Archive for the ‘ Women’s Issues ’ Category

The Department of Justice Public Consultation on sex work ends Monday March 17th.

The Department of Justice Public Consultation on sex work closes March 17, 2014.

Although the questions appear to be stacked, it’s important that people who support decriminalization participate.  There’s certainly no shortage of people filling out the forms and calling for new criminalization.  The questionnaire is here, and Maggie’s Toronto provides some advice on answering positively, here.

If you’re still on the fence about whether you support decriminalization, then please consider answering questions 1-5 with the following:

“I decline to answer from my own experience, but instead call upon the Harper Government to make it a priority to ensure that any decision on sex work be made in full consultation with sex workers themselves, who face the greatest consequences of any law.  It is of particular importance that people who are currently engaged in sex work be consulted and that their experiences be given greater weight.  The recent Supreme Court ruling made it clear that workers’ safety and right to self-determination cannot be compromised.”

Need more convincing?  At RankAndFile.ca, there’s an interesting discussion about how decriminalization along with a union-style approach can lead to much improved conditions for sex workers:

Some of the public discussion of the role of sex workers in the economy has likened sex workers to small business owners or entrepreneurs; they offer a service often as independent contractors. For many sex workers, this is the case: they negotiate directly with their clients on services and payments, they deal with the management of the finances of their work, they hire and fire driving, security, or other staff. Other sex workers don’t own anything and are employees with employers. These workers may be misclassified as independent contractors in their workplaces, but labour and feminist activists should not be fooled by this common attempt to limit workers’ rights by calling them something they are not like taxi drivers and couriers.

I am not a sex worker and I am not pointing to this distinction to buy into any attempts to divide sex workers in the fight to access basic rights and better occupation health and safety standards. Instead, I think the distinction is important, because it illustrates that the labour movement could have a very specific role in improving working conditions for sex workers and creating a greater balance of power between sex workers and their employers, namely by helping these sex workers organize into unions…

Here are my comments to the Department of Justice consultation:

1. Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: No. An environment in which a buyer is criminalized is still a criminalized environment, and sex workers are then pushed into unsafe situations for the sake of their livelihood. Clients are not going to feel comfortable taking the time to negotiate, and this compromises safety. It also fosters a poisonous social climate for people who engage in sex work, driving workers underground, making it difficult for them to access non-judgmental health and social services, and creating a barrier of distrust between them and authorities.
2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: No. There are existing laws that address coercion (procuring), underage prostitution and human trafficking. Beyond these points, focus should be on a person’s safety, their autonomy and empowering them to better their lives however they see reasonable. Sex workers gravitate to this work because of either poverty or opportunity, and the greatest positive impact would be to address the poverty that drives the more negative of scenarios.
3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.
Comment: There should be no laws targeting sex work. Any legal discussions should be done with extensive consultation with and consideration of sex workers.
4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: There are already procuring laws still on the books which address coercive circumstances and human trafficking. Beyond these, there should not be any laws criminalizing economic earnings from sex work. In other countries, these laws are often unreasonably abused to target sex workers, their spouses, their children, their roommates and more.
5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government’s response to the Bedford decision?
Comment: This consultation needs to consider the experiences of sex workers, particularly those who are still working and seeking to make a safe life for themselves. The Bedford decision clearly showed how criminalization harms sex workers, and the Nordic form of criminalization simply re-establishes the status quo. I would like to see a Canadian model that focuses on sex worker input, and protects, respects and fulfills sex workers’ human and labour rights.
6. Are you are writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role:
Comment: I am writing as an independent individual, and as someone who has experience in sex work at different times in my life, and with the ability to reflect on and contrast two very different sets of circumstances.

Across the left divide over sex work.

I’m putting on my op-ed hat for this.  The following draws from my own history, but I think it helps provide some insight into the left-wing divide over sex work.  I’m skipping over this very quickly, and I’m sure I’ll probably forget some important distinctions and nuances, so bear with me.

This is two parts in one: a personal experience for context, and then some important distinctions about the divisions among the left and among womens’ rights groups over sex work.

A Personal Experience: A Preface

It takes a certain kind of person to be able to do sex work, and that person isn’t me.  It consumes a lot of personal and emotional energy (which, when compounded with the social stigma, is probably why drug use becomes common, I believe).  It’s fine if you’re the ebullient sort who knows how to recoup and restore that energy, but I’m not — I’m actually a recluse by nature.  Nevertheless, I did sex work at two different periods of my life, and in two very different sets of circumstances.

The first time, I engaged in street-level work at the age of twenty, and it was awful.  Back then, I worked as a male-bodied person for male clients, and was engaging in sex work due to poverty, limited options and desperation. It was complicated by my own gender identity conflict, which caused serious personal issues with my body, as well as an awkward interpersonal dynamic with dates that did not fit my inner self (for one example, nearly everything my dates were attracted to were things I hated). Worse, street-level work is undeniably one of the hardest forms of sex work, with a particular moment-to-moment vulnerability, and the knowledge that no one would be on your side if something went wrong — not police, not friends, probably not family… you’re completely alone.  And it was all too clear to the people around you who you were, and those people consequently made it all too clear what they thought of you.  The street is not a place for pride and a sense of self worth.  If it had been my only experience, then I might have thought differently about sex work.

In my later thirties, out of necessity (a sudden loss of an income while early into gender transition, making it particularly tough to find new work), I did some escorting to make ends meet.  This time, it was quite different, working as a trans woman available to males who were at varying states of self-acceptance, and who were variously straight (or mostly so), queer and/or occasionally pre-trans themselves (that is to say, people who were a form of trans* but not yet comfortable with that or not yet decided on a course of action).  At this time, interpersonal dynamics were different because I was finally who I felt I was supposed to be… and I was at far more peace with my body, even though there would still be some closure to achieve.  I was more mature, and had different expectations.  Additionally, escorting is more often date-like, with more substance and respect, and occurs mostly outside the view of condemning eyes.  But what really stood out from the contrast between the two experiences was the difference in the amount of control I had over my surroundings and my own destiny — my autonomy.

The contrasting differences between those experiences revealed a lot to me about sex work.  When I worked mostly from a position of poverty and survival, I was mostly helpless to the world around me, felt trapped, and would more or less have been easy prey, had I met the wrong person.  When escorting, I was afforded more control of my surroundings, better ability to screen people, the opportunity to negotiate what I would and wouldn’t do, and the ability to quit when I wanted to. Having some sense of personal power over my life made a tremendous difference, and actually resulted in work that I could enjoy at times, personal energy issues notwithstanding.

