Sunday, July 25, 2010

System Failure

- by Stacey Prince

Several clients in my practice who are transgender struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and in some cases suicidality. I believe that their transgender identity plays a large role in the difficulties they experience, but I say this not because I thnk being transgender is a disorder. In fact, as discussed in an earlier blog article (Transcending Diagnosis, March 2010) I am highly in favor of revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) so that transgender is no longer categorized as a "disorder," and so that people who fully transition can be diagnosis free. I believe what is ailing these clients is not their transgender identity, per se, but a system around them that refuses to recognize the validity of their experience, harasses them for being different, and denies them the services and procedures that would set them free.

For many transgender individuals, the problems start at home. For example, some parents continue to use their child’s birth name and gender pronouns rather than those consistent with their transitioned identity. Other parents who have the financial means refuse to help with sex reassignment surgery (SRS) which costs upwards of $25,000 and is explicitly excluded from the list of covered services by most health insurance plans. Other transgender individuals are fortunate enough to have supportive and understanding family members who help them access care, advocate for them, and explain gender dysphoria and transgender identity to extended family members.

To read complete article click here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Is visionary, progressive, oppression-aware, social justice oriented philanthropy possible?

- by Stacey Prince

Many people make charitable donations from time to time. If you are like me, there may not be much rhyme or reason to your decision-making about who to give to. There are a few organizations that I support year after year, without fail although the amount I donate may fluctuate as the economy (globally and mine personally) waxes and wanes. At other times I am compelled to give in response to a particular event or disaster (Haiti earthquake, Gulf oil spill, Indian Ocean tsunami) or a request from a friend (someone walking in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, for example). But I don’t have a very good system (or any?) for choosing organizations based on particular dimensions (local, national or global? progressive or mainstream?) or topics (though I tend toward civil rights / social justice oriented, healthcare, and environmental organizations). I’m also not great about researching how effectively my money is spent when given to a particular organization. There is a pretty good website for this, by the way, called

Charitable giving is also influenced by class and economic issues. Most giving comes from individuals, not organizations, and those individuals are from all class backgrounds. As a member of the middle class I recognize it is a privilege to have funds to spare for charitable causes. One’s current economic and employment situation, and access to other vital resources such as healthcare and childcare, will influence choices about giving as well.

Also, I struggle to discern when charitable giving is actually helpful: when is it condescending or rescuing versus empowering? When is it more about the giver (wanting recognition, wanting to be seen as generous and benevolent, etc.) than the receiver? How can funds be used effectively to help people utilize and mobilize the resources they already have access to, rather than bringing in (and then removing or ending) outside funds?

To read entire article click here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

US Social Forum 2010: A commentary on the challenges facing our movement toward social justice

- by Dr. Hope Cristobal

Hope Cristobal is a clinical psychologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of native and indigenous populations. She is an indigenous Chamoru and a native of Guahan, and has worked as an advocate for colonized Chamoru, including testifying to the United Nations Committee on Decolonization. Her article, Perspectives on Social Justice: The fight to end colonization in the island-territory of Guahan, was posted previously on the TJP blog. Here she talks about her recent experiences at the US Social Forum in Detroit. This article first appeared on the blog West Coast Famoksaiyan and is reprinted here with her permission.

This year’s US Social Forum was held in downtown Detroit, Michigan from June 22 to June 26. As one of the 10,000 progressive activists registered for the Forum, my experience that week was both captivating and disenchanting.

I was part of a small group of indigenous Chamorus representing a local non-governmental organization (NGO). Our group – four from Guam, one from California, and one from Boston – was well organized. Each was strategically packed with a schedule of mandatory workshops and People’s Movement Assemblies (PMAs) in order to maximize our attendance at such an important forum. Our goal was to bring home good solid knowledge and skills in addition to networking with strategic folks involved in issues of decolonization and self-determination. I can tell you, in this respect, we certainly were NOT disappointed!

Our information table was also brimming with material for the American public about Guam, especially about the proposed hyper militarization of our island home by the Department of Defense. The biggest draw to our table was this quote, spelled out in big bold white letters, “The indigenous Chamoru people of Guam who have already suffered near genocide and violent colonization for over 400 years will bear the burden of U.S. military buildup on Guam – and have been given no say in the process.” Many people who passed by our table slowed to read the sign, shaking their heads in disbelief. Manning the table was valuable experience for each of us. We learned how fellow Americans knew little about what is happening in the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam. Our efforts did not go unheeded; we received a few hundred signatures in support of our petition to stop the military buildup and to grant the Chamoru people the exercise of our legal and political Right of Self-Determination. I do, however, wonder, “What does the American public understand about this Right and the struggles of colonized indigenous peoples in this world?”

To read entire article click here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

ADWAS Founder Marilyn J. Smith Keynote Address

In May of 2010 we posted an article on the blog about a luncheon benefitting Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Service (ADWAS) and honoring its founder, Marilyn J. Smith. We are now happy to be able to post a transcript of the talk Marilyn gave that day. In it she describes the need for advocacy services among Deaf and Deaf/Blind women and their families, the vision that led to the formation of ADWAS, and its development over the years. In addition it is inspiring to hear the story of another group that, like TJP, started with an idea and a vision, become a community, and developed over time through the hard work and creative energy of a group of passionate individuals. I hope you will take a few minutes to read her terrific speech.

Transcription of Marilyn J. Smith
May 5, 2010
ADWAS Strength and Courage Luncheon

Well, I’m happy all of you could come. When Carol and I talked about this and she said she wanted me to talk about ADWAS from its founding back in the old days up to present day, and to do it in 15 minutes, I thought, “Wow. How can I condense 25 years in 15 minutes?” Well, I’ll give it a try.

Some people don’t know our story, and I tend to sometimes say, “my story... our story” but it really is not my story, it’s a group of people who started ADWAS. I often get the credit, but there were many people involved, if truth be told.

To read entire transcript click here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ally is a Verb - Part II

- by Stacey Prince

A few months back I wrote here about allyship. It was a start. I would like to revisit the concept of allyship based on some recent events and reflections. Specifically, a Facebook friend made an overtly racist comment on his "wall". I can't even call it a micro-aggression; there was nothing subtle or ambiguous about it. Or funny. To my despair, several friends gave his comment a thumbs up, and others wrote comments that were supportive or even reinforcing. Only one was gently chiding, and it was hard to tell whether she was going along with the joke, or really trying to give him some feedback.

I debated what action to take. Do nothing, just let it pass? That didn't feel good. Say something on Facebook? I didn't want to publically shame him, and I don't think people learn well when they are shamed. But on the other hand I didn’t want to engage in that "passive bystander" behavior, where I see it clearly but don't call it out. What must it be like for other people reading his post, especially people of color, to not see anyone standing up and making a corrective comment? I chose to communicate with him backchannel. Though my action did not resolve the bystander problem, it felt better than nothing. I told him I found his comment offensive, and explained why, and asked him to look at his own biases and prejudices as well as the effect that such a public statement has on others. I idealistically thought it would lead to his retracting or apologizing for the comment, or at least to a dialogue between the two of us.

I waited for a response... nothing. The next day I went on Facebook and realized that he had unfriended me! Ah, the modern day, social networking version of letting someone know you are really pissed off, so pissed off you just don't want to see them, ever again. Part of me laughed at this, like, really? But what was was the power of the visceral response I had... I was shaking. Though two of them were not aimed directly at me, this felt like a series of three affronts: first, his original comment, then his friends who patted him on the back for it, and finally his "un-friending" in response to my feedback.

To read entire article click here.