Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Over two decades since the first World AIDS Day was recognized, much has been achieved. But unfortunately the prevention and treatment tools that have been developed still aren’t available everywhere for everyone. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the day’s theme until 2015 to be: “Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS Related Deaths.” But As Kai Wright points out in a post at Colorlines:
Globally, those who have access to social and economic capital avoid the virus or, when infected, live healthy lives with it. Elsewhere, infections and deaths continue to mount.
These three slices of black America—queer men (however we identify), women and transgender people—hold some of the least social and economic capital in this otherwise wealthy and comfortable nation. In fact, what’s true in HIV is true in just about every other aspect of life in the U.S. Pick the indicator of distress, and you’ll find these groups ranking near the top of those who struggle. HIV is and has always been an excellent measure of who societies value and who they don’t.
Stephen Lewis’ Worlds AIDS Day message talks about how looking at HIV/AIDS on a global scale shows the same inequality. The top ten countries with the highest percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa:
Two and a half million new infections last year; 330,000 are children. More than 50% infected in Africa are women…AIDS must be restored to the international agenda. The one place where it’s never been off the agenda is at the grassroots in Africa.
Despite more and more high-profile bullying cases being reported in the media recently, in the last few days we’ve seen two anti-bullying policies defeated in Canada. The first was a motion brought forward by the Edmonton Public School District to the Alberta School Boards Association to protect LGBT students and staff from bullying through requiring schools to develop a zero-tolerance policy.
“Our concern was that if you are appearing to promote one group preferentially over the other, that it’s not appropriate,” Calgary Catholic chairwoman Mary Martin said in the Calgary Herald.
ABSA President Jacquie Hansen echoed Martin’s remarks, telling the Edmonton Journal that the ABSA didn’t want a policy that only protected LGBT kids. At least that was a nicer way of framing it than Pembina Hills trustee Dale Schaffrick, who was forced to apologize after telling the CBC that kids should act less gay to avoid bullying:
“If children with a gay tendency appear a certain way, we know that we have to be vigilant to make sure they are not discriminated against,” Schaffrick told CBC News.
When asked if those students should try to be less identifiable, he said, “I think for their own benefit… it would be helpful.”
The idea that LGBT kids somehow ask to be bullied by acting or appearing a certain way, and that their sexual orientation is nothing more than a “tendency”, is obviously ridiculous and offensive. But let’s take a step back again to look at what the more mainstream folks said about why they opposed this motion: because it singled out LGBT students and staff for protection from bullying. Read more
This blog entry uses an asterisk after the prefix trans- as a way to include all non-cisgender gender identities.
November 20th is the Trans* Day of Remembrance, a day that was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as trans*, each was a victim of violence based on bias against trans* people.
As a trans* identified person who works in social services, I am often asked to speak, write, or facilitate about trans* identities and the ways that trans* people can experience oppression. November is a time when many people ask if I am going to organize or attend a vigil on the 20th. Often, I am asked questions about my personal narrative and how I feel about my personal safety and the increased risk that I must experience not being cisgender.
I often choose to attend Trans* Day of Remembrance events, but not because of my own gender identity. I recognize that I hold many privileges; privileges that were not granted to many of the people whose names are read each year at vigils around the world. Many of these victims experienced multiple forms of oppression including class, race, and gender. Many of these victims were women of colour.
I am white and working class. My wife and I are both university students. Although, I am a survivor of poverty, homelessness, addiction, and survival sexual exploitation, I have many privileges that allow me to now live without fear of having my name read out at the annual vigils. Read more
As Gender Focus’ readership has grown over the past few years, we’ve encountered more situations where a few trolls visit the site and spend what seems a inordinate amount of time refusing to listen and/or trying to bait me or a contributor into one fallacious argument or another.
So, what do we do when we get a flood of comments like that?
I wanted that for Gender Focus. I wanted to strike a balance between allowing for debate and ensuring contributors and commenters feel safe expressing their opinions and not being subject to silencing tactics.
To that end, here are a couple of the key items in the policy: Read more
I have this memory of me, age 8, refusing for some reason to go to the bathroom before we left the house to go to the mall, and my mother saying, “Fine. You’ll have to go in the mall and you’ll get AIDS from the toilet and die in six months.”
I’m pretty sure I went to the bathroom only at our house from then on, and not in strange, unsupervised toilets, but I don’t actually remember. It seemed like a lot of people were scared then, an insane, unsubstantiated variety of fear. Maybe you got AIDS from kissing, maybe you got it from open sores, maybe from sharing glasses? Maybe it would kill you in six months, maybe in a year. I don’t remember knowing that gay men were getting it, I don’t think I knew what a gay man was. I just knew from the news that was filtered through my mother that people were dying.
Last week, I saw How to Survive a Plague, a documentary about the formation and work of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the international direct action advocacy group that formed in New York City in 1987 in response to AIDS, which was rampaging through the gay community without any response from the government.
I went to see the film largely because the hosts of my favorite independent political podcast raved about it, and because I imagined myself drawing all sorts of exciting parallels between ACT UP and Occupy Wall Street. ACT UP and Occupy have worked together and informed one another on issues of direct action and movement building.
Students at New Brunswick’s Mount Allison University show how ridiculous homophobia is by creating a sketch showing what heterophobia would be like. Created by Rachael Coon, Giacomo Vecia and Jen Boyce for the university’s Positive Space presentation during The Good, the Bad and the Ugly presentation for Orientation 2012.