There could have been a lot more autonomy, though: I still had to worry about police and how an arrest would affect my life; communicating was still risky, and a lot of negotiation was skipped over in the name of “discretion”; I still realized that if something went wrong, I couldn’t turn to the authorities and rely on them for help; I was still concerned for how the attitudes toward sex workers could poison my interactions with the people I needed for support.  Decriminalization on its own does not fix all of these things, but it now seems to me to be a necessary step toward doing so.  I can’t see how it would be possible to reduce the stigma that people experience, if they’re still treated as though their livelihoods are illegal… or in the case of the Nordic model, if they still need to operate under that pretext for the sake of their clients.

This contrast also drove home just how diverse sex work really is.  It’s impossible to assess all sex work as a whole, since the everyday realities vary so completely from one kind to another.  Acting in porn is far different from street-level work, which is far different from escorting, from stripping, massage, professional domination, etc.

The reasons that people might engage in sex work also vary, but I’ve tended to compare and contrast them between terms of poverty and opportunity.  A person’s ability to be satisfied with their life in sex work — and to leave whenever they choose — is directly related to how much personal autonomy and agency they retain.  There are still other factors that can affect a person’s ability to be self-determining, but taking the criminalization and institutional antipathy out of the equation is a tremendous start.  And because a person becomes more empowered and has institutional resources they could theoretically turn to, it also helps reduce the manner, extent and ways in which they can be personally exploited.

These are the contrasting experiences from which I look at the issue of sex work, and the division among the political left, over it.

Across the Left Divide

It’s important to acknowledge that neither decriminalization nor “abolition” (which is probably a misnomer, since it wouldn’t completely eradicate sex work) will eliminate risk, nor will either of them completely eliminate the fact that exploitation occurs. This is important, because abolitionists will often point to the fact that a risk still exists as evidence that decriminalization fails, while erasing the fact that the same is true of abolition… and that the risk may in fact even be compounded by abolition-focused laws.

In a decriminalized environment, there are greater options, and more unconditional support for a person if they are wronged and seek help (although social attitudes toward sex workers can still be a barrier).  Likewise, there is far less deterrent for a person to report exploitation if they are aware of it occurring. Harm is reduced through decriminalization simply by the virtue that it empowers people (well, more accurately, it eliminates much of the disempowerment that anti-prostitution laws institutionalize — it would take more to actually empower).

And an empowered person has greater freedom to choose (or create) less exploitative circumstances.

But I think where the divide among the political left and among feminists (and womens’ rights supporters under any other label) is resides in whether someone sees a sex worker’s autonomy as the desirable endpoint.  Is it enough to place people in a position where they can better determine their own destiny?  Or does government have a responsibility to eliminate all the variables, in order to save the few who might still find themselves in miserable circumstances — even if it increases the hardship and risk for everyone else?  That is the question.

My belief is that government cannot possibly eliminate those variables, and it’s far more practical to give individuals the power they need to address their own needs based on their circumstances.  What is needed is the freedom to communicate, to reduce harms and stigma, and to form independent support organizations that are worker-focused and better positioned to see and address them… something people are not very free to do in the current social climate.

The debate is further confounded (possibly deliberately) by the ever-increasing conflation between sex work and human trafficking, which are actually two very different issues.  Equating the two is a serious derailment of the issue of actual human trafficking, by exploiting a real and urgent problem to attack a tangential population, and divert the funds that could have been used to address actual coercion, abduction and exploitation, directing them instead toward initiatives that will not provide any significant help to those who are genuinely trafficked.

This conflation occurs because the language from abolitionists deliberately equates sex workers with bought-and-sold commodities, portraying transactional sex as though it is the person themselves who is for sale, rather than the service the sex worker provides.  The language that assumes that one is a traded product during commercial sex is understandably enraging.  It would be natural to be infuriated about sex work if that were really the case.  And this is often the way that abolitionists frame the discussion: as though prostitution sells people.  In reality, sex workers sell an experience, from which a they ultimately walk away, with their capacity to direct their own lives intact and their ownership still in their own hands (as much as is possible for any of us, at least).

It is through this framing that the personhood of sex workers is erased, and replaced with a kind of infantilized victimhood in which sex workers are simply helpless and in need of rescue… even from themselves, perhaps.  It is by portraying the worker as the commodity that is for sale, rather than the service they provide, that people can then argue that a worker’s consent is not actually valid consent.  Individual will has ceased to matter.

Of course, there will always be a segment of people who view all sex work and anything that conforms to sexual stereotyping (perhaps even sexuality itself) as violence toward women.  For those people, if they can’t see how patriarchal and patronizing — let alone disempowering — criminalization (which is a regulation of mostly female bodies and mostly female choices) is, then there’s probably no common ground on which we can meet.  I know that there are some very painful experiences that lead people to those conclusions, and I don’t mean to be insensitive to that.  However, my experiences simply lead me to different conclusions.

And while criminalizing the buyer might *sound* like a reasonable middle ground, I really can’t see how it would change the need to work and communicate out of view and in vulnerable or exploitative spaces.  I also can’t see how it would change the level of respect in the dialogue about women (and men, and anyone in between) in the sex trade… other than continually casting them in this two-dimensional role of helpless victim.  In reality, though, criminalization of the buyer is still criminalization.  There’s still the need to work in secrecy, to protect one’s livelihood, to take chances, and to distrust and avoid contact with the authorities at all cost.  For the life of me, as someone who has done this, I cannot see how the Nordic model would be any worthwhile change from the three unreasonable laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.  Rather, it is simply a more stealthy way to repackage those same harms and maintain them for the ten or more years that it will take to strike down this new face given to the status quo.

Abolition makes the classic mistake of addressing a symptom rather than the primary cause.  Face it: when the choice is between $1000 a night or $1000 a month at McStarbuMart, that’s not much of a choice.  As long as this is the reality, and as long as there is no political will to address poverty and the enormous gulf that has manifested between accessible incomes and life-sustaining incomes, there will be people who feel a need to engage in commercial sex.

I find that the left-wing and feminist divides over sex work boil down to a question of whether a person believes that a person’s right to personal empowerment and autonomy (including over their body and their life decisions) should be paramount, or if the government’s responsibility to actively protect women should be seen as justification to trump this, regardless of the sex worker’s will and the effect on their surroundings, their lives and their future.

