feature image via shizzledizzlemagic.com
On October 10, the California-based right-wing law firm Pacific Justice Institute issued a press release on its website titled “Nightmare: Teen Boy Harasses Girls in Their Bathroom, Colo. School Tells Girls They Have No Rights.”
Like a page out of the right-wing playbook on trans issues, the press release read, in part:
Attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) sent a strongly-worded letter this afternoon to school officials at Florence High School, warning them against squelching student privacy and speech rights in order to cater to the wishes of a teenage boy who has been entering girls’ bathrooms on campus…
Parents at the school, located near Colorado Springs, became irate when they learned that a teenage boy was entering girls’ bathrooms and, according to some students, even making sexually harassing comments toward girls he was encountering. When the parents confronted school officials, they were stunned to be told the boy’s rights as a self-proclaimed transgender trumped their daughters’ privacy rights. As the controversy grew, some students were threatened by school authorities with being kicked off school athletic teams or charged with hate crimes if they continued to voice concerns. The parents became aware of PJI’s Notice of Reasonable Expectation of Privacy and contacted PJI for help.
Brad Dacus, President of PJI, was quoted as saying:
“We’re not going to stand by and let 99.7% of our students lose their privacy and free speech rights just because .3% of the population are gender-confused. LGBT activists are sacrificing the safety and sanity of our schools to push an extreme political agenda. This battle is no longer confined to California or Colorado; it is spreading to every part of the nation. It is crucial that we act now to prevent a crippling blow to our constitutional freedoms.”
From here, the situation quickly exploded over the next few days as the story began to appear in local news before breaking in several high-profile tabloids and right-wing news sites, including the UK’s Daily Mail.
The problem with all this, of course, is that the story is largely fabricated. This fact is strongly hinted in the press release itself, in fact. Notice that not a single parent or student of Florence High School is quoted in the text, and no description is given whatsoever of the supposed “harassment” that a trans teen committed in the washroom.
There is, however, a very real young trans girl (we’ll refer to her as Jane Doe) who was the target of the PJI press release; she found out that she was supposedly guilty of “harassment” when the news media showed up one day outside of her school.
From here, I’m afraid, the story goes quickly from ugly to uglier. The good news is that, thanks to some tough reporting from Cristan William’s over at the TransAdvocate, the truth about the issue came to light very quickly. She contacted the school’s Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti, who reported that,
“We do have a transgender student at the high school, and she has been using the women’s restrooms. There has not been a situation. All the students of these parents who say they feel uncomfortable just about the fact that the student is allowed to go into the restrooms at the high school, into the stalls – they don’t believe that that’s appropriate, so that’s where it stems from. There has not been an incident of harassment, or anything that would cause any additional concern.”
Hence what we apparently have is another incidence of adults needlessly sexualizing a child’s visitation to the washroom, reminiscent of the previous media storm over six-year old Coy Mathis, another Colorado trans girl.
As a result of Cristan’s reporting and her pushing hard on the news outlets that ran those stories, several of them retracted their pieces, including the Daily Mail and Examiner.com (the latter of whom issued an apology). The story of course still appears almost as originally published over at FOX News (once the Daily Mail story it originally sourced was deleted, FOX quietly changed the link to a right-wing Christian site).
In response to the pushback, PJI was compelled to reveal the nature of the harassment that had supposedly occurred. While their initial press release clearly insinuated that specific incidents of sexual harassment had occurred, PJI later changed their story and claimed that a trans teen using the women’s washroom itself constituted harassment.
While that revelation largely kept the fabricated story from spreading further in major media, the damage was done, and continued to spread in other ways. The comments that immediately appeared underneath virtually all of the “news” pieces in Conservative media were simply vile and murderous. And while PJI has vaguely pretended that it would never have outed the trans kid in question by name (and at least acknowledged that doing so would be morally reprehensible), the fact of the matter is that for a small town in Colorado, there is in reality no doubt about who is being singled out in international media and on what basis (apparently Jane Doe is the only out trans child in her school).
And in any case, it doesn’t matter because PJI and their conservative allies managed to attract support from someone with even lower standards: anti-trans radical feminists.
Keep in mind that the Pacific Justice Institute is a far right organization that publicly supports anti-gay “reparative therapy” and has in the past conflated support for gay and lesbian rights with pedophilia and incest. Given that many radical feminists claim to speak universally on behalf of lesbian cis women, there is certainly irony in the fact that they are parroting the same kind of sexualized smear rhetoric that so many in the LGBT community have been fighting from the right-wing for decades.
There is further irony noting that Jane Doe herself is being raised by lesbian parents. One of her mom’s recently spoke out against the tremendous pressure that outside forces are pushing onto her family, and spoke of the anxiety attacks that her daughter has been experiencing since the anti-trans harassment campaign broke out.
