A feminism of unity, not exclusion

By Andrea Sand, Affirmative Action Chair


I am a feminist, and I am a trans woman. I, unlike some, do not find these two parts of my identity in conflict. 

This is to Suzanne Moore, and her associate Julie Burchill, as well as a plethora of those first- and second-wave feminists who are regrettably stuck under a mountain of a rock and believe me to be a ‘man’, something I’ve never been in my entire life. I am not a “bed-wetter with a bad wig”, I am not a ‘dick in chicks’clothing’ and intersectionality is not stalling any arguments.

You’re staring HRT inthe face and not flinching? I didn’t flinch either when I started HRT almost two years ago; well, except when the needle goes in every week. You’ve experienced a lifetime of sexual harassment? So have I, interspersed with experiences of black eyes, broken noses, split lips,and bloody wrists. I am not bullying you, or am I? I may be, in the same way all those pesky gays are bullying straights for the right to marry, or how all us women are demanding to be treated as equals are bullying our male (and apparently female) oppressors.

It is pure audacity that Burchill and Moore consider themselves writers and thinkers, when a cursory Googling reveals that “cisgendered” is for people like them as “transgender” is for people like me. Cis and trans are terms we use from ancient times, it is not because it sounds like “cyst” or “cistern”; trans oppression of cis-gendered women is about as incensing as the Sandy Hook truthers, with about as much sense.

When I identify with ‘my people’, I cannot speak in terms of skin tone because those of my own skin color routinely persecute my people. I do not speak in terms of religion, because I was brought up in a religion that taught me my gender and sexuality were reprehensible. I do not speak in terms of sex, because the sex I was born in to routinely objectifies my people.

I do not speak in terms of anything other than gender, because I have never received hatred for who I am from those who buck the gender-binary, and they are who I align myself with in utter solidarity; what you say to my sisters and brothers is as good as saying it to me.

I fully agree with Vice President Joe Biden’s stance of my people’s discrimination being the civil rights issue of our generation. I’m not a punchline. I am not a joke. I am a person. I am sick of being marginalized and ignored, I am done being neglected by people who call themselves LGBT allies because that term was bandied around so much and so often with so little true understanding that nobody remembers the “BTQA~” that comes after “LG”.

LGBT equality is more than just about sexual equality, it is, at its basest form, true feminism: we are all equals on every level and should be treated with accorded respect and dignity.


A New Year’s resolution to protect ALL children

By Andrea Persephone Sand

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA proposed armed guards and teachers in the school to prevent violence.  Really?  America would consider this, but we wouldn’t even entertain the thought of an inclusive bullying-protection policy?

We are more comfortable turning our schools in to something more akin to legitimate prisons where students are going to see guns and people looking at them suspiciously on a daily basis than we are with all students being protected from harassment and assault at the hands of their peers and authority figures?

Protecting children means creating a culture of tolerance, understanding and compassion, not arming everyone to the teeth.  In 2013, let’s resolve to do just that.

To adapt a phrase from the great leader for peace, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: a threat to children anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.

Newtown Memorial12

I wrote in late October that the East Aurora school board were cowardly and flopping about back and forth on the issue of protection for all of its queer students, not just the LG ones. A policy that was supposed to protect the safety of gender outlaw kids was vigorously opposed by the Illinois Family Institute, an organization deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center–and the bigots won.

The East Aurora School Board formed a committee to better assess the situation and try to find a good solution–but in the face of constant harassment from the IFI, it has now been dissolved.

I attended a Catholic high school. I have read the Old Testament and New Testament, and studied it in depth. Jesus never spoke out against the queer community, but had plenty of things to say about hypocrites and the falsely pious. In his own words, “What you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”

According to the Transgender Discrimination Survey by The Taskforce, in the K-12 setting alone, 78% of students who expressed a “transgender identity or gender non-conformity” were harassed, 35% were physically assaulted, and 12% were victims of sexual violence. This harassment and these assaults come not only from our peers, but from our teachers and principals. Six percent are expelled just for being themselves, or 1:17. Harassment is so awful that 15% will drop out, or about a sixth. Suicide attempt rates are nauseatingly high, somewhere around 1:2 or 1:3.


There are, quite literally, children’s lives on the line with this debate–and these children can be saved not with a weapon of violence (like the Bushmaster .223 rifle that Adam Lanza used to murder 26 people), but with words of peace and inclusion.

Words like these:

It is the District’s goal to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.

The above is what the Illinois Family Institute objected to.