What is being attempted with the Nordic system of criminalizing buying is to simply try to either undermine the argument surrounding a woman’s right to choose, or to allay those concerns.  And for those who don’t look beyond the surface, there may be the temptation to believe that.  Don’t you believe it.

The Federal Government’s slanted public consultation is online until March 17th.  Tell them in no uncertain terms that the consultation needs to consider the experiences of sex workers, particularly those who are still working and seeking to make a safe life for themselves.

(Crossposted to Rabble.ca)

Janice Raymond, and Healing Old Wounds

This post is a personal reflection on Janice Raymond’s visit to Vancouver during a memorial for the victims of the massacre of women at L’École Polytechnique, which took place in Montreal 24 years ago.  For an overview of the controversy, why Janice Raymond’s presence (as well as some other aspects of that day’s program) drew anger from trans and sex work communities, and the different facets to that situation, please refer to my article at Rabble.  What follows is my personal reflection, recorded separately.

This blog post was originally going to be something very different, a personal recollection of how Janice Raymond’s writings had personally impacted me, how to heal from that, and the larger question of how to heal the old wounds that exist between trans and womens’ movements (a question that has been heavy on my mind over the past while).  After the publication of my article about her appearance at a memorial in Vancouver, the response to that article showed me that the former is something I don’t have the luxury of time to dwell on just yet, and the latter question is clearly more urgent.

A few of the responses accused me of having an agenda when I wrote the piece, Memorial draws controversy over invitation of speaker Janice Raymond, probably because I (as acknowledged in my bio at the end) have a trans history, myself.  In all honesty, my aim in writing it was to dig into a rather complex situation, be as objective as possible, and present several different points of view in a way that was true to the speakers and independent of myself.  Along the way, it meant examining a number of things, including the histories of Janice Raymond and the event sponsor that invited her, Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR); the use of the tragic memorial to promote a sex work abolition agenda that some felt was unrelated to the tragedy being commemorated; the trans and sex work communities’ response, and the complexities of responding while also not intruding on the larger context of a memorial.  If there was any take-away that I wanted readers to have, it would be to ask questions that might lead to the aforementioned healing.  A good journalist leaves the end response up to the reader, though, and the response I heard was unexpected.

What I didn’t expect was the visceral reaction that readers would have both to quotations of Raymond’s writing, and to the event sponsor’s policy on trans women.  To me, those things had been long-known issues.  Raymond’s book was first published in 1979, and the way it and her paper “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery“ were used to cut health care funding and close gender clinics are a matter of public record (although while looking for a link, I discovered that those events of the 1980s are better remembered by trans bloggers than by anyone else.  There are few, if any, people who are considered more controversial to the trans community than Janice Raymond.

Regarding the exemption of trans women from VRR’s primary services, I’d heard about this sporadically for years, and Vancouverites were still periodically tweeting upset about it before it was announced that VRR would be inviting Raymond to speak there.  So to me, this also seemed a long-known and ongoing concern: that while VRR will ensure that anyone facing an urgent emergency will be helped by referring them elsewhere, VRR will not provide the core of their services (shelter, counseling) to trans women. This exclusion can be traced all the way back to the 12-year Nixon v RR legal dispute, in which the Vancouver Rape Relief collective won the right to choose who could be a member and participant in the collective, even if that selection was made out of the belief that trans women aren’t women.

What I gleaned from interviewing VRR’s Hilla Kerner was the encouraging information that the views of the collective vary quite a bit on trans issues.  When I asked her about the exclusion, she sounded possibly regretful, perhaps uncomfortably embarrassed, and trying to rationalize the exclusion in a way that sounds reasonable if you don’t think about it too much:

“I’ll say it the other way.  There will not be a situation that someone is not safe in calling us, in which we would not help them to get safe.  It has nothing to do with who we are or what we do. It’s a basic human compassion.  To all people.  On the other hand, our core service is based on peer counseling and consciousness-raising and we’re only going to work with people, in this case, with women-born-women, who share the same experience.  And I think that transgender people who this model is appealing to them and want to have what we have, I think that the rationale from that will be that if you want to operate a consciousness raising / peer counseling -based service, probably a service that is designed by a transgender and operated by transgender and support and offer the peer counseling to other transgender who have a similar journey in life… because it’s a concept of consciousness-raising in a peer counseling context.”

But to Rabble readers, apparently, the exclusion of trans women from VRR services was a mostly new and shocking piece of information.

And that’s the first problem with wanting to heal a division of this sort, when that old division is still being allowed to persist in the form of policy.  Healing starts with talking about an issue, but if that issue is entrenched in current policy, doing so sometimes threatens to reopen old wounds.  Yet talk we must… and ask questions.

Part of what led me to believe that the exclusionary policy would not be shocking was that VRR’s website still documents some of its members’, supporters’ and like-minded activists’ past views toward trans people, such as Sheila Jeffreys’ assertions that “from a feminist perspective… transsexualism should be seen as a violation of human rights,” and compared the availability of genital reassignment surgery to lobotomy, which trans people should be saved from, for their own sake: “The mutilation of healthy bodies and the subjection of such bodies to dangerous and life-threatening continuing treatment violates such people’s rights to live with dignity in the body into which they were born.”  There is one essay on the website which talks about building bridges (while retaining the systemic exclusion, of course), but relies on one trans woman’s assertion that: “Well, let’s be clear on one thing from the start. As to M to F transsexuals, we can never be real women,” and “demanding equal treatment is not acceptable or productive…”

Most of those documents date from around 2000 to 2002, after the B.C. Supreme Court’s ruling in Nixon v. RR, but before the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case (thus making the last ruling stand).  With websites, things often get posted and forgotten, only to need questioning years later.

Times have changed, and so has our collective understanding of trans people and trans issues.  It’s time to question these old attitudes, but that requires unearthing them again.  That’s not an easy thing to do, apparently, without having the reaction turn to anger, instead of resolution and healing… which take much more mutual effort.  But I believe that the focus needs to be kept on the latter as much as possible.

Perhaps before we can heal the rifts between collective movements, we need to try to heal the way we talk about them.  And each other.  As one interested party, I’m still trying to find what that way is.