“My wife and I were visiting my sister who was in the hospital while my daughter was in school. The principal called to inform me that a newscaster was at the school and wanted to interview me about my daughter’s ‘bathroom rights’ – this was the first I’d heard about any of this. From what I understand, the school didn’t even know. …I know my daughter. She’s a shy and timid person. It was upsetting. As a matter of fact, before we moved to this town, she was afraid that she would be bullied at school. She had a fear that if she went to this new school, something would happen and she wouldn’t be safe. I reassured her. I told her that everything was going to be fine and to not worry… We’re going through a lot.”
She also stated:
“My daughter was the one who learned about the Pacific Justice Institute. She saw it online. She was upset. It made her panic. She saw where their story had become international news and she saw what people were saying. It gave her anxiety attacks.”
Her mother also unequivocally denies that Jane Doe has harassed anybody.
For years, many in the feminist movement have accused transphobic radfems of professing ideas that closely mirror conservative ideology; however, not until this recent incident have I actually seen their actions align in such a clear manner.
I’ll make an honest comment that in the past I have sometimes thought some (not all) of the reaction to the anti-trans radfem campaigns has been a bit overblown. They’re hateful people who do really inappropriate things, but I don’t think their tactics very effective with the outside world (and I am saying that as someone whom they have publicly targeted in the past). I think many of the anti-trans activists who claim to be feminists fail to effectively make connections in feminist communities because of their misanthropic principles before you even take their transgender (or sex work) politics into account, and I think even a lot of cis people pick up on that. In my view, the anti-trans radfems generally aren’t worthy adversaries for us (and more than a few of their campaigns are just hilariously incompetent anyways).
However, the situation at hand is very stark. How to respond to that takes some thought, in my view, and is probably a long-term question. Personally, I do not think the answer is to engage in endless Twitter wars or to blast phrases like “die cis scum” all over the internet. I don’t think this does anything to empower us as a community over our opponents. For one thing, it just energizes the opposition by giving them more things to yell at us about. That might be fine if they at least only yelled at the trans activists who also joined in with the yelling, but they don’t; they take it out on everybody. For another thing, when we continually raise the red alert over every ridiculous thing a radfem troll says or does on the Internet, it just makes it harder to draw attention to the really important stuff, like the situation Jane Doe is facing in Colorado.
I don’t think the goal of anti-trans radfems is to actually win arguments with us anyways. On the contrary, I think their goal is just to reduce the entire conversation to the lowest common denominator possible. Then outside observers are left with the impression of two warring factions, both of whom are utterly unrelatable, and hence they just give up entirely on trying to make sense of it. That helps anti-trans activists maintain the status quo in which cissexism and trans-misogyny are considered socially acceptable.
I think part of the long-term goal for us is to expose the hateful ideology that all anti-trans activists represent, but doing so in a way that relies more so on direct appeal to the hearts and minds of the masses and steps back from direct confrontations with anti-trans activists (unless necessary or in circumstances that clearly benefit our side of the debate).
As part of exposing the opposition forces for who they really are, let’s briefly return to the Pacific Justice Institute, and their press release that was one of the first pieces in all of this, as the last paragraph of that release reveals their cynicism:
“Earlier this year, PJI led the opposition in California to AB 1266, the most sweeping legislation yet to assert transgender rights in schools. That law, which is set to take effect January 1, 2014, is currently being targeted by a citizen referendum drive. Californians who have not yet signed a petition should visit www.privacyforallstudents.com to get involved.”
Here the organization reveals an ulterior motive, and suddenly it makes perfect sense why PJI went straight to the press instead of making a serious attempt to take the issue up with the school in private. Ultimately, PJI targeted a trans teen in Colorado at least in part to fuel its referendum campaign attempting to derail California’s recently-passed Transgender equality law AB 1266.
While this does expose how desperate they must be in their challenge to trans equality, it also reveals how cynical they are in their attempts to publicly malign a trans child and to interfere in the affairs of her school, her town, and her family. This is why I refer to the Pacific Justice Institute as what they are: an anti-family organization that has no problem disrupting the lives of any family with whom they cannot or choose not to identify. And similarly I think it’s also time to recognize their radfem allies for the anti-woman “feminists” they really are.
Fortunately, many of Jane Doe’s schoolmates and fellow Florence citizens have spoken out in her defense, in defiance of Brad Dacus’s false claim that “99.7% of … students lose their privacy and free speech rights” when trans equality is recognized.
Savannah is a queer trans woman and physicist originally from the great state of Carolina (that alone should tell you which one). She also writes on trans feminism and other social justice issues on her blog leftytgirl, preferably while listening to metal. Savannah presently lives in Tokyo where her principle hobbies include singing at karaoke clubs and getting lost on the subway.
