Legislative Alert!

HR5, the “Equality Act” is currently in the Judiciary Committee in the U. S. Senate.  FIST is developing a response to this bill.  Please stay tuned for proposed amendments.  To contact the members of the Judiciary Committee, go to:  https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/about/members

SB 132 – A bill in the California legislature, “an act to add Sections 2605 and 2606 to the Penal Code, relating to corrections,” would allow males who identify as transgender to be housed with the female population if it passes. It has already passed in the California Senate and is currently in the state Assembly, where it will be reviewed in the Public Safety Committee. This bill if enacted is particularly dangerous for women since the passage of SB 179 in October 2017 has allowed “. . . a person to submit to the State Registrar an application to change gender on the birth certificate . . . to conform the person’s legal gender to the person’s gender identity.” So any man may declare himself a woman and change his birth certificate, with no requirements or oversight and in total disregard of biological reality, opening the door for sexual predators of various types, from voyeurs to rapists, to reinvent themselves as female by taking on female names and identities. Add to this the reality that the majority of female prisoners have been molested, raped, sexually assaulted, trafficked, coerced or forced into pornography and/or prostitution, and the potential harm to incarcerated women and girls is greatly increased if SB 132 also passes.

FIST strenuously opposes the passage of this bill and asks everyone to call the members of the California Assembly Public Safety Committee and urge them to not allow it onto the floor for a vote as it poses a grave risk to actual women, who comprise 52% of the general population and a growing percentage of the prison population, and therefore to public safety. Also if you are in California, please contact your Assembly representative and urge her or him to oppose it as well. Here is a link to the list of the Public Safety Committee members and their phone numbers: https://apsf.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff

Reportback from the Boston Dyke March

by An Anonymous Dyke

Friday, June 7th, 2019. The Boston Dyke March. Before it began, an anonymous group of lesbians dispersed stickers throughout the Boston Common and surrounding area, site of the Boston Dyke March.

DOWNLOAD AND PRINT YOUR OWN STICKERS here at https://feministstruggle.org/2019/05/18/dont-disappear-the-l-campaign/

Going to the Dyke March again since I went for the first time a number of years ago, all the memories of the experience of lesbian erasure flooded back. It is obvious (to me, at least, as a lesbian who is indigenous to this continent) that the playbook of colonialism is being used on lesbians. I won’t say it’s 100% the same, but I can’t unsee the parallels. I saw a sign that said “all white people are immigrants”, which was a relief to see and is true: all europeans are colonizers, invaders — “immigrants” is only a euphemism, if only they were immigrants it would be so much easier. But the invaders run the show. They tell indigenous people south of the colonial border that they’re the outsiders. That the europeans are the true “natives”. This is a settler colonial state that tells indigenous people that we are foreigners on our own land, and works hard to erase indigenous people through many different means that I won’t get into here. The irony of having anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, pro-brown and pro-black signs, while promoting the colonization of lesbians by heteropatriarchy, is lost on the organizers of the Boston Dyke March. Do they think that black, brown, and indigenous lesbians don’t know what sexual dimorphism is, what female biology is? Do they want to tell us that the dinosaurs aren’t real and humanity is only 2,000 years old, too? Do they not realize that they (like many others) drive a wedge into the communities of the most marginalized lesbians? The colonization of a people (lesbians) who have existed here for thousands of years and since the beginning of time, by separating the youth from their elders and indoctrinating the youth with self-hating beliefs that promote our own eradication, encouragement of the appropriation of our cultural space and customs by straight people, enabling the rape of lesbians through compulsory heterosexuality with males “identifying” as lesbians, turning our selves against our selves, and losing touch with our selves. Gay conversion therapy in colonial form — tools of the patriarchy. Because if the patriarchy can’t convince us to stop loving women, then patriarchy does everything they can to keep us from saying no to men even if we say yes to women.