The question comes at a time when something being called “trans-exclusionary radical feminism” (TERF), a fringe offshoot of feminism largely inspired by Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, is attempting to make a comeback.  While adherents have reopened some of those old wounds elsewhere, the philosophy doesn’t really resonate with mainstream feminism, which understands that division and demonization have rarely been good ways to build movements; that oppression has always been a poor way to fight oppression.

More important to remember, of course, is that there are many areas where the forms of oppression we face overlap.  Misogyny is a significant portion of what makes up transphobia, for example, because it is the perceptively non-masculine aspect of trans people that the cis (non-trans) public most reacts to in hatred.  Although much of the TERF critique of trans politics centers upon the possibility that trans people may reinforce an oppressive gender binary, the truth is that trans people are demonized in the rest of society exactly because they call that binary into question, are uncertainly in-or-out of that binary, blur its edges and raise challenging questions about sex, gender and human existence.  These kinds of overlap are completely missed when a policy of exclusion assumes that poverty, inequity, vulnerability and rape are somehow irrevocably different experiences simply because one had been born or socialized as male.

But we need to strive for that healing, especially if social movements want to transcend their own self-imposed boundaries and bring about true lasting change.  Healing and building critical mass go hand in hand.  As long as activism requires thinking in terms of colonies (even if umbrella-like), rather than in terms of alliances and intersections — ownership, rather than solidarity — it will be forever fractured and expending its valuable energy on policing its boundaries and propagating oppression — not on dismantling it.

And when I say all of this, I’ve not forgotten the other aspect of VRR’s controversy, surrounding sex work.  If anything, the discussion about feminism, transfeminism and the old wounds from that conflict serves as a cautionary tale, to question one’s activism, lest it do damage to sex workers, and this entire situation be revisited again in another form, in another ten years.

Healing should be preferable by far, over anger and exclusion.

For a case in point, this entire discussion began within the context of a memorial for the victims of the massacre at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal 24 years ago.  It has to be one of the most vivid examples of sheer hatred on historic record, and was undertaken by a man who does not deserve to be named, and who specifically targeted women, claiming he was fighting feminism.  That action is a deep scar in the psyche of Canadian women (and women worldwide).

The most disturbing thing that could come out of the controversy of the past weekend is if the tragedy of the École Polytechnique massacre becomes forgotten, turned into an opportunity for three communities that should be natural allies — the womens’ movement, the sex workers’ rights movement, and the trans rights movement — to instead do violence to each other.

(Crossposted to Rabble.ca)

Reblog: A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

This is how you decolonize activism.

A wide swath of people have demonstrated how to decolonize activism: not with negativity, but with constructivity.  The following is being reblogged from Feminists Fighting Transphobia, and you will need to follow the link to see the ever-increasing number of signatories who have signed on.  I did not take part in authoring this, but gladly lend whatever support I can — M.

A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

We are proud to present a collective statement that is, to our knowledge (and we would love to be wrong about this) the first of its kind.  In this post you’ll find a statement of feminist solidarity with trans* rights, signed by nearly 100  feminists/womanists from at least eleven different countries [it's now 383 individuals and 17 organizations -- exactly 400! -- from at least 15 countries] who wish to affirm that feminism/womanism can and should be a home for trans* people as well as cis.  It has been signed by activists, bloggers, academics, and artists.  What we all have in common is the conviction that feminism should welcome trans* people, and that trans* people are essential to feminism’s mission to advocate for women and other people oppressed, exploited, and otherwise marginalized by patriarchal and misogynistic systems and people.

If you are a blogger/writer/academic/educator/artist/activist/otherwise in a position to affect feminist or womanist discourse or action and you would like to sign on to this statement, let us know!  You can use the form on the contact page or you can email us at feministsfightingtransphobia1@gmail.com.  We’d love to hear from you. [NEW: You can also just sign right on in the comments, particularly if you're wanting to sign in a personal, rather than professional capacity--this will be much quicker and also easier on our moderators!]

Note: this blog in general and this post in particular are places where trans* people can come and find welcome and support from feminists.  For this reason, all comments are moderated for now, and hateful or abusive or bigoted discourse directed against marginalized groups or their members will not be approved.  It will either be deleted or it will be replaced with mockery of that discourse, depending on what the moderators feel like doing.  To be clear, transphobia, misgendering, racism, misogyny, slut-shaming, etc. are unwelcome.

We particularly welcome comments regarding ways in which feminists and womanists, both cis and trans*, can organize to demonstrate solidarity with and support and acceptance of trans people.  Reading the names of prominent feminists on statements of transphobia is heartbreaking to many of us, but as Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn; organize!”

– Moderators

A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

We, the undersigned trans* and cis scholars, writers, artists, and educators, want to publicly and openly affirm our commitment to a trans*-inclusive feminism and womanism.

There has been a noticeable increase in transphobic feminist activity this summer: the forthcoming book by Sheila Jeffreys from Routledge; the hostile and threatening anonymous letter sent to Dallas Denny after she and Dr. Jamison Green wrote to Routledge regarding their concerns about that book; and the recent widely circulated statement entitled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Critique of ‘Gender,’” signed by a number of prominent, and we regret to say, misguided, feminists have been particularly noticeable.  And all this is taking place in the climate of virulent mainstream transphobia that has emerged following the coverage of Chelsea Manning’s trial and subsequent statement regarding her gender identity, and the recent murders of young trans women of color, including Islan Nettles and Domonique Newburn, the latest targets in a long history of violence against trans women of color.  Given these events, it is important that we speak out in support of feminism and womanism that support trans* people.

We are committed to recognizing and respecting the complex construction of sexual/gender identity; to recognizing trans* women as women and including them in all women’s spaces; to recognizing trans* men as men and rejecting accounts of manhood that exclude them; to recognizing the existence of genderqueer, non-binary identifying people and accepting their humanity; to rigorous, thoughtful, nuanced research and analysis of gender, sex, and sexuality that accept trans* people as authorities on their own experiences and understands that the legitimacy of their lives is not up for debate; and to fighting the twin ideologies of transphobia and patriarchy in all their guises.

Transphobic feminism ignores the identification of many trans* and genderqueer people as feminists or womanists and many cis feminists/womanists with their trans* sisters, brothers, friends, and lovers; it is feminism that has too often rejected them, and not the reverse. It ignores the historical pressures placed by the medical profession on trans* people to conform to rigid gender stereotypes in order to be “gifted” the medical aid to which they as human beings are entitled.  By positing “woman” as a coherent, stable identity whose boundaries they are authorized to police, transphobic feminists reject the insights of intersectional analysis, subordinating all other identities to womanhood and all other oppressions to patriarchy.  They are refusing to acknowledge their own power and privilege.