Someone’s little girl has to go to school every day and use the wrong everything and hear all sorts of awful names thrown at her by her peers and potentially her teachers. She has to face the risk of her teachers and authority figures turning blind eyes to her suffering. She has to face the risk of growing up to be a drug dealer or prostitute (16%) to make ends meet, and she faces the risk of she herself being a drinker or drug user to cope with the harassment (32%). Someone’s little girl isn’t getting the same opportunity as everyone else’s little girl.

There are other gender non-conformists in the school district, but I remember when this all started over a little girl wanting some pee-ce.  She is the visible, un-seen face of the gender outlaws of East Aurora. Her plight, and her victory, will bring attention and a much larger victory to all her classmates just like her. It will be a hopeful, reassuring whisper of “You will overcome this” that has been long over-due and been much needed.

Please sign and pass on this Change.org petition asking the board to reinstate its commitment to protecting ALL children:



And please contact East Aurora School Board (boardofeducation@d131.org) members:

Ignacio Cervantes: icervantes@d131.org

Mary Anne Turza:  turza.mary@sbcglobal.net

Raymond Hull: raymondhull@comcast.net

Annette Johnson (President): ajohnson@ciprianispasta.com

Richard Leonard: rleonard@d131.org

Stella Gonzalez (Vice-President) slg081404@sbcglobal.net

Anita Lewis (Secretary) alewis4244@msn.com

Including, supporting, and protecting transgender youth

By Andrea Persephone Sand, Minnesota NOW Affirmative Action Chair

I am a gender-breaking individual, and I feel this is the one time I can speak for my community of all gender-varying peoples without excusing myself for doing so.

Stop abandoning us and leaving us behind. We need protection, and nothing is more irritating or blood-boiling than those who falsely claim to be for “full LGBT rights” yet really mean “just LG rights”. This is where I stop speaking for anyone other than myself, because I am not a voice for the masses unless they say I am. I am only a voice for myself and those who stand behind me. I don’t know who they are, and I claim no following.

That out of the way, I’d like to focus for a moment on one of our most at-risk populations: students. This is to the Aurora County School Board in Illinois first and foremost due to their fish-out-of-water stance on trans- protection: Stop flip-flopping and get back in the right pond and protect students who often cannot protect themselves. Numbers have floated around varying that anywhere between 40 to over 50% of transgender youth attempting suicide before age 20. It is not unheard of for those as young as 7 to make an attempt on their own lives to escape a world that refuses to see them as they are. Worse, there is a total global population suicide rate of 31% to 50% (depending who in the community you speak to, and which surveys you use). These numbers don’t come from nowhere. Nobody has ever woken up one day and said to themselves ‘man I’m bored, let’s try suicide!’. Nobody wants to die, it is hard-wired in to us. When one runs out of coping mechanisms, when they no longer know how to deal with the pain they are facing, it is only then that suicide is the next step. What sickens me to my core is that we allow people to walk that plank by our own cruelty and indifference.

By flip-flopping on issues, by being lazy and half-assed on a stance, we are allowing children to come to harm for no other reason than they dare to be themselves. We all must stand up and say ‘enough is enough and too much is too much,” we must draw a line and say ‘this far, no further.” We seem too content to allow groups that we are not a part of to be pushed to the side, marginalized, and walked upon with cruel disregard to their lives. Worse, this ass-backwards sense of communal isolationism means that groups for whom few stand and fight for are allowed to be persecuted and taunted, humiliated and shamed with almost no rebuttal or swift retribution.

The moment a self-proclaimed ‘loving, tolerant’ monotheist group screams that their rights are being infringed upon, we feel obligated to back down even if it means allowing hate and bigotry to continue to thrive. I am a Religious Humanist and I acknowledge that religion is an intricate part of humanity; it has been since we habitated caves. We cannot deny the aspect of us that yearns to believe in something higher than us tending to the light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe, like Dr. Thompson once said, that was the folly of the acid junkies of the 70’s. At no time should someone’s personal religious views or narrow-minded ideologies be allowed to infringe upon the happiness and lives of another group.

I know it may sound hypocritical to those who don’t understand things like ‘compassion’ and ‘consent,’ but when I speak out against those speaking out against us, I am not trying to silence them. Simply I am saying keep your hateful views, but keep them privately behind closed doors where you say our lives belong. Happiness is also an intricate, intrinsic part of humanity and the human condition and should never, under any circumstances, be abridged for anyone.

