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Piracy and distortion of my work at University of Washington

Date: January 14, 2013

Last Thursday, I went to University of Washington in Seattle to give a presentation titled “‘War on Trafficking’? Resisting Criminalization as the Solution to the ‘Modern Day Slavery’.” It was scheduled to preempt a big conference on human trafficking that was being held on Friday and Saturday because some people at UW were afraid that the conference was going to focus on ramping up further criminalization to combat “domestic minor sex trafficking” as many anti-trafficking conferences these days seem to, even though the conference actually turned out to be mostly about labor trafficking, labor rights abuses, and fair trade. I attended the conference and plan to report about it too, but there’s something else I want to write about.

After my presentation at UW’s student union building (which was very well attended–thank you very much!), someone started distributing pirated copies of my old article, The Transfeminist Manifesto, before I noticed it. I found a copy myself, and it looked like this:

The Transfeminist Manifesto pirated zine cover

Even though I’ve never published anything that looked like this, many people thought it was my zine, because it had my name on it and did not identify who printed or distributed it.

I personally do not want this particular article to be distributed further, unless it is made explicit that Manifesto is a dated, historical piece. I wrote the article more than a decade ago, and given that transgender community has expanded and changed rapidly over the last decade, I feel that it is no longer relevant. There are also many other texts exploring the intersection of feminism and trans politics, so there is no reason to keep Manifesto around, except of course as a historical artifact.

One of the ways I’ve tried to explain that Manifesto is a historical piece is to include “postscript” at the end of the article to criticize some aspects of the article itself. I included the postscript in the version published in Catching A Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century as well as in my zine, Whose Feminism Is It Anyway?. So I opened the pirated zine to see if they included my postscript along with the main article. This is what I saw:

The Transfeminist Manifesto pirated zine postface

They did include the postscript, but changed the heading to “postface.” According to a dictionary, “postscript” is “an additional remark at the end of a letter” or “an additional statement or action that provides further information on or a sequel to something,” while “postface” is “a brief explanatory comment or note at the end of a book or other piece of writing.” So technically, “postface” seems to be a more appropriate term than “postscript” in this case, but the reality remains: they changed my language and presented the edited version as my work. This worries me (though I do not have the time or energy to read the entire zine to find out what else they have changed).

Further, I found this statement on the back cover of the zine:

The Transfeminist Manifesto pirated zine quote

I have never written “SCUM! KILL KAPITAL! REVOLT!” anywhere, nor is it something I might ever say. And yet, there is no name printed on the entire zine except for my own name on the cover, so most people would think that I wrote that phrase, and I do not want to be associated with it in any way. I am not so much offended by the piracy of my work itself, but this slogan, along with the fact they have edited my words without permission and without clarifying who was responsible for it, offends me.

I don’t know who was responsible for pirating and distorting my work. I would feel a little bit better if it was done by a trans woman, but I doubt it: most trans women understand that Manifesto belongs in a different historical moment, and probably would not distribute it, other than to discuss the history of transgender activism. I imagine that it is not a trans woman, but non-trans people who are so out of touch with transgender community or politics that they found a 13-year old article curiously new and refreshing. They also must not think very much about trans women speaking for themselves if they are willing to “correct” my language without my permission and to add an inflammatory slogan like “SCUM! KILL KAPITAL! REVOLT!”

I hope that whoever was responsible for the incident would recognize how their action was harmful, and work on building true coalition with and amplifying the voices of trans women in their community.

“didn’t know at the time” – a high school romance

Date: January 6, 2013

didn’t know at the time

I finally looked up the whereabouts of my high school band teacher, Miss Jackson. After being transplanted from the streets of a West Coast city to a fundamentalist Christian household in Southern Missouri to “rescue” my soul, I managed to fake my transcripts and was allowed to take four music classes every day, three of which were with her.

I didn’t know it at the time, Miss Jackson was a classical butch woman, with very short hair, undecorative clothes, and independent, tough, dependable personality. Students adored her, especially the girls, because there weren’t any other adult women like her in the rural Missouri town.

My best friend at the time was girl named Helen, who was also taking all four music classes with me. We also went to the same Southern Baptist church, which met four times a week for different activities. I didn’t know at the time that we were practically dating, so we just styled each other’s hair and copied each other’s fashion. On one occasion, we even performed a duet during a Sunday morning service, a deeply romantic ballad about Jesus’ longing for a former believer who has strayed away from the faith.

Helen and I often went to Miss Jackson’s house after school. She lived with a big dog and a housemate, the skinny emo guy, who was probably a gay man when I think about it, but I didn’t know at the time and was puzzled what their relationship was. We watched women’s college basketball on tv (“Go Lady Bears!”) while eating Hamburger Helper, which she cooked like every day.

The year after I graduated, and a year before she was to receive tenure, the school fired Miss Jackson. After some hesitation, adults at the church told me that she was fired due to a “lifestyle problem,” but I didn’t know what it meant. I thought I knew Miss Jackson well, and could not think of any devastating personal secret that could be described as a “lifestyle problem.” Later when I realized what it meant, I felt guilty because I felt like our visiting her may have triggered the firing. But, as I found out recently, she is still teaching music to very lucky middle school students in a different State.

I didn’t know what a butch woman was or even what townfolks meant by a “lifestyle problem,” but she did save my life. And it’s not just because she fed me (and Helen) Hamburger Helpers when I was not eating breakfast or dinner at “home.”

