Tag Archives: classism

Witness Says Brandy Martell Murder A Hate Crime

Note: I want to apologize for my prior misspellings of Brandy’s name. I was seeing both the I and Y spelling from multiple sources. I will go back and correct my previous posts ASAP.

From Transfeminism:

Brandy Martell

Brandy Martell was shot and killed in downtown Oakland early Sunday morning. Photo by Tiffany Woods.

Brandy Martell, 37, a Hayward resident, was killed in downtown Oakland early Sunday morning. Martell, who identified as transsexual, was in her car at the corner of Franklin and 13th Streets in Oakland’s city center when she was shot repeatedly through the window and side door. Hers was one of three murders in the city that night.

While some news outlets are reporting that the murder was the result of a botched robbery, Martell’s friends believe she may have been the victim of a hate crime. Another transgender woman and friend of Martell’s—who wants to keep her identity private—was in the back seat of the car. According to this witness, she, Martell and two other transgender women had been socializing in the parked vehicle for several hours. Around 3 am, two men approached the car and chatted with the women briefly, the witness said. Martell and the other women told the men they were transgendered, and after a seemingly cordial conversation, the men walked off, said the witness.

Two hours later, the men reappeared, and one of them stuck the barrel of an automatic weapon into the crack of Martell’s window, according to the witness. According to her, the man shot Martell in the side, and the other women fled as Martell tried to drive away. Martell made it only as far as the intersection before her wounds stopped her. The gunman fired multiple shots into the car, two of which struck Martell, the witness said. The shooter and the other man got away on foot. The other women in the car had been taken away by the police to give their witness statements by the time the ambulance arrived, the witness said.

The Oakland Police Department did not return phone calls regarding this case, and has not released any public statements or press releases.

From It’s The Music, People!

There will be a public funeral and homecoming services for Brandy Martell Wednesday, May 9 at 11 a.m. at C.P. Bannon Mortuary, 6800 International Boulevard in Oakland. She was a transgender woman murdered during a hate crime downtown. Please come and show support for Brandy and all trans people. There is a vigil on 13th and Franklin, please bring flowers, candles and whatever else you might want to leave to keep her memory alive.

REPOST: Points of Unity for a Feminist & Queer Occupation

Originally from here.


1. This Capitalist society is based upon a
racist, white supremacist racial order, and
so our organizing must confront, and attack
structural racism and white supremacy in this
city and in our own spaces.

2. Women, Trans people, Queers, Fags,
Dykes, need a space that is OURS because
we are marginalized, harassed, and attacked
in other spaces all the time. We do not all
have the same needs and desires, and
our relationships with one another are
structured by the intensified oppression of
people of color, trans people and poor
folks. However we think that we can support
and increase our power by working
with each other.

3. While we acknowledge that we are not
all affected in the same way by patriarchy,
we do believe that our degradation,
marginalization and harassment is systematic
and structural. As a result, we believe
that we cannot be fully liberated until we
abolish the system of Patriarchy in addition
to White Supremacy and Capitalism.

4. We are against Non-Profit Organizations
which end up supporting the system we
want to destroy and fucking over the
communities they claim to aid. Non-profits
have created a style of political organizing
that will never really threaten capitalism,
patriarchy, or white supremacy.

5. We are against the cops; they are our
enemy. Police protect the interests of the
ruling class, repress our resistance, and
harass, injure, rape and kill people in our
communities. We do not seek to reform,
negotiate, or work with this system; instead,
we work with each other!

West Coast Port Shutdown Dec. 12

I’ll see you in the streets.


The shit that is going down in Oakland right now is momentous and horrifying. One of my friends who was protesting is as far as I know still in jail. Please spread the word and show solidarity for Occupy Oakland.

Below is the proposal passed by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly on Wednesday October 26, 2011 in reclaimed Oscar Grant Plaza. 1607 people voted. 1484 voted in favor of the resolution, 77 abstained and 46 voted against it, passing the proposal at 96.9%. The General Assembly operates on a modified consensus process that passes proposals with 90% in favor and with abstaining votes removed from the final count.


We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.

We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.

All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.

While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.

The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.

The Strike Coordinating Council will begin meeting everyday at 5pm in Oscar Grant Plaza before the daily General Assembly at 7pm. All strike participants are invited. Stay tuned for much more information and see you next Wednesday.

Critical Condition: Queer And Trans Healthcare In San Francisco

I’ve written before about the dire state of transgender healthcare. This will be sort of like a sequel. It’s a little more specific, a little more local, and a little more personal. Where before I wrote about bald-faced hate, today I have to write about a more insidious kind of bigotry, a kind which is subtler and possibly even more dangerous. I have to talk about hatred as it is expressed in terms of budgets and priorities, in terms of who gets funding for what, and which organizations are first against the wall when money runs out.