This is plainly visible when taking in my surroundings of what is supposed to be Lesbian Cultural Space. All the straights are taking over. Straight men are appropriating in the most blatant and offensive ways, but straight women are doing it too. Actual lesbians don’t feel welcome at Dyke Marches and other Pride related events. Having signs at an anti-corporate “grassroots” march that is supposed to be for you while people carry signs like “gender =/= genitals” and “terfs are lame” etc, is DEEPLY troubling for lesbians who should otherwise expect to be welcomed into that space. In reality, the word “lesbian” is rarely mentioned if at all (IT WAS NOT the first time I went!). Young lesbians coming to terms with themselves find this erasure re-traumatizing, on top of the emotional process of coming out, as this so-called “Dyke March” stigmatizes the core of what makes us lesbians: our exclusive same-sex attraction, our exclusive desire for females. I know that simply being there brought back a lot of anger and pain for me. This is supposed to be a LESBIAN march!

The Boston Dyke March reacted quickly to Boston FIST members stickering up the Boston Common and surrounding area. Calling it “graffiti”, they claimed that FIST is a “known transphobic group”, and well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“Hey Friends! We’re already setting up for our 24th March! As we’re getting ready for all of you on the Common, some TERF graffiti has been popping up. We are doing our best to remove any stickers and signs from FIST, a known transphobic group. If you find anything while attending The March, please inform one of our volunteers. We unequivocally believe that trans women are women. If any TERF harassment happens at the March, find a volunteer immediately and we will deal with it with the ferocity of a thousand burning suns.”

FIST — Feminists in Struggle — is a group that has lesbians as some of its primary organizers. It was lesbians who planned this intervention of our own march. We had no plans to “harass” anyone. Contrary to the Boston Dyke March’s accusations, it’s worth noting that at no point have Boston FIST members (who proudly claim responsibility for this action and hope that more new members will join us) EVER mentioned anything about trans people, at any point! Our stickers simply said: “Don’t Disappear the L! Lesbians are XX-female-symbol who love XX-female-symbol”! Two things:

  1. Our principles of unity clearly state that we want human rights for all people, including trans and gender nonconforming people! Everyone deserves basic human rights. But we want to say that lesbians matter. Do they think that we don’t love gender nonconforming lesbians, all lesbians, for existing? Do they not realize that many lesbians are gender nonconforming, aside from the fact that simply existing as a lesbian is inherently at odds with gender roles?
  2. We were talking about LESBIANS. A lesbian is a female human being with exclusive same sex attraction (to other female human beings). THIS is what the so-called “Dyke March” of Boston has claimed is “transphobia”. They want us to think it’s wrong to be a lesbian. They’re also afraid to admit this fact, and have their followers see that they took down these shamelessly pro-lesbian stickers, which is why they never specified what was on the stickers nor did they include photographs. They had to deceive their followers into thinking that what they took down was “anti-trans” instead of pro-lesbian. Their response only confirms what we already know, which is that Boston Dyke March is a HOMOPHOBIC, LESBIAN-HATING astroturf group that needs to cut out the bullshit and let real lesbians exist. Maybe even fucking celebrate our own existence, for once? Hence the need for intervention — and maybe the start of some accountability within the lesbian community. We need lesbians who are brave enough to live and love as out lesbians, in the full meaning of that word.

Where is your warrior spirit, lesbians? Are we going to let straight people take our march? Or will you join us and co-create? You can start by downloading and printing these stickers to distribute and place everywhere.

Remembering the Lesbians in Lesbian/Gay Liberation

Remembering the Lesbians in Lesbian/Gay Liberation
By Ann Menasche 

Under patriarchy, lesbians are not supposed to exist. Women – “normal” women at least – are supposed to need men to be complete, for love, for sex, for economic survival, for family, for legitimacy. In such a world, there is no place for lesbians; if a few manage to exist, they are seen as freaks or pariahs. Not surprising that we rarely appear in history or when we are named at all, we are portrayed as lonely spinsters pining after some man. (Remember the lies told about 19th century poet Emily Dickenson, who had a lifelong passionate relationship with her sister-in-law.)

