Trans Sex Workers and Reproductive Justice

Candace Gibson, Resident Blogger (’12, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law)

The reproductive justice and LGBTQ liberation movements share the values of bodily autonomy and sexual liberation and believe that all persons should have the resources they need to form the families they want.  However, many of these desires, including bodily autonomy, are often denied to trans persons, especially trans sex workers, many of whom are trans women of color. At a recent conference that I attended, Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of HIPS, painfully articulated the experiences of trans sex workers and their attempts to survive in our economy.  She had mentioned how trans sex workers not only faced violence from their clients but also from the police as they were arrested, how police officers often sexually harassed these individuals. In 2013, a D.C. police officer shot three transgender women in a car after one of the transwomen refused to provide sex for money.  Clay also discussed how often young trans persons were forced onto the streets because their families rejected who they were and that trans persons are excluded and erased from larger conversations on anti-trafficking efforts, unfortunately nothing new to many of us in different movements.

Clay’s comments remind me that we still live in a society hung up with gender, body parts, and the selling of sex.  Unfortunately, through our regulation and, in this case, criminalization of sexual desire for sale, we often harm and kill the most vulnerable without providing critical solutions and resources for those who are merely trying to survive.  Survival should not be the standard for some-we should all have the resources we need to thrive as persons and as members of our community.

Maybe, it’s time for the broader reproductive justice community to center the voices of sex workers, especially trans sex workers, in our conversations.  It may be hard at first but we have never shied away from a challenge.  

Parentage Laws and Reproductive Justice

S J Chapman, Resident Blogger, (’12, Northwestern University Law School)

Gay marriage is an issue in which LGBTQ justice and reproductive justice go hand-in-hand. Illinois provides a concrete example.  Illinois’ landmark gay marriage law goes into effect this June. But its parentage law is lagging behind and unless it’s changed, it will impede reproductive justice for same-sex spouses.

Like most states, Illinois has a “presumed father” law, under which a child born during a marriage is presumed to be the husband’s legal child, even if it’s not biologically his. The legal parent-child relationship has important consequences in areas like guardianship and inheritance. If one spouse dies, the other spouse has automatic guardianship over a legal child. Or, if a spouse dies intestate, half their property goes to their spouse and half to their legal children.

Take, for example, a different-sex married Illinois couple — we’ll call them Bob and Heather — whose child was conceived through an alternative reproductive therapy, and where biologically, Bob isn’t the father.  Bob is, however, the legal parent when the child is born.  If anything happens to Heather, Bob will have automatic guardianship of their child. Furthermore, their child stands to inherit half Bob’s property if he dies.

But what if Heather were instead married to Rachel when she conceived the child?  Now Heather’s spouse, Rachel, is not considered the legal parent.  Instead, Rachel must go through the adoption process to gain the parental rights that were automatically Bob’s. Until Illinois revises the law from “presumed father” to “presumed parent,” it is discriminating against same-sex couples like Heather and Rachel.

In general, the government should stay out of private parties’ decisions about family formation. Where the government does have a say, reproductive justice demands that laws not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As the states pass gay marriage laws, they need to pay attention to their parentage laws to ensure both reproductive and LGBTQ justice.


Nurse: I will need to remove your IV.

Me: I already removed it.

Nurse: What do you mean?

Me: I took it out. Off. Removed it.

Nurse: I don’t understand.

Me: Here it is. See? I removed it.

Nurse: Are you on something?

Me: You asked me 4 times already. No, I’m not on any medication.

Nurse: But how did you manage to take out the IV then?

Me (tired, hungry, and getting impatient): I’m sorry, I don’t see the connection.

Nurse: This must have been so painful!!!

This tells me that every time I was doing the “rate your pain on the scale of 1 to 10″ thing I was not making myself understood.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Tagged with:

Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

consent themed condoms

A new line of consent-themed condoms from FORCE.

The “Tuition” parody of Beyonce’s “Partition” is the anthem of our generation.

Lambda Legal is suing a doctor and clinic for violating the Affordable Care Act for refusing care to a trans woman.

The upcoming documentary The Illusionists explores the global beauty industry.

X-Men director Bryan Singer has been accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy.

Consider donating to help Kate Bornstein fight lung cancer.

Tagged with:

Speed-Blogging on Purgatory Thursday, 2014: On CEO Pay, The Two Countries of the USA and The Plight of Black Girls

Purgatory Thursday is my translation of the Finnish name for this day in the Christian calendar (kiirastorstai).  I like the mouth feeling of the term.

What to read today, to go with the tone I set above?  How about executive compensations?

The Times reported that the median compensation for C.E.O.’s in 2013 was $13.9 million, a 9 percent increase from 2012. The Wall Street Journal, which did its own, smaller survey a few weeks earlier, described the 2013 pay increases as representing “moderate growth.”
Find out what the average growth rate in the US workers' wage packet is and then compare the two.  It's a lot better to be a CEO than the average worker, and the term "moderate growth" has a different meaning for the two groups.