In San Francisco, queer clinics are dropping like flies. New Leaf was forced to close back in August. I got free counseling from New Leaf and have been without a therapist ever since. Fortunately for me, my own mental state has been such that this hasn’t been a problem– so far. I’m sure a lot of people who depended on New Leaf’s services haven’t been as lucky.

Now Lyon Martin will be forced to close its doors unless the community can raise sufficient funds to save it. Once again, the impact of its closing will be close to home for me, but this time, it will somewhat more serious.

You see, my lover just started estrogen, and they have never been happier. For the very first time, they are experiencing a piece of themself that had always been missing. All this is thanks to Lyon Martin.

Here’s part of a statement that my lover wrote asking our friends to donate to the endangered clinic:

These people provide affordable sliding scale healthcare to underserved minority groups. They provide a service to our community that most healthcare providers are unwilling to offer, in a courteous and professional manner.

I am agendered, a type of transsexual that is not recognized as existing in conventional healthcare. Lyon-Martin provided health care to me in a safe environment where I did not have to lie to obtain the services I needed.

I can’t be without these services…. Before pursuing active transition treatments, I was able to make it from day to day. Almost. It was rough, but dysphoria was all I knew, and all I really expected to know. Now that I have been undergoing my second, more accurate puberty, I know what life can deliver, and I know that I really will have a genuinely difficult time if I am forced by some conservative Blue Shield GP to stop my treatment… I am really, really worried.

Hopefully, the above can illustrate a little bit of  the anxiety and pain that Lyon Martin’s patients are going through while they wait to learn of the clinic’s fate.

The quality of care that Lyon Martin offers is really unique. Their slogan “We treat you with respect” sums up what they have that we need, and the problems with services available through HMOs or non-GLBT clinics. To quote the Guardian,

Lyon-Martin medical staffers receive training on transgender patient care, and it even offers training in that realm for medical professionals from cities throughout the United States. “They are internationally renowned as a model for what it means to offer transgender care,” noted labor organizer Gabriel Haaland, who said he was once denied health care due to his transgender identity. “The healthcare system is a fairly traumatic experience for most transgender people,” he added.

Most mainstream health care providers receive no training in transgender medicine whatsoever. Even those who do provide some transgender care, such as hormones, are often very ignorant in many ways. Non-binary, genderqueer and agendered trans folks still have to lie and pretend to have binary identities in order to access transition services in such places. Staff often display bigotry, and fail to use appropriate pronouns and forms of address. Lyon Martin is a place where trans people don’t have to deal with any of that. Instead of paying out the nose to be dismissed and disrespected, one is given real care regardless of ability to pay.

That is a rare and precious thing.

A lot of criticism has been leveled at Lyon Martin’s board and the way they have handled finances. While this may well be valid, I think it is vital that we acknowledge that this is part of a larger pattern. San Francisco non-profits are losing funding. I have watched organizations that serve the queer community struggling desperately to stay afloat over the past few years. I have seen LYRIC forced to cut hours, The Castro Country Club begging for donations, and New Leaf close its doors. Although these organizations provide very different services, all of them are places of refuge which provide support– social, medical, psychological, emotional, spiritual– to people who don’t know where else to go.

In the case of medical services, this pattern means that many of the same patients are migrating from one dying clinic to another as non-profits fail. Take my own (not particularly severe) case as a quick and dirty example. I’ve been thinking that I need to get into therapy again. Since New Leaf has closed, I was planning to go to Lyon Martin. Now it seems that I will have to go elsewhere, possibly to Dimensions. Whatever free or sliding-scale clinic I find, it is guaranteed to be underfunded and struggling, just like all San Francisco non-profits.

The point is that we cannot be secure in the knowledge that respectful, affordable care will remain available to us. We don’t know that it will. In fact, it seems very likely that it will be taken away. Those of us who have insurance will be forced to rely on soulless HMOs where providing trans-specific care will be a low priority, if it is even dreamed of at all. Those who do not have insurance will be left with nothing.

The good news is that so far the community has made an impressive rally  in support of Lyon Martin. This may be one battle that we can actually win.

So I’m asking for your help. This blog averages 217 views a day. I understand that most of us are fucking broke, and it’s an unfortunate irony that the people who need Lyon Martin the most are those of us least likely to have money to spare. But if every single person who views this blog today donates just one dollar, that’s 217 dollars for Lyon Martin. If every single person who views this blog today donates five dollars, that’s 1,085 dollars for Lyon Martin. If everyone single person who views this blog today donates ten dollars, that’s 2170 dollars for Lyon Martin. Get the idea? A little bit can go a long way. If we all just do what we can, I have no doubt that Lyon Martin will raise the money it needs to reorganize instead of closing.

Donate! Anything helps.