We recognize that transphobic feminists have used violence and threats of violence against trans* people and their partners and we condemn such behavior.  We recognize that transphobic rhetoric has deeply harmful effects on trans* people’s real lives; witness CeCe MacDonald’s imprisonment in a facility for men.  We further recognize the particular harm transphobia causes to trans* people of color when it combines with racism, and the violence it encourages.

When feminists exclude trans* women from women’s shelters, trans* women are left vulnerable to the worst kinds of violent, abusive misogyny, whether in men’s shelters, on the streets, or in abusive homes.  When feminists demand that trans* women be excluded from women’s bathrooms and that genderqueer people choose a binary-marked bathroom, they make participation in the public sphere near-impossible, collaborate with a rigidity of gender identities that feminism has historically fought against, and erect yet another barrier to employment.  When feminists teach transphobia, they drive trans* students away from education and the opportunities it provides.

We also reject the notion that trans* activists’ critiques of transphobic bigotry “silence” anybody.  Criticism is not the same as silencing. We recognize that the recent emphasis on the so-called violent rhetoric and threats that transphobic feminists claim are coming from trans* women online ignores the 40+ – year history of violent and eliminationist rhetoric directed by prominent feminists against trans* women, trans* men, and genderqueer people.  It ignores the deliberate strategy of certain well-known anti-trans* feminists of engaging in gleeful and persistent harassment, baiting, and provocation of trans* people, particularly trans* women, in the hope of inciting angry responses, which are then utilized to paint a false portrayal of trans* women as oppressors and cis feminist women as victims. It ignores the public outing of trans* women that certain transphobic feminists have engaged in regardless of the damage it does to women’s lives and the danger in which it puts them.  And it relies upon the pernicious rhetoric of collective guilt, using any example of such violent rhetoric, no matter the source — and, just as much, the justified anger of any one trans* woman — to condemn all trans* women, and to justify their continued exclusion and the continued denial of their civil rights.

Whether we are cis, trans*, binary-identified, or genderqueer, we will not let feminist or womanist discourse regress or stagnate; we will push forward in our understandings of gender, sex, and sexuality across disciplines.  While we respect the great achievements and hard battles fought by activists in the 1960s and 1970s, we know that those activists are not infallible and that progress cannot stop with them if we hope to remain intellectually honest, moral, and politically effective.  Most importantly, we recognize that theories are not more important than real people’s real lives; we reject any theory of gender, sex, or sexuality that calls on us to sacrifice the needs of any subjugated or marginalized group.  People are more important than theory.

We are committed to making our classrooms, our writing, and our research inclusive of trans* people’s lives.

Signed by:

Individuals

Hailey K. Alves (blogger and transfeminist activist, Brazil)

Luma Andrade  (Federal University of Ceará, Brazil)

Leiliane Assunção (Federal University of the Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil)

Talia Bettcher (California State University, Los Angeles)

Lauren Beukes (novelist)

Lindsay Beyerstein (journalist)

Jamie “Skye” Bianco (New York University)

Hanne Blank (writer and historian)

Kate Bornstein (writer and activist)

danah boyd (Microsoft research and New York University)

Helen Boyd (author and activist)

Sarah Brown (LGBT+ Liberal Democrats)

Christine Burns (equalities consultant, blogger and campaigner)

Liliane Anderson Reis Caldeira (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Gloria Careaga (UNAM/National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Avedon Carol (activist and writer; Feminists Against Censorship)

Wendy Chapkis (University of Southern Maine) – “I don’t love the punch line ‘people are more important than theory.’  More to the point, it seems to me, is that feminist theories that fail to recognize the lived experiences and revolutionary potential of gender diversity are willfully inadequate.”

Jan Clausen (writer, MFAW faculty, Goddard College)

Darrah Cloud (playwright and screenwriter; Goddard College)

Alyson Cole (Queens College – CUNY)

Arrianna Marie Coleman (writer and activist)

Suzan Cooke (writer and photographer)

Sonia Onufer Correa  (feminist research associate at ABIA, co-chair of Sexuality Policy Watch)

Molly Crabapple (artist and writer)

Petra Davis (writer and activist)

Elizabeth Dearnley (University College London)

Jaqueline Gomes de Jesus (University of Brasilia, Brazil)

Sady Doyle (writer and blogger)

L. Timmel Duchamp (publisher, Aqueduct Press)

Flavia Dzodan (writer and media maker)

Reni Eddo-Lodge (writer and activist)

Finn Enke (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Hugh English (Queens College – CUNY)

Jane Fae (writer and activist)

Roderick Ferguson (University of Minnesota)

Jill Filipovic (writer and blogger)

Rose Fox (editor and activist)

Jaclyn Friedman (author, activist, and executive director of Women, Action, & the Media)

Sasha Garwood (University College, London)

Jen Jack Gieseking (Bowdoin College)

Dominique Grisard (CUNY Graduate Center/Columbia University/University of Basel)

Deborah Gussman (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey)

Dr Sally Hines (University of Leeds)

Claire House (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Brazil)

Astrid Idlewild (editor, urban historian)

Sarah Hoem Iversen (Bergen University College, Norway)

Sarah Jaffe (columnist)

Roz Kaveney (author and critic)

Zahira Kelly (artist and writer)

Mikki Kendall (writer and occasional feminist)

Natacha Kennedy (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

Alison Kilkenny (journalist and activist)

Matthew Knip (Hunter College – CUNY)

Letícia Lanz (writer and psychoanalyst, Brazil)

April Lidinsky (Indiana University South Bend)

Erika Lin (George Mason University)

Marilee Lindemann (University of Maryland)

Heather Love (University of Pennsylvania)

Jessica W. Luther (writer and activist)

Jen Manion (Connecticut College)

Ruth McClelland-Nugent (Georgia Regents University Augusta)

Melissa McEwan (Editor-in-Chief, Shakesville)

Farah Mendlesohn (Anglia Ruskin University)

Mireille Miller-Young (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Lyndsey Moon (University of Roehampton and University of Warwick)

Surya Monro (University of Huddersfield)

Cheryl Morgan (publisher and blogger)