Thank you for writing this. I saw a brief mention of this situation somewhere else but didn’t know most of the story. It’s sad. I’m glad that her community is defending her.
I want to take the word “justice” away from these fuckers.
Maybe it is because I am new to the community, but out of curiosity, how big is the Radfem/transphobic feminist/cissexism is California, and in North American in general?
I wonder if these radfems will realize at one point their “allies” are anti-lgbtq activist groups, or vice-versa.
you wonder? there is no if, they already realise it wonderfully. Sorry those two groups are locked in a vendetta type conflict that can be resolved only one, final way.
i’ve been close to both personally – but in the end turned my back on the entire ideology sheltering the hategroup. Wow that felt like catholic excommunication/apostasy in middle ages, i had no idea how close it was to a religion and how empty it would leave me.
Still, the right choice of not supporting persecution – and the inevitable technocratic future ftw.
Incredibly well said/written. Thanks for this and yes, right on.
Trolls be trollin’. When it directly threatens the rights, privacy, and well-being of a CHILD, though? Time to name it and change it. Anti-family and anti-woman is right.
You do have to wonder if your femism aims true when it aligns with conservative American politics.
I take TERFs somewhat seriously because the public is so transphobic in general I worry that while they lack credibility in feminist circles, the mainstream may tack onto them. There’s an element of not sleeping my enemies in there too.
You make a good point, but at the same time I think some if not many in the public will see, hear, or realize how out there TERF can be. Hell, some of them are advocating violence against trans*women, and shunning of trans*men, while others are actually getting kicked out of lesbian bars/clubs for complaining about the place being trans* friendly and then claim the place is not a safe space for lesbians(or something along those lines).
Is anybody else really sad? This just makes me really sad. Not surprised, but sad.
I think I passed through sad a while back. Now I am just tired and hollow on this.
I appreciate Savannah’s position and the high road is both correct and, in my mind, eventually going to be the successful way in dealing with this. However, I am tired. I am worn through with the ease of these hatemongering subhumans. Am I falling to name calling? Yeah, I am. So what? I’m done. They out young girl who has done nothing but exist. They target her, endanger her life when she has done nothing of the kind to anyone else.
But we should take the high road.
They wrap themselves in half-assed legal protection so we cannot even mention some of their names, for fear of having a patriarchal system the TERF are supposed to hate, coming down across us.
But we should take the high road.
We are attacked, shamed, hated, disregarded. Even those of us who find ourselves wrapped in the highest levels of privilege a Transwoman could expect feel these things. These attacks echoing up from those less protected by the color of their skin, their bone structure, or their bank accounts.
But we should take the high road.
I know that in the long run this is true. We should, we HAVE to take the high road. It is the only way. But for so long I have been told to ‘ignore the trolls’ or ‘don’t feed the trolls, they are harmless’.
No, they fucking aren’t. And if we keep ignoring them while taking this high road, it will be paved in the blood of our friends and those like us.
Slow clap. The trolls aren’t harmless. The trolls are very harmful. I waver back and forth between sad and angry on this issue, and I’m clearly privileged to not be a trans* woman (obviously, the major target of TERFs). For the self-preservation of trans* women, I would suggest they NOT engage with some of these people because some of them will go to any bizarre extent to try to ruin a person’s life.
But taking the high road all the time is for saints, of which I am not.
Some people do say the trolls are harmless, but I never did. They can be very harmful, and this case proves it.
The high road, as you put it, is not presented here as any kind of philosophical principle. It is presented as a strategy, nothing more, and the goal is to defeat our opponents politically and to marginalize them and their bigotry. If I did not believe that it represents our best chance at accomplishing those goals, then I would not be here advocating for that.
Although I am genuinely sick and tired of seeing trans activists working themselves into a fury over whatever CB’s most recent gimmick is. At a certain point, it becomes humiliating to observe how much this woman manipulates our community.
me too. reading about things like this just makes my heart sink.
can we all form our own little bubble where people are nice to each other and adults never bully children, especially for just trying to exist??
i don’t know how much more transphobia and general intolerance and douche-dom my half-closeted extremely genderqueer little heart can take.
sad and terrified, yeah ._.
Folks, today I learned that Jane Doe is on suicide watch. Here’s how you can help:
Here’s a link to a GoFundMe to help with her medical expenses this month: http://www.gofundme.com/4ye1d4
That’s so terrible to hear, but thank you for updating us, and thanks Rie for including the link to the GoFundMe. I would strongly encourage everyone who can to please make a donation. The expenses associated with that kind of care would likely escalate very quickly.
Thanks for sharing this. It is great to have a way to show Jane Doe she has a whole lot of people in her corner. Everyone that can, please consider donating even a small amount. I know there is so much hate, anger and sadness surrounding this story and I am really glad that Cristan has offered some positive things that trans* people and their allies can do.