In the mid-to-late 20th century, ideas of traditional womanhood began to be challenged as women as a sex gained increased independence. By the height of the Second Wave of feminism in the late 60s and 70s, lesbians had begun to emerge from the shadows and establish themselves among the leadership of the newly emerged Feminist and Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements. And as the synergy of Lesbian/Gay Liberation and Radical Feminism freed more women to be able to pursue a lesbian life, a vibrant culture of Lesbian Feminism emerged.  That culture produced socially conscious music, poetry, books, publishing houses, newspapers, feminist theatre, coffee houses, and festivals run by and for women that inspired and sustained us and helped fuel the political activism of the time. And in this environment we began to rediscover the lesbians that came before us. We no longer felt so alone.

But times have changed again and lesbians are being rendered invisible once more. Even the contributions lesbians made to the Movement for Lesbian and Gay Liberation are being forgotten. Many factors have contributed to this disappearing of lesbians from history, from our public consciousness, and often from ourselves and each other. While lesbians have won some mainstream acceptance through marriage equality, the accumulated losses have begun to be greater than the gains. Hard economic times, a conservative political climate, the growth and increased power of the Christian fundamentalist Right and a growing backlash against feminism have conspired to make lesbian existence harder once more. Independent lesbian culture has been destroyed. Even the lesbian bars that, despite their flaws, provided a place to meet and find community with other lesbians are now gone. In their place is a sense of utter isolation and despair among many lesbians. And there is often no place to turn for support except perhaps online forums.

Moreover, though the illusion that we’ve already won our rights is widespread, the reality is quite different. Lesbians in the United States can still lose their jobs, be disowned by their parents, lose custody of their children, and be raped or murdered for loving other women. Anti-lesbian prejudice is everywhere.

One of the most destructive influences on lesbians, which is erasing us from history and undermining the possibility of lesbian existence in the present, is gender identity ideology. As this ideology has become increasingly predominant, overwhelming our lesbian/gay communities and incorporating itself into law and culture, lesbians have felt ourselves surrounded on all sides. We are being pressured and guilt-tripped on the one hand to accept men calling themselves women into our communities and our bedrooms. At the same time, rebellious young girls with same-sex feelings, and lesbian adults are being convinced in growing numbers they are really “men” and are being coerced or swayed into “transitioning.”  As women’s liberation no longer appears to be a realistic goal, some of this vulnerability to the forces of transgenderism and extreme body modification may be summed up by the phrase “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  How else escape the violent heavy hand of misogyny on our bodies and lives but to pass as male?

Without question, Lesbians have become extremely marginalized within the modern LGBTQ+ “alphabet soup” – the corporatized stepchild of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movement. LGBT centers in the name of trans-inclusion, refuse to provide space for lesbians to even meet together outside of the presence of males. We are not welcome at Pride and even the Dyke March has been taken from us by “lesbians” with male genitalia and their supporters. And as lesbians have been virtually disappeared, so has the role we played in the struggles that came before us been disappeared as well.

Our lesbian foremothers are once again gone from the history books, or are posthumously “transitioned,” described as “queer,” or treated merely as a footnote. But lesbians fueled the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movement from its start.  It would not have happened without us. And it is time to give credit where credit is due.

The Stonewall Rebellion on June 28, 1969 was not led by individuals identifying as transgender. Transgenderism barely existed at that time even as a concept. What existed was large numbers of lesbians and gay men, some of whom cross dressed or dressed in drag, but did not thereby deny either their sex or their homosexuality. Drag queens and butch lesbians were among those who found community at the Stonewall Inn in New York, a bar owned and operated by the mafia but one of the few places that same sex couples could dance together. Police raids were commonplace but that historic night as police dragged patrons out of the bar and beat them, one butch lesbian, Storme DeLaverie, decided she had had enough. When a police officer shoved her and called her a “faggot”, she punched him in the face. Four officers assaulted her and one hit her on the head with a billy club.  Bleeding from the head, and dragged toward the police van, she yelled “Why don’t you guys do something?”  The rebellion was on and lasted six nights. Lesbian and Gay Liberation was born.