Here's a fun picture of the executive compensations of non-profit leaders, separated by gender.  You can move your cursor over the dots and find out more about the people.  The blue dots are guys, the yellow dots are gals.

Talking of graphs and such, it's worth noting that the southern states in the US differ from the northern states along many social and economic variables.  These comparisons show a few of them.

The differences are partly due to history (and even earlier due to climate), but it's certainly worth asking how that pattern correlates with various states' political leanings.

Finally, do read this Salon post by Brittney Cooper about black girls.  She describes the impact of growing up in circumstances which may leave the same markings on children as growing up in war zones does and makes an important point about the societal invisibility of the suffering she describes:

What threads these women’s lives together is the collective lack of national care for their stories. Black women have been passing these narratives around the blogosphere and social media to each other, posting collective laments, and wondering if anyone else cares. These stories are not national news to anybody else, but they are national news to us.
We must do better.

Quick Hit: An online forum on Twitter feminism

At The Nation, Andrea Smith, Mariame Kaba, Roxane Gay and our own Lori Adelman respond to Michelle Goldberg’s controversial piece on feminism’s so-called Twitter wars, and reflect on the role of Twitter and intra-movement disagreement as feminism grows and evolves. Check it out.

Russians Against Art

A performance of an aria from the opera “Ruslan and Lyudmila” was cancelled in Moscow because it contains the lines, “Dnieper is wide and Kiev is far away.”

As one Russian commenter joked, now it makes sense to outlaw the famous Winnie the Pooh cartoon because the rabbit in the cartoon looks very much like Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and the whole scene where Winnie the Pooh (who obviously symbolizes Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev because of Medvedev’s last name) visits the rabbit and eats all his food is very unpatriotic towards Russia.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Tagged with:

I love Outkast. I hate misogyny.


I love Outkast. Everyone should. I don’t trust people who don’t love Outkast. If you don’t love Outkast, stop reading this. You aren’t welcome here.

(I’m not really kidding!)

So I, like many others, was incredibly excited to find out that the duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi would reunite this spring/summer, after not performing on stage together in 10 years, to play Coachella. I was highly disappointed that I’m too poor to be able to actually go to Coachella and see them, but modern technology is great in that huge events like this get livestreamed on the interwebs and then saved for posterity.

I watched. Not live, but the next day. I got excited. I danced all by myself to “B.O.B.,” “Gasoline Dreams,” Skew it on the Bar-B,” “Elevators,” “Aquemini,” “Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 1,” “SpottieOttieDopaliscious.” All of it. And I was deeply disappointed. 

Not so much by the performance, which was kind of weird, as 3000 noted toward the end. Their chemistry seemed…off. Andre appeared uninterested at moments that should have been crowd pleasers. Big Boi looked frustrated trying to pick up the slack. There were glimpses of the ‘Kast we all know and love, to be sure, but they faded in and out, apparently alongside Andre’s ability to hear himself in the speakers.

But that wasn’t what disappointed me most. Nor was it the full ten minutes of the set that was dedicated to album promotion for Future (but seriously, as much fun as Future song can be, what the fuck was he doing there?). My disappoint came during 3000′s solo set. He was preparing to perform “Behold A Lady,” and he asked the crowd, “Are there any bitches here tonight?” Look, I’m under no illusion that Outkast is perfect. They dabble in the same misogyny the rest of the world does. But something about the way he asked that question so directly hit my eardrum like a dirty q-tip.

Then he asked, “Are there any hoes?” It got worse. “Don’t act surprised, if you a hoe, you know you a hoe.” To his credit, I suppose, he didn’t sound judgmental. But…harsh. Then: “Are there any ladies out there?” I hate this. I hate it so much. Outkast is probably the greatest duo/group in hip-hop history. Andre 3000 is one of the best emcees ever. But the shortcomings are real and incredibly disappointing.

The idea isn’t new — that there’s a difference between “bitches” and “women” and “ladies” and “hoes,” and it’s ok to call a “bitch” a “bitch” or a “hoe” a “hoe” if  that’s how she’s acting. Just be a lady and everything is fine. I feel like this was popularized in hip-hop by Tupac and has become the prevailing wisdom. I criticized Lupe Fiasco for buying into this a few years ago when he released the song “Bitch Bad.”

It’s simply another way of controlling the behavior of women, deeming some more respectable than others based on arbitrary rules around (mostly) the expression of sexuality. Who counts as a “bitch” or a “hoe” changes with each person attempting to define these terms. A woman who’s assertive may be labeled a “bitch,” or it might just be someone who has hurt a man’s feelings. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it, except the logic that maintains a man’s right to call women “bitches.” Same goes for “hoe.” There’s no clear line for what constitutes a “hoe,” except in my experience it really just means “woman who refuses to have sex with me” or “woman I’ve had sex with and now don’t respect because she had sex with me.” This shit seriously doesn’t make any sense. This stratified womanhood, in which “lady” is the pinnacle and everything that is good, is an intellectual fallacy that a good number of men have convinced themselves exist in order to justify their misogyny.