Cristan’s article also includes info on how to send messages of support, so if you can’t donate to the campaign you can still offer a message of solidarity to a young woman that really needs it.
“Send supportive messages: Videos, audio, or email. You can leave your supportive comments below, email them to me or leave links to your supportive audio, video or blog posts in the comment section below. If you would like to mail cards, notes and letters, the Transgender Center in Houston will collect and vet each letter. Your correspondence will be collected and forwarded to the family. Send physical correspondence to:
Jane Doe, c/o
The Houston Transgender Center
604 Pacific, Houston, TX 77006
The hate directed at Jane has been immense and it is having it’s intended effect. A large 2011 survey found that 51% of bullied school trans kids attempt suicide. The scope and scale of bullying that Jane has endured is unprecedented. Please, let her know that you support her, that you wish her well and that it will get better.”
This is just so horrible, I really hope she will be OK. I can’t understand how these TERFs and conservatives don’t understand the impact of their words on the life of this child and others like her. Or do they understand and just not care? Both possibilities are horrifying.
While I understood in the abstract that trans people are discriminated against, it wasn’t until I had a friend who is a trans woman that I understood the true depth of hatred that many people posses. It is truly awful, and I will never understand it. It is completely bizarre to me that anyone cares how another person identifies their own gender.
That hilariously incompetent ‘analysis’ of the word cis you linked to actually looked like satire…
It isn’t; if you look at the comments (not that I recommend that, I just make terrible decisions) it quickly becomes painfully clear.
(~omg ‘decision’ has ‘cis’ in it it must be about death.~)
It sickens me that people who are persecuting a child feel entitled to have the word ‘justice’ in their organisation name. I’m glad Jane Doe’s community are supporting her against these bullies.
Right wing Conservatives allied with radical feminists. What is the saying, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”?
Marika, it is sad, but unfortunately I have seen too many examples of people who just despise us and can not even really identify the source of their own hatred. There is just something about trans people, and from my paradigm transwomen, that seems to trigger absolute disdain from those who are cisgender. If one would perform a search of trans people killed over the last year these are not just murders, but hideously, brutal killings often with torture involved.
I am not looking for pity, but I just do not understand the hatred toward those of us who are trans.
I think it is an excellent question, Marsha. If you want to hear my guess – it is a biological imperative. Think of a sentient being’s mind/brain as a computer – a large part of it being recursion-capable software operating within the universal Turing architecture – while the remainder is something you could call embedded systems and firmware.
The sapient, self-aware, rational parts of us are the former. The latter is our pre-programmed evolutionary behaviours and constraints. This division does not map over the conscious/unconscious of psychoanalysis – as psychoanalysis describes the automated, non-conscious processes of our Turing architecture you are somewhat able to affect. One cannot interact with evolutionary firmware bi-directionally – it can affect your processes while itself it can’t be altered, only suppressed/atrophied. It is a voice within oneself which animals have no choice but to obey immediately – while in case of sapients the goals of their individual personalities can end up vying for priority with evolutionary firmware.
What you are effectively asking for is a civilisation with effectively disabled/atrophied evolutionary motivations. To put it in emotionally tinted terms – a civilisation which has preserved its sapience (which i strongly suspect is amorphous/universal) while having lost its humanity.
That not only happens to be logically and otherwise possible but is precisely the holy grail of all techno-cults – from Descartes or even antiquity to the early 20th century Technocrats to current transhuman efforts and tendencies of most if not all suits.
*smiles* I just thought one might want to know the options. You would not be the first transsexual woman to align yourself to this undercurrent – think maybe of certain prof. Roseanne A. Stone, once in a different cult known by a different name but thankfully outgrowing that dead end ideology. In fact transsexual people are the first subculture to technologically override their evolutionary role and their pack’s mechanism of checks and balances – and come out of that stronger and more themselves. Which is why i have infinitely more respect for you than for anyone writing essays in H+ about how using a mobile makes them a cyborg.
And no, neither veneration of nature and self-preservation of the biological species nor technological ascension is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you’ll laugh but it’s ultimately an aesthetic choice. It’s about suiting one’s own self whatever that self is. And that hatred you asked about is just read-only lines of firmware code, a means of maintaining biological uniformity and purity of the pack. It’s necessary for everything to work as intended. You’ll laugh but the right word for that is ‘normal’.
First of all, I’m sorry I’m not a member, but I just had to say, as a trans girl in the uk, this sort of idiocy, it just beggars belief that this sort of thing can count as ‘right minded’ thinking by the ‘nothing better to do with my life’ brigade..
To the girl involved, from someone you’ll never meet.. Keep your head high, because if I had even 1/10th of your bravery, when I was your age, life would have been so much easier..
Just be true to yourself, and the world WILL loose it’s crazy, promise!