Martha Shelley, a lesbian with strong left-wing politics, had passed by the Stonewall on the fateful night but thought she was seeing an anti-war protest. She had no idea that the people throwing rocks at the cops were gay. When she realized what she had missed, she contacted the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattichine Society and made a proposal for them to jointly sponsor a protest march. On July 27, 1969, 200 lesbians and gays marched in Greenwich Village, in what was to become the world’s first Gay Pride Parade.  The organizing committee formed itself into the Gay Liberation Front, a revolutionary group that demanded not assimilation but a complete overhaul of the patriarchal, racist, imperialist system. A new movement was launched, initiated by a lesbian.

Almost a decade later in 1978 in San Francisco another lesbian was the central leader in the successful movement to defend Lesbian and Gay Rights then under attack. This was the struggle against the attempt by Christian fundamentalists to pass the Briggs Initiative, a proposition that would have banned gay teachers and all supporters of Lesbian/Gay Rights in the schools. Though everyone knows about Harvey Milk, many giving him credit for the defeat of the Briggs Initiative, it was actually Nancy Elnor, a lesbian-feminist and socialist, someone virtually no one has heard of, who was far more responsible for that victory. I knew Nancy personally and worked together with her in the Bay Area Coalition against the Briggs Initiative.  We were on and off again lovers, our personal interaction often stormy, but my admiration for her never waned.

Nancy worked long hours, doing amazing grassroots organizing work always accompanied by her German Shepherd “Bianca” and put together a mass movement that brought out tens of thousands into the streets against Briggs. She brought in organized labor and every progressive organization in San Francisco to join the cause, and chaired packed meetings of activists.  The Coalition under her leadership, organized a televised debate between Milk and Sally Gearhart on the one side and Briggs and one of his cohorts on the other.  A thousand people watched the debate on a big screen in a local high school auditorium. Nancy’s in-the-streets movement building done through distributing thousands of flyers, making hundreds of phone calls, and attending dozens of meetings (there was no Internet) set an example for the whole state, helped change the political climate, and put us on the path to victory. Nancy died young but I’ll never forget her.

As many lesbians celebrate Pride with varying degrees of ambivalence or else consciously ignore the festivities as no longer speaking to us, it is important to remember and celebrate the heroic leadership of our lesbian foremothers who changed history. If we did it once, we can do it again.

Abortion is a Woman’s Fundamental Right

Our world is crying out as abortion bans are sweeping through conservative parts of the country, particularly the southeastern United States, the historical site of much slavery and the largest African American communities, as well as a stronghold of white Christian patriarchy. While some women in the liberal northeast and west coast may never experience these bans, Black and U.S. Native American women (groups who researchers say have the highest risk of dying in childbirth) as well as poor, young, and rural women (who cannot as easily access affordable health care) will be primarily impacted by these bans. In addition, the Journal of Perinatal Education states that unintended pregnancies — which abortion allows us to stop — are associated with increased likelihood of risk factors causing death in childbirth, which also happens to vary by state. Women will always attempt to obtain abortions, whether or not the abortions are legal. Women die from both unintended pregnancies and attempted unsafe abortions all over the world, and lack of access to safe abortions (caused by outlawing abortion) puts them at risk. Therefore, the bans on abortion amount to the state-sanctioned murder of women, especially those of less social privilege. All of the country is ablaze with fury and apprehension, and we are seeing even women who were previously apolitical now come forward to speak with their families and communities on the right of a woman to abortion.
The male supremacist right wing sees women as vessels to produce the working class, soldiers to uphold their various patriarchal nationalisms — and not as full human beings unto ourselves! As radical feminists, we vehemently reject this ethos. These are the hateful convulsions of an anti-abortion movement that knows many of these bans are nearly impossible to enforce. This round of bans are purposely unconstitutional, designed to force a Supreme Court case that (they hope) would overturn Roe v. Wade. But we women won’t let them. We have a vast number of sympathetic medical personnel nationwide and can end unwanted pregnancies privately during the first 9 weeks with the medications misoprostol and mifepristone.
Abortion rights have been whittled away, step by step for decades, starting with the Hyde Amendment. Because legislators couldn’t take abortion away from us immediately, they have been doing it slowly. Parental Consent & Notification laws, TRAP laws, mandated sonograms/guilt trips/”waiting periods” — an astonishing array of laws designed to deprive us of our bodily autonomy. When Donald Trump took office, his Supreme Court picks were specifically for overturning Roe v. Wade, and one of his first executive orders was an attack on abortion. As Planned Parenthood Action Fund states: “The global gag rule was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. On January 23, 2017, in one of his first acts as president, President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the global gag rule. … The global gag rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”