Kenne Mwikya (writer and activist, Nairobi)

Zenita Nicholson (Secretary on the Board of Trustees, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Guyana)

Anne Ogborn (frightening sex change)

Sally Outen (performer and activist)

Ruth Pearce (University of Warwick)

Laurie Penny (journalist and activist)

Rosalind Petchesky (Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and Sexuality Policy Watch)

Rachel Pollack (writer, Goddard College)

Claire Bond Potter (The New School for Public Engagement)

Nina Power (University of Roehampton)

Marina Riedel (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)

Mark Rifkin (University of North Carolina – Greensboro)

Monica Roberts (Transgriot)

Dr. Judy Rohrer (Western Kentucky University)

Diana Salles (independent scholar)

Veronica Schanoes (Queens College – CUNY)

Sarah Schulman, in principle (College of Staten Island – CUNY)

Donald M. Scott (Queens College – CUNY)

Lynne Segal (Birkbeck, University of London)

Julia Serano (author and activist)

Carrie D. Shanafelt (Grinnell College)

Rebekah Sheldon (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis)

Barbara Simerka (Queens College – CUNY)

Gwendolyn Ann Smith (columnist and Transgender Day of Remembrance founder)

Kari Sperring (K L Maund) (writer and historian)

Zoe Stavri (writer and activist)

Tristan Taormino (Sex Out Loud Radio, New York, NY)

Jemma Tosh (University of Chester)

Viviane V. (Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)

Catherynne M. Valente (author)

Jessica Valenti (author and columnist)

Genevieve Valentine (writer)

Barbra Wangare (S.H.E and Transitioning Africa, Kenya)

Thijs Witty (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Groups:

Bishkek Feminist Collective SQ (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia)

House of Najafgarh (Najafgarh, India)

House of Kola Bhagan (Kolkatta, India)

Transgender Nation San Francisco

[See http://feministsfightingtransphobia.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/welcome-to-our-most-recent-signatories/ for our newest signatories, as of the end of the day on September 16, 2013]

[See http://feministsfightingtransphobia.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/six-hours-later-we-have-a-new-signatory-list/ for our newest signatories, as of the end of the day on September 17, 2013]

Criminalization by any other name…

In Meghan Murphy’s Globe and Mail op-ed of June 3rd, A prostitution solution: Outlaw the customers, not the hookers, she presents what is often referred to as the Swedish or Nordic model of legislation — removing penalties for those who sell sex but prosecuting the buying of it — as a compromise between the arguments for criminalization and those for legalization of sex work.  Ironically, she phrases this as decriminalization, when it’s actually more of a lateral or distal form of criminalization… but one which still retains the pressure on sex workers to avoid the law and live in marginal circumstances.

Murphy’s argument is in support of that of the not so neutrally named Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, and ignores several issues that exist with the Swedish approach.  The argument is often advanced by groups that see abolition as an ultimate objective, and it’s a curious anomaly in feminist discourse, where a woman’s right to choice and bodily autonomy is held as paramount, and yet a loud faction makes an exception when that choice is one of opting to sell sex.  But whether abolition is the preferable goal is besides the point.

The argument also overlooks issues raised by Justice Susan Himel in her Ontario Superior Court ruling, which has led to the case currently facing the Supreme Court of Canada.  But Bedford v. Canada will only decide on the existing laws, not what the legislation should be, so that too is besides the point for this discussion.

The idea of criminalizing buyers only is seductive, but the practical reality is that when buyers of commercial sex are criminalized, sex workers’ livelihoods become dependent on a targeted group, one which they would endanger, if they work openly.  Whether they are directly subject to arrest or not, sex workers will still need to work in the shadows, and will still be targeted by legal authorities as a means of locating their customers.  And because laws criminalizing the purchase of sex will require evidence of a transaction, it’s naive to believe that sex workers won’t be negatively embroiled in the enforcement of the law.  Where the Nordic model is legislated, sex workers work in increasing isolation, report that accessing assistance is difficult (and requires playing along with a system that treats them as victims needing rescue, whether or not that is the case), and reports the Swedish approach’s merits have had to rely on badly collected data.

Part of the problem is that we’re talking about diverse realities. Street work is not stripping is not escorting is not porn is not Craigslist is not erotic massage.  Sex work also differs by region, and the motives for engaging in it vary considerably as well, from exploitation (which is a far less frequent occurrence than is portrayed, but does happen) and poverty to a pragmatic sense of opportunity.  Any approach to laws pertaining to sex work absolutely needs the input of a diversity of people directly engaged in it, and should be informed by all of these experiences, with an end objective being to minimize harm.

In the late 1980s, I did street work (as male). In 2005, when I started my transition to female and was let go from my job for a period of time, I went into escorting (as trans female), to make ends meet. The two experiences were very different in many ways, but what I most noticed was the level of agency and self-determination I had. If street work (during a volatile time of my life) were my only experience, I might be tempted to support interventionism and Swedish-style laws, but being able to compare and contrast that with my second experience has changed my perspective.  And quite frankly, I found some of my experiences in traditional workplaces far more exploitative and demoralizing than escorting.

First and foremost, sex workers need the empowerment, autonomy and agency to determine their surroundings, have recourse when things go bad, and live without fear of arrest and harassment. And regardless of whether they want to leave sex work, or practice it in *relative* safety, they should be able to do so without the legal and social structures being an impediment.

Nothing is ever ideal or perfect. All we can reasonably do is give people the tools to control their destinies, and assurance of safety and equal support and respect from health and enforcement services if something goes wrong.

And from my experiences, I can’t see how criminalizing the buyers won’t still drive the whole industry underground.

(Crossposted to Rabble.ca)

Ending violence: it takes more than a report.

redumbrellaDecember 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, sometimes called “Red Umbrella Day.”  It is intended to draw attention to the hatred and violence that sex workers experience, the attitudes that enable the violence, and the way that criminalization institutionalizes that prejudice in ways that isolate and make sex workers vulnerable, rather than providing any kind of protection.

This year, it is also the day that the 1,448-page report was released from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry into the failures in the investigation of Robert Pickton, which resulted in investigations into the pig farmer being abandoned, charges for an assault dropped in 1997.  Following that, 19 or more disappearances of women took place, before Pickton was finally arrested and charged in 2002.  Pickton later claimed to have killed 49 women; DNA found on his farm linked him to at least 33 deaths.

