Transgender Parenthood, Beyoncé’s F-Word, and What College Students Know about Rape & Consent

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In many ways, Nick and Bianca Bowser are very typical parents. They have two children; Kai is three and Pax is one. “We are exhausted all the time,” Nick laughs. “We both work at a bar, so we both work at night, so there’s very little sleep.”

The thing that sets this family apart, and has recently landed them on the Riki Lake show and in international headlines, is something strangers on the street usually don’t even notice: Nick and Bianca are both transgender. Nick was assigned female gender at birth, and Bianca was assigned male. Neither has undergone full surgical transition (partially because it’s so expensive), so when they decided to have children, they were able to conceive.*

Nick and Bianca are part of our own community right here in Louisville, and Nick stopped by this week to share their story. We were curious about why they chose to go public with their family’s story, when they otherwise have no problem passing. “We want people who are like us to be able to get help if they need help,” he explains.

There’s a mountain of different issues that trans people have to face, and we feel as thought bringing our story to the public and letting them know, hey, we really are normal, but there’s something different about us. We have a family. We’ve had children. We’re the same as everybody else. But we had to face all these other obstacles because you (as a whole) don’t understand who we are, so were  discriminated against because of that.

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we focus on the so-called anti date rape nail polish, “Undercover Colors,” and how it’s been criticized as just another instance of putting the onus on women to prevent rape.

Dr. Story talks about how she teaches her classes about rape and gendered violence, but says college students in general are still woefully uninformed about consent. “They just really have no idea what equals consent, what is actually rape,” she says. “A lot of times young people are saying in classes that they don’t really even think about consent when they are about to engage in a sex act, period.”

And, of course, we couldn’t let this week go by without delving into Beyoncé’s legendary performance on the VMAs, the giant F-word she flashed at the world, and how we still live for her.

 

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* If you are completely lost right now, start with GLAAD’s Transgender 101.

Coming Up on Strange Fruit: Nick Bowser on Trans Parenthood & What It Means to be a Family

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Nick Bowser and his wife Bianca are both transgender, and have made national headlines for following their own unique path to parenthood. This week, we’ll talk to Nick about what it means to be a family, and his hopes for the future of the trans movement.

In Juicy Fruit we focus on the anti-date-rape nail polish that’s been in the news this week, and the state of consent on college campuses. And, of course, Beyoncé at the VMAs!

Strange Fruit posts on Saturday morning at strangefruitpod.org, and airs Saturday night at 10pm on 89.3 WFPL.

Bonus Fruit: Why It’s Hard to Talk about Ferguson

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After our first show on Ferguson, we heard from a listener who said he “wanted to spend more time with you two hearing how you both felt and were dealing with the events of the week.” In this bonus fruit, we talk a bit about how we felt in the aftermath of Ferguson, and why it was so hard to address on the show that week.

On that same show, we had spoken to Councilwoman Attica Scott, who made comments about police officers being paid by taxpayers to kill our babies. WDRB President Bill Lamb used that quote in his POV segment that week, telling Councilwoman Scott to “shut up.” We listen to part of his POV and address it in this clip.

Freedom Rides and Food Banks in Ferguson, Plus Throwing Shade at the Dictionary

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It’s been two weeks now since a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old named Michael Brown, and the community is still experiencing the aftermath.

The school year in Ferguson was supposed to start on August 14, but it was delayed due to the unrest, leaving students who rely on school meals with fewer options. And business closures have left some residents out of work and short on money. This week we check in with a St. Louis food bank to see how they’re responding to folks in their community who need help putting food on the table.

brinaUofL student Brina Joiner (right) traveled to Ferguson, and stops by our studio to tell us what she saw there that we aren’t seeing on the news—and to share some much-needed optimism with us and our fruitcakes. Joiner tells us it’s important for young people to make the trip, because history is unfolding there. “I have to go to Ferguson,” she says. “I have to see what’s happening. I have to make my voice be heard, to create that change. To create what comes next.”