— January 2013

What Businesses Should Know About Service Animals: A Guide

Date: January 5, 2013

[Download PDF]

Many people are confused about what service animals are, or what rights people using service animals have under Americans with Disabilities Act. This document is intended to help businesses understand what obligations they have to customers and members of the public who have service animals under law.

1. Service animals are not pets.

Service animals are different from pets because they are trained to perform tasks to assist persons with disabilities. Service animals must be allowed to accompany their owners wherever people without service animals may enter, even if the premises do not generally allow pets.

2. There are psychiatric service animals, too.

In addition to guide dogs, seeing eye dogs, and other more commonly recognized ones, some service animals are trained to assist people with psychiatric disabilities. The DOJ guideline lists dogs that are trained to calm people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack as an example of service animals that must be accommodated.

3. Service animals do not need to be trained by professionals.

Some service animals are trained by professionals to perform highly specialized tasks and are certified by established institutions. But service animals can also be trained by their owner, and do not need to receive any certification or license to be recognized as service animals.

4. Businesses cannot require any documentation.

Under ADA, businesses are not allowed to require any documentation for service animals such as a certificate or a physician’s letter. They are not allowed to demand people with service animals to “prove” that they are service animals, or to demonstrate their ability to perform tasks.

5. Tags/harnesses marking the animal as “service animal” are optional.

Some people with service animals put a tag or harness that marks their animals as service animals in order to inform other people, but they are not required. It is entirely optional.

6. There are only two questions businesses can ask.

When it is not clear that an animal is a service animal, businesses may ask: 1. “Is this a service animal?” and 2. “What work does the animal do?” Businesses are not allowed to ask what disability the person has, or to demand a proof.

7. Businesses can expect service animal to be under the control of the owner.

People with disabilities are expected to keep their service animals under control (not barking or making a scene) and on a leash (unless it would prevent the animal from performing the task). Also, service animals must be potty-trained. Businesses can ask a person using a service animal to leave the premise if he or she cannot keep the animal under control.

8. Businesses cannot discriminate.

Businesses cannot charge extra fees for people with service animals, even if they charge extra for people with non-service pets. They cannot isolate or segregate people with service animals from other customers, or treat them less favorably.

9. Fear or allergy are not legitimate reason to exclude.

Some people are afraid of dogs or are allergic to dogs, but these are not legitimate grounds to exclude people with service animals. When appropriate, businesses may need to accommodate both customers with service animals and those with allergic reactions, for example by seating them away from each other.

10. People with service animals cannot be singled out.

When service animals cause damages, it must be treated the same way damages caused by people are treated. For example, a hotel may charge for an extra cleaning fee for a mess made by a service animal if another customer who made a similar mess is also held responsible.

This document is based on “ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Service Animals” issued by U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

(Also posted in System Failure Alert!)

Going Places with Your Service Animal: A Guide

Date: January 4, 2013

[Download PDF]

Many people are confused about what service animals are, or what rights people with disabilities have about bringing their service animals to places like buses, restaurants, schools, and other places. Some businesses violate the law when they refuse service to people with service animals out of ignorance, but we can’t demand our rights effectively if we don’t know them better than they do. This guide is designed for people who are interested in going to places with their service animal.

What Are Service Animals?

Service animals must be dogs (with some exceptions) that have been trained to perform a task to assist a person with a disability. They are different from pets, “companion animals,” or “emotional support animals” because they are specifically trained to do something for a person with disability.

Examples of “tasks” given by the Department of Justice include:

  • guiding someone who is blind
  • alerting someone who is deaf
  • pulling a wheelchair for someone
  • protecting someone who is having a seizure
  • calming someone during an anxiety attack (licking, nuzzling, etc.)

Service animals must be trained to do one of these things (or some other task), but they do not need to be trained by professionals. Some organizations train and certify dogs as “service animals,” but you or your friends and family members can train your own dog as well. There is no requirement for certification or registration for service animals.

What Are My Rights and Responsibilities?

Businesses, government buildings, clinics, and non-profit organizations that other people can enter generally must allow service animals. There are some exceptions, but they are very specific (such as an operating room at a hospital).

Service animals must wear a harness, leash, etc., unless these devices prevent them from working. They must be under control (not barking or making a scene) and must be potty-trained (they are able to hold off until they are in an appropriate place to relieve themselves).

What Are Businesses’ Rights and Responsibilities?

There are only two questions businesses are allowed to ask about someone’s service animal: 1. “Is this a service animal?” and 2. “What work does the animal do?” They cannot ask what disability you have, require documentation of any kind, or make you “prove” that the animal can perform tasks.

Businesses cannot charge extra fees for people with service animals, even if they charge extra for people with non-service pets (hotels, airplanes, etc.). They must allow service animals even if they do not allow other animals (restaurants, grocery stores). They cannot treat people with service animal any worse than they treat other customers.

Businesses can ask people with service animals to leave if the dog is out of control, or the animal is not potty-trained, but not just because someone else is afraid of or allergic to dogs.

Businesses can make people with service animal pay for damages their animals cause only if they would also ask customers without service animals to pay for damages they cause.

What Else Should I Know About Service Animals?

Some people make their service animals wear “service animal” tags, harnesses, or jackets. They are not required, but they might stop other people from questioning if your dog really is a service animal. You can buy them at a pet supply store or online.

This document addresses your rights in most places of “public accommodation.” There are different definitions of “service animal” or “assistance animal” for having service animals in housing (including shelters), or for air travel, which might give you more rights. Talk to your friendly disability justice advocate to find out more!

This document is based on “ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Service Animals” issued by U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Download the original document, print out a copy and hand it to ignorant businesses to educate them!

(Also posted in System Failure Alert!)