Tag Archives: homelessness

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.

The Gender Bill Of Rights

Here’s something I’m working on. I thought maybe you lovely people would have some feedback, and be able to remind me if I am forgetting anything. I’m not interested in scaling this back or making it more “realistic,” only in making it more radical and comprehensive. I’m also interested in wording it in ways that emphasize the ways in which this would actually benefit everyone, including cis men and women, heterosexuals, and others who might generally feel alienated from discussion of transgender liberation.

(I also know there are also a few gender bill of rights type documents floating around out there already. I felt moved to make my own.)


These rights are inalienable, mandatory, and to be taken seriously at all times. This is a model of gender that is fully individual, consensual, voluntary, and free from state intervention. This model of gender has been designed not to oppress anyone and in fact has been designed to benefit all who are affected by gender in this society (that is to say, everyone), including men, women, non-binary people, agender people, cis people, trans people, intersex and non-intersex people, hetero, queer, and asexual people. We are a long way from adopting this model, and to do so would take time. But doing so can ultimately only benefit us all.

  1. You have a right to have your gender treated as valid, equal and real.
  2. You have a right to be referred with proper forms of address, including pronouns, honorifics, correct names, and appropriate gender descriptors.
  3. You have a right to change how you feel about, talk about, relate to and wish others to relate to your gender, or indeed to change your gender itself, in any way, at any time.
  4. You have a right to not have a gender.
  5. You have a right to privacy about your gender or lack thereof.
  6. No one’s gender should ever be assumed. No one should ever be assumed to have a gender.
  7. You have a right to full control over your gender beginning at birth. No surgical alterations should be made on unconsenting infants in order to fit them into a certain paradigm of gender. Gendered names, pronouns, and descriptors should never be used until children can decide for themselves how they wish to be known to the world.
  8. Education should be unbiased towards any gender or lack of gender. Children of school age have a right to role models of any or no gender.
  9. You have a right to be attracted to anybody of any gender or lack of gender, and to carry on sexual or romantic relationships with any number of consenting individuals regardless of gender.
  10. You have a right to engage in any consensual sex act, regardless of your gender.
  11. You have a right to say no at any time to anyone, regardless of your or their gender.
  12. You have a right to raise children, regardless of your gender.
  13. You have a right to access contraception, permanent birth control, and abortion as needed, regardless of your gender.
  14. You have a right to express any emotion that you feel, regardless of your gender.
  15. You have a right to dress and present yourself in any way that you desire, regardless of your gender.
  16. You have a right to total control over your own body and sole authority in making decisions about it.
  17. The state of your body should not be considered a factor in the validity of your gender. Levels of hormones or number of surgeries that you may or may not have undergone should have no influence on how your gender is viewed by others.
  18. You have a right to employment and fair wages, regardless of your gender.
  19. You have a right to housing, regardless of your gender.
  20. You have a right to education, regardless of your gender.
  21. You have a right to healthcare, regardless of your gender, including the right to vital psychological and medical services which may relate to your gender, including hormone therapy and transgender surgeries of any kind. Access to these necessary services should be unabridged.
  22. No one’s gender should ever be pathologized.
  23. You have a right to relieve yourself in public bathrooms which are safe, private, and desegregated.
  24. You have a right to expect that the state, if a state there must be, shall not interfere with, demand information about, or mistreat you on the basis of your gender. You should not be identified to the state or to others by information about your gender. There should be no need for gender markers on any form of legal identification.
  25. No organization, governmental or otherwise, has the right to demand information about your gender. Medical professionals need only know details about their patient’s anatomy, and appropriate polite forms of address to be used with their patients, including correct names, pronouns and honorifics, nothing more.
  26. To the legal system, if a legal system there must be, your gender should be immaterial. You should not be placed in solitary confinement based on your gender. You should not be placed in segregated facilities of any kind based on your gender. You should have a fair trial, regardless of your gender. You have a right to a jury of your peers, i.e. transgender people have a right to not be judged by cisgender people who may be viciously biased against us.

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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