Our other guest this week would agree. Patrisse Cullors, of Dignity and Power Now, along with our friend Darnell Moore, is organizing a freedom ride to Ferguson for Labor Day weekend. It’s part of the Black Lives Matter movement they started after the shooting of Trayvon Martin. She says showing solidarity in times of protest is important, and even more effective when done in person. “There’s nothing like having an actual body on the front lines with you,” she explains, “to say I am here with you. I am your ally. I am not going anywhere.”

In our Juicy Fruit segment we lighten things up with the news that Oxford Dictionaries has added one of our favorite phrases to their list: throwing shade. Unfortunately they got the definition a bit wrong. They also added some other terms, and Jaison gives Kaila a pop quiz to see how many she can define.

And new pictures of Queen Latifah and her presumed girlfriend on vacation in Italy lead us to to wonder, will she ever come out? And does it actually matter any more?

Tempted by the Fruit of Another: Link Roundup!

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Our hearts and eyes are still in Ferguson, so lots of today’s link roundup will focus on the latest in that city and case.
  • An independent autopsy has shown that Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times, once in the top of the head, suggesting he was leaning forward at the time. Dr. Michael Baden, who conducted the autopsy at the family’s request, was the Chairman of the Forensic Pathology Panel of the U.S. Congress Select Committee that investigated the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The original autopsy by Ferguson police still hasn’t been released.
  • Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called the National Guard to Ferguson late on Sunday—apparently without notifying the White House first.
  • Michael Brown’s family released a statement, via their attorney, Benjamin Crump. It begins, “Michael Brown’s family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piece mil information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.” Read the full statement.
  • School was supposed to start today in Ferguson, already one week late, and it has now been postponed again. This especially affects children from families with food instability, who rely on school breakfasts and lunches for much of their daily nutrition. Here’s how you can help: All donations made here go directly to the Greater St. Louis Area Food Bank and will be used to feed kids in Ferguson and nearby areas.
  • In case you missed it, the brilliant #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag criticized the way media portrays victims of police brutality or racially-motivated shootings.
  • Melissa Harris-Perry’s tribute to black men killed by police is a MUST WATCH.
  • We’re tweeting and retweeting Ferguson developments as they happen, so keep in touch with us there.
Elsewhere in police shootings…
  • “Clearly, it fell through the cracks.” New Orleans Police Department apologizes for not disclosing that one of their officers shot a black man in the head last Monday after an alleged scuffle during a traffic stop. Armand Bennett, 26, was hospitalized with critical but non-life-threatening injuries, and will face charges upon release. His attorney says he was unarmed at the time of the shooting. The officer was wearing a body cam but turned it off before the encounter.
  • LAPD shot and killed an unarmed black man named Ezell Ford, two days after Michael Brown’s death. His family says he was compliant during the arrest. The police say he was ignoring instructions and reached for an officer’s gun.  He was 25 and suffered from Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia (some estimates say about half of people shot by the police are mentally ill).
Good news we need now…
  • Brittney Griner got engaged to Glory Johnson, a forward for the Tulsa Shocks. She posted, “Last Night was a Night to Remember I became the happiest person on this earth!” Awwwww. Congratulations!
  • Uzo Aduba WON AN EMMY for her work on Orange is the New Black! We love her!
  • 13-year old Mo’Ne Davis became the first female Little League pitcher ever to throw a shutout in the World Series. (Ok, we’re not entirely 100% sure what that means, but we know she’s kicking butt and taking names, and that we love her.)
  • Former Atherton High School student Harper Jean Tobin is now a lawyer, and the director of policy for Washington D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality. Our own Dr. Story is quoted in this article about her.
  • Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff had an impromptu Fresh Prince reunion. Will takes his shirt off around 3:28, not that we noticed.

Hands Up Don’t Shoot: Fear in Ferguson, and at Home

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#NMOS14 Rally in Louisville (Photo by Attica Scott)

#NMOS14 Rally in Louisville (Photo by Attica Scott)

Last Saturday, Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown, multiple times, killing him. Since then, the situation in Ferguson has been ever changing. Protests and vigils were initially met with a heavy-handed response from the police, who were outfitted with paramilitary equipment that seemed disproportionate to the situation.