(Though I understand where people like that come from. Before I accepted myself, before I fully embraced who I am, while I still ran from the truths I had been taught were undesirable, I too was a hateful bastard. I hated seeing people happy doing what I only wished I could do.)

This bullying comes from us and passed on to the next generation. When we say faggot to each other in public, that’s where kids learn it. They see us hurl it as an insult, they hear us say “that’s so gay” in scorn at a situation we don’t like and correlate “gay” with “undesirable.” When it’s children against children it’s called bullying, when adults do it to each other it’s business as usual. We ourselves are passing on the demons that haunt us to the next generation. 

So to East Aurora School District 131, and by extension the Anoka-Hennepin school district for letting a member of a hate group help (though I think ‘hinder’ is more apt) with an anti-bullying task force: grow a spine and be that voice screaming ‘enough!’  Be the people who knew what was the humane thing to do and draw that line for us. You have powers I only wish I had–in your hands is the ability to safeguard all of your students and give them the chance to thrive. Instead of making school in to more of a brutal prison, restore it to being a place of education and acceptance.

I am sick of those who say they are for us and then actively work against us. Put your heels in the dirt and push back! Our children are the ones suffering!


Trans Youth Support Network (based in Minneapolis!)

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund

National Center for Transgender Equality

In solidarity with CeCe McDonald

By Andrea Persephone Sand, MN NOW Affirmative Action Chair

On June 5, 2011, not even two miles from my home, Dean Schmitz, a white supremacist with a swastika tattoo who was surrounded by other hateful individuals, began spewing intolerance at CeCe McDonald, a young woman of color (we are not going through transition just to forever be called transgender), and her friends: words like ‘nigger’, ‘faggot’, and  ‘chick with a dick’.

After a short scuffle instigated by a female companion of Mr. Schmitz, CeCe found herself bloodied and injured, but still alive.

Nobody but her was taken in to custody, and only she was prosecuted after being interrogated and denied proper medical attention for her injuries.

Her charge was murder in the second degree, which is defined as “an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable ‘heat of passion’ or a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life.” It appears the message to our community is our lives are worth remarkably less than those of gender-normative heterosexuals.

Amy Senser’s trial got so much media coverage–dare I say too much. Perhaps it was the sensationalism of it all, or that it was easier to watch and listen to than the CeCe McDonald trial. It may just have been easier to watch tabloids unfold than to pay attention to a travesty of justice.

Transpeople face harassment and discrimination far, far too often. Be it in major arenas like employment and housing, or minor arenas like using the bathroom, going to the gym, or going to the store. Couple that with being a young woman of color, and this beautiful person became the target for a malicious attack. In trying to reason what is happening to a person whose only crime was to fight back, I’ve found it terrible how every question just leads to more questions, none of them receiving proper answers.

Is it really so unacceptable that CeCe McDonald came out on top instead of being another number in a statistic that says 1 in 12 transgender people will have their lives prematurely ended for them?

Is it justice or institutionalized cruelty that, when she plead down in a rigged system, she was sentenced to serve out her time in a men’s prison facility where she will face sexual and physical assaults because of her gender?

How can we allow this to happen? Do things like rape and assault become acceptable when they happen to prisoners? If so, are they still acceptable when that person is wrongly imprisoned in the wrong prison? What would the outrage be if through some archaic legal loophole a young white cisgendered woman was sent to a men’s prison? Why is there any difference in the reaction? Why do we, while living in what has been called the new San Francisco, just turn a blind eye to what is going on to a sister in need?

The State Board of Minnesota NOW, on behalf of our statewide membership, condemns this hostility towards a woman who had the gall and audacity to fight back–a woman who had the courage, fortitude, and incredible luck to come out of such a fight with life still inside her. It is not acceptable for a system designed to protect everyone, founded on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, to reinforce an archaic notion that GLBTQA individuals must not only endure verbal and physical harassment, but must also suppress their natural instinct to fight back when put in a life or death situation because our lives are somehow worth less than our heteronormative counterparts.

It is not okay for the very same system that allows white men to stand their ground with lethal force to also condemn women and minorities for doing the same. This is not justice; this is institutionalized hatred and intolerance.

In solidarity with CeCe McDonald, we demand she be pardoned and freed immediately or, at the very least, moved to a women’s facility where she will be safe.

To learn more about CeCe, how you can stay updated on her case, and how you can support her while she remains imprisoned, visit http://supportcece.wordpress.com/. The site also has extensive links and resources for learning more about the targeting of transpeople for violence and incarceration.

Photos of CeCe were taken from the TruTV Crime Library report on the case.