If you can’t give money, at least spread the word. Repost, reblog, get the word out there so that people who can give their financial assistance will. I know it sucks shaking down friends and family for money, but this isn’t for some disembodied cause, for some vague sense of charity and noble purpose. This is to take care of our own community, our queer community, here in San Francisco. This is about real people’s health, real people’s lives.

We don’t have to be beaten this time. This time, there is hope. If we all do our bit, we will know the sweet taste of victory, something that trans people experience seldom enough.

Let this be a line in the sand. We will not lose this one.

Solidarity Sit-In On Monday

Here’s some photos I took of Stand Against Sit-Lie’s Monday action, a “sit-in” at Civic Center. The turn out could’ve been better but you couldn’t ask for a sweeter or more earnest group of people. The police presence was small, at least when I was there, and things stayed peaceful. I do hope more people get out for future actions.

Some Election Results

First of all, I must register my amusement at the election of Governer Jerry Brown, who always smiles and never frowns, soon he will be PREZ-I-DENT! (Fun fact: I actually have been forced to meditate in school.) I am relieved, of course– Whitman would’ve been terrible, not least because then I would be posting “Material Girl” instead of “California Uber Alles.”

I am, however, extraordinarily disappointed by the passing of Prop L. I need to take this moment to say a massive FUCK YOU to San Francisco, and all the people in it who were narrow-minded and small-hearted enough to vote yes on L. Monday there is a protest at City Hall. I’m thinking about getting arrested. Hope I see you there.

On a lighter note, Victoria Kolakowski of Alameda County has just become the first transgender judge in the history of this nation. There were a lot of trans women in this election, actually. Theresa Sparks ran for supervisor here in San Francisco (and lost). And in Oaklahoma, of all places, Britney Novotny ran for the house of representatives, and also lost– but its incredibly impressive that she even had a fighting chance out there. I want to applaud the courage of all of these women for undergoing the trauma of a public campaign wherein their medical history was guaranteed to be under the crudest possible scrutiny and constantly held against them.

Yesterday at a bus stop I saw an example of that kind of ignorant scrutiny. I was waiting for the 24 in the Castro. A couple of older cis people were at the stop with me. Across the street from us was a poster of candidate Rebecca Prozan, openly queer and quite butch, who the cis folks seemed to have confused with Theresa Sparks. “Isn’t that a transgender?” “Is it a man who became a woman or a woman who became a man?” “Well if it was a man who became a woman why would he become a woman who looked like that?” On and on and on. It was almost funny. People are so entitled.

In conclusion, I have been constantly bewildered over the past week about the perfectly socially acceptable way in which sports fans can scream as if they are getting murdered. I, too, am often tempted to scream when I am having a good time, considering that my idea of a good time involves bondage and heavy beatings– but if I were to do so at home, somebody upstairs would probably call the cops. It’s just not fair. (Here I sulk.)

See you all next week for your upcoming installment of Transgression. I’ll be talking about the “It Gets Better” movement. Stay tuned.

On Homeless Youth And Family

The SF Bay Guardian published another excellent article about Sit/Lie and its potential victims this week. This week’s issue was rather good in general, actually. In it, the Guardian takes a nicely rounded approach to the question of whether San Francisco is getting less youth-friendly. The article I link, “How They’re Sitting,” focuses on street kids in the Haight. The author points out that many homeless youths, even some who claim to have chosen a transient lifestyle, are actually fleeing from abusive or neglectful homes. The article also makes the excellent point that prohibiting sitting or lying on the sidewalk makes spangeing and busking a lot more difficult, interfering with what is the main source of money for many of these kids.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, Sit/Lie is really personal to me, for a number of reasons. I do have homeless friends and acquaintances who will be directly impacted if prop L passes. But I also know that I could have easily wound up in the same situation that they are in.

The difference between me and the homeless queer youths that I know is simple: my parents love me.

My parents didn’t throw me out when I came out as queer, or as trans, or as kinky. They didn’t give me ultimatums or try to change who I am. They never abused me or neglected me. Quite to the contrary, they supported me. They continue to support me in concrete ways– emotionally, morally, and financially when I need it. When I was desperate for a job, dad let me work for him. My mom helped me find my way to CarnalNation. Their love is not conditional. If I ever screw up, even really badly, they won’t disown me or push me away.

But the kids and young adults I know who are homeless or marginally housed did not come from loving families. They were kicked out for being gay, or for being trans, or for having drug problems. Or if they weren’t kicked out, they fled from abusive situations.

Youth, especially queer youth, are generally at the mercy of our families. In an era when ever more education is required to get a decent job, when schooling is becoming prohibitively expensive, when the cost of living is always rising, it is not likely that a young person who lacks family support will be able to hold down a job that will allow them to pay for both college and housing, while going to school at the same time.