Eventually, Missouri Governor Jay Dixon relieved the Ferguson PD of policing the situation, placing the town under control of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

While all eyes are on Ferguson, the shooting of an unarmed black man by law enforcement is, sadly, a phenomenon that happens with alarming frequency all across the country. USA Today reported that on average there were 96 cases of a white police officer killing a black person each year between 2006 and 2012, based on justifiable homicides reported to the FBI by local police, and that number only includes convicted felons—not people like Mike Brown and Eric Garner, with no felony convictions. A report by Mother Jones breaks the situation down by state, and includes the low rate of conviction for these officers.

This week on Strange Fruit, St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann, and Bridjes O’Neil of the St. Louis American join us from Ferguson to explain what happened there, and talk about the community’s history of tension with its police force.

Here at home, we speak with Councilwoman Attica Scott, whose op-ed in the Courier-Journal this week described the fear involved in raising black sons. “People need to understand that police officers are paid by taxpayer dollars,” she said. “The budget is reviewed and approved by some local government to then pay these individuals to kill our babies. And that’s not okay.”

The Ferguson aftermath and investigation continues to develop, so watch our twitter for updates: @strangefruitpod.

Plus, we remembered comedian Robin Williams, who played what might be considered “queer” roles, like Mrs. Doubtfire, and the Birdcage’s Armand Goldman, before LGBTQ characters had the pop culture visibility they do today. We promised to share some of our own favorite Robin Williams moments, so they’re posted below.

If you’re depressed and you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the (specifically-LGBTQ-affirming) Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. You can also chat with the Trevor Project online or by text.

And we also welcome our new radio listeners this week! Strange Fruit can now be heard on 89.3 WFPL in Louisville (and live streaming at wfpl.org) on Saturday nights at 10pm, just after The Tavis Smiley Show.

Trans Women’s Wisdom in “Letters for My Sisters”; It’s Complicated Between Black Women and Gay Men

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If you could write just one letter to someone beginning transition or your younger pre-transition self, what would you say?

That’s the question at the heart of a new book called “Letters for My Sisters: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.” This week we spoke with the book’s editors, Andrea James and Deanne Thornton, about the wisdom assembled in the book—and asked them to share their own advice for their pre-transition sisters.

Andrea, who created the groundbreaking website Transsexual Roadmap in 1996, said we all go through transitions all the time. “Every day we’re on a journey,” she said. “We’re always in transition and we’re always traveling. It’s important to take a moment each day and really appreciate all the wonderful things that are going on around you.”

LFMS-Front-Cover-image-680x1024Deanne Thornton said the honesty in some of the letters is in line with some of the trans women who have guided her along her own path. “Every trans woman I’ve met on my journey was perfectly willing to be open and share about it,” she said. “They didn’t feel that it was s secret they needed to keep. It was something they were happy to share with others.”

You can find the book (and lots of other trans-related titles) at Transgress Press, and keep up with the editors on twitter at @jokestress and @deannerene.

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, Jaison shared some Louisville trivia (did you know the composer of the Seinfeld theme song is from Louisville?).

We also tackled a subject that’s been a little heated over the summer: the ways white gay men appropriate black women’s culture. Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton famously tweeted that “Inside every gay man is a fierce black woman,” and it seems many gay men agree.

In July, Sierra Mannie wrote a piece for TIME Magazine called, “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture.” In it, she acknowledged that both groups experience marginalization, so it may feel like there would be a natural kinship. “The difference is that the black women with whom you think you align so well, whose language you use and stereotypical mannerisms you adopt, cannot hide their blackness and womanhood to protect themselves the way that you can hide your homosexuality,” she wrote. “We have no place to hide, or means to do it even if we desired them.”

Later in the summer, our own Dr. Story appeared on a segment of HuffPost Live with Sierra and other guests to talk about it. She said the gay men on the panel accused Sierra of not considering how her words might make them feel. “Sierra was giving voice to her experience,” she explained on our show this week. Dr. Story also said she understands that some white gay men may think they’re showing affection or paying homage when they approach black women with exaggerated black vernacular and mannerisms. “A lot of it has to do with them trying to develop camaraderie in a queer space,” she explained. “But you know what? Just say hi.”