It’s an inquiry that has been fraught with issues, with non-profit groups representing the women and community issues involved being singled out to shoulder their own expenses, a barrier which prevented some from speaking at all.  Most of them boycotted the proceedings even though they had lobbied to have the inquiry in the first place.  Key witnesses were requested and declined by the inquiry, sometimes without explanation. A lawyer for 25 of the families stated that the inquiry was rushing testimonies and limiting cross-examination of Vancouver Police Department (VPD) witnesses.

Last August, an independent report was released by a group appointed to represent the affected communities of Vancouver’s downtown east side (DTES). That report, “Wouldn’t Piss On Them If They Were On Fire:” How Discrimination Against Sex Workers, Drug Users And Aboriginal Women Enabled A Serial Killer, detailed how the VPD displayed indifference and open disrespect toward sex workers and Aboriginal women.

The VPD & RCMP investigations into the missing women was plagued by indifference, underfunding, leads that were not followed up on, at least 4 testimonies identifying Pickton that were ignored, and endless moments of disrespect and spite expressed toward the victims.  A testimony from one of the former investigators illuminated how underfunded and undersupported the investigation was, and that even internally, it appeared to be a sham:

“There was no real plan to find these women,” she wrote, in one of the few passages that were read into the inquiry record last month. “I see now that I was merely a figurehead, a sacrificial lamb thrown into an investigation the VPD management was convinced would never amount to anything and would never grow into the tragedy it has become. An investigation they could care less about.”

Whatever its shortcomings may be, the report released today does acknowledge that “The missing and murdered women were forsaken by society at large and then again by the police. The pattern of predatory violence was clear and should have been met with a swift and severe response by accountable and professional institutions, but it was not…”

How far it will encourage the relevant institutions to make clear and significant changes to the way that Aboriginal women and sex workers are regarded remains to be seen.  At a glance, there’s some deflection from the attitudes and comments made by law enforcement officials to “public indifference,”and that’s always been a barrier to change: society blames the system, the system blames society, and amid all the finger-pointing, nobody does the serious introspection needed to question the attitudes and beliefs that provide the means to rationalize the prejudices at the heart of pervasive problems.

But what I’ve read so far might not be representative of the whole.  Stay tuned.

Stephen Woodworth’s “science,” and why Canada’s far-right isn’t really interested in it.

Stephen Woodworth’s Motion M-312 is scheduled for its second hour of debate this Friday, and the vote on the following Wednesday.  And over summer’s Parliamentary break, there has been an interesting change of direction from the Canadian far-right backers of Woodworth’s action.  In a way, there’s some obvious desire to parlay M-312 into a personhood amendment — but along the way, it also reveals a likelihood that they could undermine his efforts, if the direction that Woodworth’s plan goes ends up being anything but.  And more than anything, it shows something interesting about Stephen Woodworth’s “science,” and why Canada’s far right isn’t particularly interested in it.

First, a brief recap is in order. Even major mainstream media have displayed some lack of clarity at times about what the Motion actually proposes to do.

Motion M-312 is sometimes portrayed as an effort to ban abortion, but the motion itself is designed to appear more innocent — it tries to look like an effort simply to strike up a committee to study it further.  It boldly declares that birth is an outdated benchmark for when one becomes a legal person, and that Parliament needs to investigate how far back that benchmark should be moved.  Of course, the implicit mandate it provides to this committee is the presumption that Canada’s laws about when one becomes a person are inadequate, and that it’s necessary to backdate legal personhood to the fertilization of the embryo or some stage thereafter.  And the committee he’s proposing to lob the question to – the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) — is at least half composed of MPs with anti-abortion voting records, with many known or suspected members or former members of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.  So the Motion is also a veiled attempt to stack the deck a little.

The Motion also removes women from the equation entirely, even though the fate of a woman and the foetus she carries are inextricably linked, as the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recently reminded us:

This motion would challenge and change the fundamental principle of women’s autonomy. It could suggest that a pregnant woman serves as a mere carrier for another person with full legal rights. As a result, her treatment would require care-givers and institutions to seek protection for the foetus’ rights through the intervention of a third party separate from, and other than, the pregnant woman herself. Any decision about her treatment would have to take into account the new legal rights of the foetus in her womb. Her own interests, needs, or choices would be considered in treatment decisions, but these would be subject to the rights of the foetus she is carrying. The foetus’ unexpressed wishes would be interpreted by proxy by courts and legislators...”

Stephen Woodworth has relied heavily on a couple talking points that he had hoped would go viral, including the dubious “toe in the birth canal” deflection.  Among them, he keeps trying to co-opt “the science” as indicating that life begins prior to birth.

He doesn’t labor on the science too long, though, because the question then becomes “which science are you referring to, and which benchmark does it point to?”  It’s easy enough for Woodworth to deflect this, right now: that’s the question, he replies, that he wants the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) to answer for us, all behind closed doors, where none of us have to be burdened with the debate.  Because if he delays on the science too long — what stage an independent heartbeat begins, when implantation happens (given that most fertilized ova are flushed from the body naturally, before this point), what stage the foetus detects sensation, what stage brain activity can be detected — we might start remembering that pregnancy is a process, and until birth, there will always be one form of dependence or another on the mother, even if isolated stages show different levels of autonomy.

That’s one of the reasons that many on the Canadian neo-conservative far-right aren’t terribly interested in the “science,” other than exploiting the idea that there is some science to back them.

Enter LifeSiteNews (LSN), vying to be Canada’s largest neo-con “news” site on social issues (perhaps in the vein of WorldNetDaily), and their parent organization, Campaign Life Coalition (CLC).  When CLC declared unwavering support for Motion M-312, they were all jazzed about the “science”:

“It is time to bring the law into sync with the 21 century [sic] and modern science. We are able to view the child in the womb moving, sucking their thumb, yawning etc, in 3D ultrasound and real-time 4D ultrasound,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, National Organizer of CLC. “The denial of the child’s humanity comes from those who are ‘science deniers’ when it comes to the facts on human development.”

Because we know how LSN is so up on science.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that LifeSiteNews was guilty of spin, omission or whatever else it takes to further the Campaign Life Coalition agenda.  CLC has regularly used the LSN blog to trash Catholic organizations that don’t follow exactly the kind of path that CLC believes is proper and Catholic, bringing it into regular conflict with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.  Another Quebec priest, Fr. Raymond Gravel, was the target of several articles (some dating back to 2003), and eventually filed suit against LSN for portraying him as a “pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage parish priest,” a “former homosexual prostitute” and a “so-called priest who supports abortion.”  As a consequence of these and other conflicts, LSN was banned from the recent Canadian bishops’ annual plenary assembly, and has experienced decreasing cooperation from other far-right groups.