This is not a world where disenfranchised young people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This is not an economy in which to tell somebody, especially a kid, to “get a job.” We should all know that it isn’t easy to make ends meet right now. We should all realize that not everyone can.

Sit/Lie punishes people who have nowhere else to go. It makes it a crime to be out of options.

The problem of homelessness is not going to disappear if we ignore it. It is impossible to render street youth invisible.

Just where do the proponents of Sit/Lie think these kids are going to go?

Standing Together

It can be difficult maintaining a friendship with someone who is homeless when you are not. The relationship is unequal by nature, and the power differential is huge. Nevertheless, I have one such very close friendship, which I treasure and do my best to nurture.

My friend Aurora lost her housing a year ago and has been on the street for almost as long. She shares harrowing stories with me about trying to survive the city nights, wandering from one twenty-four hour diner to the next to keep out of the cold. She sleeps during the day, because at night there are too many bad people around and she has to be on guard. As a queer woman, she finds the streets particularly treacherous. Aurora is a resilient person who has been through hell. In return for getting to have her natural wisdom, compassion and strength in my life, I let her stay at my place when I can, cook her meals from time to time, give her warm clothes, and just try to provide a sympathetic ear.

I am acquainted, though not nearly as well, with several other homeless people. I met them when I was working at a queer youth organization. Many of these kids were thrown out of their homes by homophobic parents. Others ran away to San Francisco, fleeing Middle America, and found themselves with no place to stay but the streets once they got here.

Homelessness is a queer youth issue. Approximately twenty six percent of LGBT youth are forced to leave their homes because of their sexual orientation, and between twenty and forty percent of homeless youth are LGBT identified. That’s why I would like to devote this week’s column to Proposition L, better known as Sit/Lie, which will be on the ballot November 2nd here in San Francisco.

According to Sidewalks Are For People, “The sit/lie law, if passed, would make it a crime to sit or lie down on any sidewalk or on top of any object (blanket, lawn chair, milk crate, etc.) on any sidewalk in San Francisco between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.” For the first offense, one can be fined up to one hundred dollars. Subsequent offenses carry a fine of up to five hundred dollars, and/or thirty days in jail. So basically, people who are too poor to have any place to rest indoors will be fined for money that they clearly don’t have. That’s not a way to get people off the street. That’s a way to push people deeper and deeper into poverty while criminalizing them for living in the only places that they can.

As I mentioned, some homeless people, like my friend, feel that it is too dangerous to sleep on the street at night. Since Sit/Lie criminalizes lying on the street between 7 A.M. and 11 P.M., they would become as vulnerable to attacks by cops during the day as they are to attacks by criminals at night. The city doesn’t have nearly enough shelters to deal with demand, and I’m told that shelters can be really scary anyway, especially for women. Actually, everyone who would know that I’ve talked to confirms that the street is safer than shelters. So basically that leaves parks. I hear that sleeping in the grass is a great way to become covered in really nasty bug bites.

The rhetoric in favor of Prop L is familiar. Most of it has to do with street punks with scary dogs who supposedly bully, harass and attack pedestrians on Haight Street. However, Sit/Lie doesn’t actually deal with harassment or assault in any way, or even with blockage of the side walk, as long as the participants are standing up. Sit/Lie just mandates that all harassment must occur at eye-level.

The image of homeless people on Haight Street as violent and aggressive is greatly exaggerated. And not all Haight Street merchants support prop L. In fact, many of them feel that the Sit/Lie campaign’s portrayal of the Haight as overrun with thugs is scaring off business. Liquor store owners in the Haight have pointed out that much of their business actually comes from street people. The homeless are part of the city’s economy, too.

But this isn’t just about Haight Street anymore. Sit/Lie applies to the entire city. But of course we know that San Francisco has a history of criminalizing homelessness, and of cutting services and resources that actually try to help people get off the street. San Francisco tends to treat homelessness as a cosmetic issue, as “urban blight,” rather than as a problem of human suffering. The callousness and shallowness of this attitude absolutely disgusts me.

In this city, we pride ourselves on being progressive. We are supposed to stand for women, for disabled people, for people of color, for queer people and trans people. We just don’t stand for them when they turn out to be disproportionately homeless. In fact, we go from “I stand with you” to “I can’t stand you” in record time. We blame homeless people for smelling strongly when they can’t shower, and for panhandling when they can’t get work (and we all know how tough the job market is these days even if you can afford a nice suit for your job interview!). We blame those of them who are mentally ill for their erratic behavior when they can’t afford anti-psychotics. We blame them for being visible reminders of suffering. We just want them out of sight and out of mind. We just want to turn away.
But we can’t and must not turn away. It is time to make a stand. If you are reading this, I beg you to rethink Prop L. Vote no on Sit/Lie on November 2nd. Let’s not take this lying down. Sit/Lie. Let’s not take this lying down.


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