Trump’s executive order, which was essentially an imposed sanction on women’s bodies around the world, severely hampers women’s ability to obtain abortions and other sexual health care, regardless of the legality of abortion in their own countries. It even prohibits health care providers’ ability to treat AIDS, a crisis which Trump boasted about attempting to fix. The terrible impact is felt “especially in places where maternal deaths, HIV rates and unmet need for contraception are unacceptably high. Communities have lost access to essential life-saving services such as HIV testing, antiretroviral medications, nutritional support, birth control and pregnancy care,” says Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood.

It’s a United States tradition for the ruling elite to practice human rights abuses overseas before bringing them home. This year, we are seeing a wave of abortion bans. The New York Times (pdf) has the rundown. As of May 2019, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi severely limited abortion rights to the first trimester. Alabama eliminated abortion rights entirely, even in cases of rape and incest. Utah, Arkansas, and Missouri all reduced abortion rights farther back into the 2nd trimester, away from the framework established in Roe v. Wade.

The bans are being met with fierce resistance. Kansas just added abortion protection to its constitution. New York enacted a law that will preserve access to abortions, protect medical professionals who perform abortions from being criminalized, allow medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions, and allow abortions to be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or to protect the life of the woman. Vermont is about to pass a bill allowing abortions with “zero” limits, as a “fundamental right”, and prohibits government entities from interfering with or restricting access to abortion, “ensuring that any pregnancy may be terminated for any reason at any time.” Some Democrats have claimed that the Vermont bill goes”too far“! And this isn’t the first time Democrats started sounding like Republicans: in New Mexico, eight Democrats crossed party lines to defeat a pro-choice bill. Nor is it simply a matter of going “too far”. A milder law comparable to New York’s was proposed in Virginia by Kathy Tran, who immediately faced death threats, and the Republicans spread fake news that the bill was about legalizing “infanticide”. The Virginia bill removed some restrictions on abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, allowed abortions during the second trimester to take place outside of hospitals, and made it so only one doctor would be needed to determine that pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health.

We’ve never had full abortion rights. All the ways that the patriarchy nitpicks a woman’s right to abortion into “trimesters”, “medical” necessity, conditions of rape, harsher restrictions in some regions, etc, only serve to divide women and distract us from the fundamental right that women have to abortions on demand without apology, without approval, and without being treated as criminals.

Feminists in Struggle, like the early Second Wave Feminists, insists on FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND with zero questions asked. The only condition should be the consent of the woman who is pregnant. We also demand an end to the petty restrictions and code regulations (TRAP laws) that specifically discriminate against pregnant women and abortion clinics. We won’t stop there. We demand safe abortion access for women both in the United States, where we are based, and everywhere else. But because patriarchy divides women, the women’s liberation movement is divided into various camps. The Democratic party soaks up most of women’s political energy, preventing us from experiencing our full potential as a movement.