And their reputation issues haven’t been limited to behind-the-scenes skirmishes.  In fact, there’s now a recurring adage that says that the moment LSN posts about all the wonderful work being done in any particular African nation, you can expect news to come out in the next week or so about some new law or toughening of existing laws penalizing homosexuality from that country (sometimes regardless of whether the death penalty is involved).  And in the infamous Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case in the US — in which a Mennonite minister is accused of helping ex-lesbian Lisa Miller smuggle her daughter to Nicaragua so that she wouldn’t have to share custody with her still-lesbian former partner — LSN receives curious mention as a means for the minister to keep in touch with his Nicaraguan contact, although there’s no evidence that LSN was consciously complicit in the case.

Reputation aside, with CLC and LSN finding themselves unable to co-opt the banner of science, they chose to jettison it instead.  In mid-July, the Campaign Life Coalition fired off a newsletter declaring opposition to gestational approaches to anti-abortion legislation, stating:

“Campaign Life was founded at a meeting in Winnipeg on May 25, 1978. In 1986, Campaign Life and the Coalition for the Protection of Human Life merged, mostly after those who supported a compromise position had left the Coalition. It is counterproductive and wrong to promote or accept abortion legislation that arbitrarily divides humans into protected and unprotected classes. Therefore, measures that create exceptions to abortion (rape, incest, health of the mother, genetic defects, and gestational) should be avoided.

“…

“We have always supported [incremental] measures and always will – with the proviso that we will continue to work for an outright ban.”

The newsletter was characterized at LSN as being “written in response to public criticisms and communications to Members of Parliament that Campaign Life Coalition has followed an ‘all or nothing’ approach,” which would imply that CLC’s competitors on the Canadian anti-abortion landscape are concerned that the organization has some inside influence with Parliament.  Not long afterward, LSN published an article about UK anti-abortion group leader John Smeaton, in which the radical Society for the Protection of the Unborn (SPUC) leader expressed remorse for supporting a gestational ban.  This cautionary tale to Canada’s far-right resulted in a survey conducted by The Interim in which they surveyed 15 far-right groups on whether they supported incremental or gestational approaches to banning abortion.

The distinction between gestational and incremental approaches is worth knowing.  Gestational approaches look at the timeline of foetal development, and picks one stage or another as the new benchmark for when abortion can be restricted or banned outright.  Gestational 20-week abortion bans are the tactic of choice in some regions, and one infamous Arizona 20-week ban redefined when pregnancy begins, to move the goal post back further.  Incremental approaches look at creating new laws that hamper clinics’ ability to function and to impede womens’ ability to access their services, with a goal to cumulatively obstruct.  The Interim clarified that “for the purpose of this survey, gestational limits means restricting abortion after a certain point, whether by trimester or some other time period.”

There is a third approach, personhood, which I wrote about before.  Personhood approaches have far-reaching implications, and would ban in-vitro fertilization, since some fertilized ova are lost during implantation.  They could also ban some forms of contraception, and there has already been the spectre of the state having to investigate miscarriages. It’s also not inconceivable that situations could arise in which the fetus’ life and well-being takes precedence over the mother’s (if the attending personnel want to avoid prosecution) in a medical emergency.

Stephen Woodworth’s apparent objective with Motion M-312 (and CLC’s objective for supporting it) is in hopes that personhood can be legally set at fertilization.  But if his Motion were to succeed in directing the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to create a new benchmark, while PROC were to decline to go as far as complete personhood for the foetus, the inevitable resulting legislation would be gestational in nature.  Because it directs PROC to interpret some stage of medical development as evidence — or as Woodworth and CLC are referring to it, “science” — of the beginning of life.  Despite his intent to manufacture the (in CLC President Jim Hughes’ words) “perfect storm” on abortion in Canada, it appears that Hughes and Woodworth set themselves up for the perfect conundrum that was destined to fail even if it succeeded.

Back to the survey, though, of the 15 organizations surveyed on anti-abortion tactics, ten replied, and five of them supported gestational approaches, with five opposed (in the interest of clarity, three of those five opposed were CLC and/or affiliates, with a fourth being a frequent collaborator).   Nine supported incremental legislation, including CLC — Jim Hnatiuk (leader of the Christian Heritage Party) declined to comment on incremental approaches, a possible indication that he might be further to the right than any of them, holding a “personhood or bust” viewpoint.  Of them, Campaign Life Coalition Youth’s Alyssa Golob drops a hint of what might be next on the CLC agenda:

“I support incremental approaches such as parental notification, complete informed consent, defunding and ultrasound laws; basically any law that would make it extremely difficult for women to obtain abortions.”

Of course, CLC’s track to the right could be a matter of saving face.  Canada’s neo-conservative far-right knows their chances of succeeding with M-312 are poor — even Woodworth has already conceded this.  Even though groups have been trying to flood Parliament with petitions in support (LSN reports “hundreds,” with “nearly 19,000 different names,” even though the linked PDF shows 83 petitions, for a total of 6567 signatures as of the end of August — perhaps they’re mailing them to MPs in billionnuplicate?), barring some unexpected surprise, the Motion appears doomed.  The far right is angling to land on its feet with cat-like “I meant to do that” pride, and try to harness whatever momentum they’ve received so far so that it can be channeled into the next effort.

Which appears likely to be one of incrementalism, probably targeting the funding for the procedure first, if ground chatter in Ontario and Alberta are any indication.  As the history of reproductive justice, current events south of the border, and advocates like Joyce Arthur have reminded us, if the Motion goes to defeat on the 26th, that’s no reason to get complacent.

But in the meantime, it will be interesting to see whether Stephen Woodworth picks up on the message that LSN and CLC are inadvertently sending him: that he, too, is expendable in order to get exactly everything that they want… which judging by the kinds of articles LSN stirs up dissent with, ultimately includes fully banning abortion (with no exceptions), contraception, hormone therapy, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), feminism, organ donation, same-sex marriage, relationships of any type, LGBT parents, and far more.

Be careful how you choose your friends, Stephen.

Crossposted to Rabble.ca

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