his hands above his head and reassuring him that she loved him. The cops have him in the car, right now, at this moment that I am typing. And I can still hear him screaming and crying and yelling about lawyers and the fucking cops and goddamn neighbors and please god fucking arrest me, I love you, I need you, FUCK you.

And while I fear for my life, if {X} ever found out who called the cops (and as a sissyfaggotqueertrans person), I feel content that I did something important for {C} even if she doesn’t realize that until years later.

“Even if” he was fall-over-his-feet drunk. I don’t believe that is an excuse. And “even if” they both deny that he physically assaulted her, he is assaulting our community by his emotional and spiritual violence – “even if” our definitions of such are different. For the verbal onslaught that has happened since he has been sitting in the cop car (and yes, thirty minutes later they are still sitting outside of my house and my dog is cowering in the closet because she is sensitive to yelling and loud voices) and the violence he is enacting now not only upon his girlfriend but this neighborhood…is simply unacceptable. For {X} is an abusive fucker that needs to be reminded that as a community, we simply won’t stand for this shit.