You must be wondering: what can radical feminists do? What can WE all do about this? Especially while we are still living out the war on feminism by dominant forces in the transgender movement, positioning radical feminists as underdogs in any discussion on feminism? Ridiculous rhetoric we’ve been peddled about “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women” is now   becoming “abortions for people” instead of “abortions for women”. We consider abortion a right of the female sex, but for us to say that in progressive circles will bring controversy and distractions that women can’t afford.

As radical feminists, we can utilize our position as the radicals and underdogs to push harder and farther than anyone else will. Our hearts are with everyday women and our right to control our bodies and lives. We will do what the long arm of the Democratic party would never do. We will demand ABORTIONS ON DEMAND WITHOUT CONDITIONS. Not to mention, free health care that includes birth control and abortions.  No forced sterilizations.  And… END THE GLOBAL GAG ORDER!  100% of unwanted pregnancies are caused by MEN, yet no one holds the men responsible for the life-threatening condition of pregnancy!

If thousands of women join Feminists in Struggle and turn it into a powerful radical feminist movement, we would be able to organize and lead marches for abortion rights and pressure legislators to secure abortion as women’s fundamental right  We would be able to all strategize together in a bottom up democratic movement. However, because our organization is young and still small what we want and what is feasible are two different things.  We will often have to join in actions called and organized by liberal feminists and other more conservative sections of the movement. But still our voices as radical feminists can be heard.

We call for united mass action in the streets. We call for civil disobedience. We call for all women to speak up about abortion. We call for you and us to join the larger marches under the FIST banner and apply pressure there for people to take up more radical positions in support of the complete liberation of our sex.

We call for teaching women en masse how to use and smuggle the abortion pill, and perform menstrual extractions. We call for you, if you live in a state that protects abortion, to consider taking direct action to provide safe harbor for women seeking out of state abortions. Bring back the Jane Collective that performed thousands of safe abortions on women in Chicago before Roe v. Wade. We want to educate women about women’s self help groups who work to keep women’s health in women’s hands. Educate yourself and others on the use of plan B, a medication you can buy at the pharmacy that is effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 48 to 72 hours following unprotected sex. Educate yourself and others on misoprostol and mifepristone, which can end unwanted pregnancies privately during the first 9 weeks. Educate women on preventing pregnancy and obtaining safe abortions. Spread the word to women affected by these bans not to sign any waivers when they get an abortion. You can also agitate and get previously apolitical women involved in the broader struggle. And of course… Join FIST and get actively involved by becoming a member of FIST’s Feminist Assembly!

Women are half the population. Women have the numbers. We will prevail!

We have a few suggested chants and slogans:

“Our bodies, our spaces, our sex based rights.”

“My body, MY CHOICE!”

“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!

“Women’s bodies are not incubators!”

“It’s not a womb, it’s a WOMAN”

“Abortion on demand, NO APOLOGY!”

“Birth must be voluntary. Abortion is health care. Health care is a human right.”

“Free Abortion on Demand!”

Failing to get Favorable Court Rulings, Gender Activists Go After Vancouver Rape Relief’s Funding

Feminists In Struggle urges all supporters of feminism and of democracy to support Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in their continuing fight to preserve spaces for natal women alone.  According to VRR, gender activists have now convinced the city to discriminate against women in the name of inclusivity.  In the defense of their woman-only policy they raise some interesting comparisons to indigenous, ethnic, disability and other struggles. In their statement they note that many grants by the city of Vancouver are given to other organizations that serve other specific groups, but that “rightfully, none of these groups have been challenged with the demand that they demonstrate “accommodation, welcomeness and openness to people of all ages, abilities… and ethnicities,” as it would undermine their mission. However, this is precisely what they are doing in the case of VRR. The Vancouver City Council is ignoring previous court decisions affirming VRR’s right to offer some services to only natal females and attempting to force them to change this policy.  For more information on what has happened, go to their statement.

The Collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter