For the Infinite Identities issue of Dazed, our cover star Chelsea Manning selected CeCe MacDonald, Maya Little and more to write on the biggest issues facing trans people today
At a time when trans rights are more under threat than ever, the spring 2018 issue of Dazed takes a stand for for the global creativity of the LGBTQIA+ communities and infinite forms of identity. Pre-order your copy here, and see the full Infinite Identities campaign here.
Today, February 12, we revealed our third spring 2019 issue cover star, Chelsea Manning. “Activism is not tweeting,” she tells writer Diana Tourjée in her impassioned cover story. “We’re no longer at the point where we need to talk about what the issues are, we already know what they are.”
In the pro-active spirit of her words, Chelsea has also used her platform in the new issue of Dazed to give space to seven trans and non-binary activists and writers. We might know what the main issues are, as she says – but there are many topics and marginalised voices that still fly under the radar of mainstream activism. And so, as part of Chelsea’s guest edit, each contributor has answered the question:
What, for you, is the most under-discussed issue affecting the trans and non-binary communities in America today?
See a short introduction to each of the writers selected by Chelsea, and links to each of their articles below.
Janus Rose is a writer and educator from New York City who studies technology’s effects on privacy and human rights. For Chelsea’s guest edit, she explains why, in a world hostile to queer and trans people, machine-learning algorithms threaten to entrench the unjust systems that lead to discrimination and inequality.
“If we want to create a more just world, we must recognise that sometimes these algorithms aren’t simply ‘broken’, but operating exactly as intended. Technology is a reflection of the society that created it.”
Kade Crockford is a civil rights and civil liberties advocate focused on issues at the intersection of technology and public policy. In their article, they describe why machine learning may yet herald necessary chaos for the forced-binary gender identification of culture.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about the impacts machine-learning technologies are already having – and will continue to have – on human beings and our planet. Among the most vexing problems I see is the power asymmetry between the wealthy, largely white, mostly cismale engineers and product managers designing and implementing machine-learning systems to sort and make decisions for people, and the people acted upon by these systems.”
CeCe McDonald is a prison abolition and trans rights activist who made international headlines in 2012 after she was attacked outside a bar in Minneapolis, stabbed her attacker in self-defence, and was sentenced for manslaughter. Her story – which eventually led to Free CeCe!, a documentary directed by Jacqueline Gares and produced by Laverne Cox, after her release in 2014 – drew much-needed attention to the disproportionate violence and injustice that trans women of colour face in the US and beyond. In an interview, she reveals the conditions that lead to the incarceration of trans individuals – in a world that doesn’t try to keep them safe.
“I want to know where the jobs are that y’all claim to be creating? Why is there still a lack of positions for trans women and nonbinary folk? Why isn’t there training on how to respect someone at their workplace? People see Laverne Cox and Janet Mock on TV, all these new trans figures in society, and they think everybody has it like that. But that’s a small portion of a large community.”
Maya Little is a history PhD student at the University of North Carolina who, last spring, poured red ink and blood on ‘Silent Sam’, a Confederate soldier statue at her college. Here, she writes of the wider movement that protest represented, issuing a rallying cry for the power of black queer women’s liberation everywhere.
“Anywhere we turn in America, we see resistance led by those at the very margins – like the black trans women who picked up bricks at Stonewall. And what we see is direct action from a place of transformation, striking at the roots of an unequal society instead of pushing reformism.”
MORGAN M PAGE
Morgan M Page is a Canadian historian, writer and artist based in London, England. She currently hosts the trans history podcast, One From the Vaults. In her response to Chelsea’s question, she tells the story of one of these forgotten women her podcast often highlights: artist and activist Mirha-Soleil Ross.
“Throughout her tenure as an activist and artist, Ross consistently pushed at the limits of the LGBTQ+ movement, prodding it to consider its relation to sex workers, indigenous communities and the very fate of the planet itself. As our world teeters on the brink of not only fascism but full ecological collapse, her words bear a terrible relevance for all of us today.”
Comrade Alyssa is a black trans woman and political prisoner who has been incarcerated for over a decade. She is currently being held at a state men’s prison in Maryland, but you can follow her Twitter account and contribute to her GoFundMe. Here, she writes a letter about the Attica prison uprising of 1971, and the lessons it should teach us.
“(The prison authorities) realised they were in control of 80 per cent of the prison population, but continued to institute distrust and disunity amongst those prisoners they feared and could not control. In this way, they were able to keep prisoners killing each other for four decades and, 40 years after Attica was opened, they created the perfect conditions for the deadliest prison uprising in American history.”
KIMBERLEY O’DONNELL (BLACK AND PINK)
Kimberley O’Donnell is national communications manager with Black and Pink, the US prison abolitionist organisation supporting LGBTQ and HIV-positive prisoners. She is currently focused on creating a more engaging and effective pen pal program for all members. O'Donnell is also an author and poet, and you can learn more about her works here. For Dazed, she writes on the importance of writing letters to prisoners.
“Forced isolation is a deeply inhumane experience. By nature, humans are most enriched when they have access to communal places which amplify all personhoods. When individuals are confined to locked spaces, especially ones where communities rooted in LGBTQ+ identities are not seen as sacred, there is a rift that produces a painful void.”