What’s most disappointing in hearing 3000 do this is that throughout their career, Outkast has explored definition and re-definition of self. They have sought to expose the limits of labels and boxes that people have attempted to put them. They’ve stretched our perceptions of black masculinity, black southern masculinity, black hip-hop masculinity. They’ve embraced the contradictions of the pimp persona, gangster, philosopher, dandy, revolutionary, nerd, and alien, without missing a step or allowing one idea or action to be the only one to define them. And they, more than a lot of other rappers, have emphasized female pleasure in their music (peep Andre on “So Fresh, So Clean” when he says “I do suck lips ’til hips jerk, in double time, the boy next door’s a freak” or the entire “I’ll Call Before I Come”). I just wish they could see as many possibilities for the expression of womanhood as they see for themselves.

Maya suggested to me that maybe that was at the heart of what 3000 was getting at when asking about bitches/hoes/ladies — that he was suggesting it was OK if you claimed any of those labels. And…maybe. Again, he wasn’t that judgmental toward the “hoes.” But it’s hard to reconcile with the contempt he and Big Boi expressed toward the fictitious “Caroline” at the end of “Roses” when they call her any number of different types of “bitches,” as well as the reverence they have for the “ladies.”

But, ’tis the lot of any feminist consumer of popular culture, the push and pull of the things that bring you immense pleasure but fly in the face of your politics. Here’s to hoping one day we don’t have to play that game.

People who don’t like Outkast are allowed to come back now.

MychalMychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute.

Anti-Semitism in Donetsk

So the Russian bandits in Ukraine finally realized that they will not manage to recruit Ukraine’s Jews to their side. Now the have dropped the pretense of wanting to “defend” Jews from Ukrainian nationalists and started showing their true anti-Semitic colors.

As the Jews in Donetsk were leaving the synagogue, they were given leaflets, telling them that all Jews needed to register and list all their property. The explanation given was that this was the result of the Jews supporting the Ukrainian nationalists.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Tagged with:

Two Recent Works by Michele Gilman

Two Recent Works by Michele Gilman

Post to Twitter

Michele Gilman (Baltimore) has published two recent pieces that may be of interest to blog readers:

Michele Gilman, Feminism, Democracy, and the “War on Women,” 32 J. of Law & Inequality 1 (2014).

This article analyzes the social conservative attacks on women preceding the 2012 election cycle, known as the War on Women, and the ensuing feminist response. Combat was waged on many fronts, including abortion restrictions, access to contraception, funding for Planned Parenthood, welfare programs, and workplace fairness. The article discusses what this “war” means for the complex relationship between feminism and democracy. American democracy has had both liberating and oppressive effects for women, while feminism has sometimes struggled internally to appropriate the values of democracy and externally to harness its potential. Accordingly, the article explains the major political theories regarding feminism and democracy and reflects on how the War on Women and its after effects impact those theories. The Article concludes that the War on Women reconfigured the relationship between feminism and democracy by reinvigorating the feminist political movement, redefining the scope of women’s issues, realigning women voters across interest groups, and spurring a surge of women into office. Still, the War on Women kept feminism on the defensive, thereby draining the movement of the ability to fashion a feminist offensive. Thus, the feminist movement needs to generate an agenda that will wage a war for women.

Michele Gilman, The Return of the Welfare Queen, 22 J. of Gender, Social Policy, & the Law 247 (2014) (symposium).

After welfare reform was passed in 1996, there was every reason to hope that the welfare queen was dead. The “welfare queen” was shorthand for a lazy woman of color, with numerous children she cannot support, who is cheating taxpayers by abusing the system to collect government assistance. For years, this long-standing racist and gendered stereotype was used to attack the poor and the cash assistance programs that support them. In 1996, TANF capped welfare receipt to five years and required work as a condition of eligibility, thus stripping the welfare queen of her throne of dependency. Nevertheless, during the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney resurrected the welfare queen. In a barrage of television campaign ads, Romney inaccurately accused President Obama of gutting TANF work requirements, while President Obama responded by touting his own tough-on-welfare credentials. In the subsequent battle over which candidate was toughest on the poor, there was no mention that TANF is largely a failure. While TANF enrollment has plunged since 1996, it has not reduced poverty. Instead, it pushed many poor mothers into the low-wage workforce, where they struggle to survive on meager wages. In addition, many families have slipped out of the safety net altogether, sanctioned by TANF caseworkers or discouraged by TANF’s onerous application requirements, privacy-stripping processes, and stingy grants. As a result, only 4.5 million people receive cash assistance through TANF, amounting to 0.47% of the federal 2012 budget. In other words, the political salience of the welfare queen far outstrips her numbers. The good news is that Romney’s dependency rhetoric did not work and may have backfired. The bad news is that the welfare queen still lurks behind repeated calls to cut government benefits and to criminalize poverty. This article explores the legacy of the welfare queen, her return in the 2012 presidential campaign, and the current inadequacies of TANF. The article concludes with suggestions to reform TANF in the hopes of burying the welfare queen once and for all.

Worth a read!

-Bridget Crawford

Feminist Law Professors