We’re glad to be back, Fruitcakes, and hope you had a great summer!

Louisvillian Keith Brooks Describes Being the Target of Anti-Gay Violence in Norway

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keithbrooksKeith Brooks was waiting for a bus while on traveling in Oslo, Norway, when he was approached by two men who asked if he is gay. When he said yes, the men began to beat him, and a third man hit him with a bottle, cutting his face and head.

Keith is a long-time friend to the show, and our colleague at the Fairness Campaign.

He joined us by Skype from Stockholm to describe what happened, and the aftermath—both legal and emotional.

You can keep up with Keith and this story (and his many other travel adventures) on twitter at @keithbrooks. Coverage of the incident on Towleroad (warning: there’s a photo of Keith’s injury at the link): http://www.towleroad.com/2014/07/gay-man-attacked-with-glass-bottle-in-oslo-after-being-asked-if-he-is-gay.html

InVisible Ink: A new dawn, a new day for District 1

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jaisonleo
[Originally published in LEO Weekly]
 

Now that the dust has settled on the District 1 Metro Council race where Jessica Green ousted incumbent Attica Scott, I am inclined to do a little ranting about the race.

I have known Green and Scott for many years and consider them both to be dear friends. Green and I attended Central High School together and were close friends back then. We co-captained the award-winning Mock Trial team there, and I spent a significant amount of time hanging with the Green family during my high school years. I have a fondness for the late Dr. Judy Green and many of the Green siblings. Jessica and I remain in contact via social media and always share a friendly hug and conversation when we see one another.

Scott and I have been community activists for many years, advocating for various social justice causes. I worked for her briefly at Kentucky Jobs with Justice about 10 years ago. I voted for her when she ran for school board, and I supported her appointment to D1 after Judy Green resigned.

I intentionally avoided publicly endorsing either woman prior to Election Day, partly because I was afraid of offending either friend by endorsing her opponent, but mostly because both women are talented, passionate and qualified individuals. Now that things have been decided, I feel at ease offering some observations of their race.

As reported by LEO and WFPL, Green sent a campaign mailer that criticized Scott as supporting “illegal immigrants” in Arizona over jobs for District 1 residents. Besides being inaccurate, the mailer was extremely offensive for its use of the term “illegal.” I am more than disappointed in my friend Green for this fear-mongering, race-baiting mailer.

As if The Man doesn’t already do enough to keep blacks and Latinos beefing, here we have a black woman using brown folks as political pawns. Green is a black woman with both LGBT and special needs family members, so surely she is aware of the power of words to hurt and harm. Green is an educated woman who surely has learned that people are never illegal, just undocumented. Her use of the “i” word should be embarrassing and troubling to all who supported her candidacy, and she should apologize.

Green has spoken much about her mother’s legacy during the race, but I am positive that mailer was not one that would make Dr. Green proud. As an adoptive parent, Dr. Green welcomed and loved all, even those whom others deemed unworthy. If Jessica desires to continue her mother’s legacy of service to others, I highly suggest she begin by embracing the undocumented citizens of this community, including those who undoubtedly live in District 1.

Scott has done some wonderful things during her three years in office, but frankly, this was a popularity contest. The Green family is well connected and well respected throughout west Louisville, and that advantage was something Scott simply didn’t work hard enough to overcome in this race. To her own demise, she remained too much of an activist and not enough of a politician.

In an ideal world, one’s record would speak for itself. Scott has championed many issues that overwhelmingly affect black people, like Ban the Box, the restoration of voting rights, raising the minimum wage, vacant and abandoned properties, and illegal dumping. But in this time and place where few folks read the newspaper or remain politically engaged, many in D1 were easily persuaded about who to vote for. That is not to say that those who voted for Green did so without reason, but rather to say that anyone who did not vote for Scott in spite of all she did for the black, brown and poor white people of this city has done a shitty job of explaining why she didn’t deserve your vote. It was indeed a campaign of personalities, and Scott just didn’t come across as likeable enough to retain her seat.

I wish Scott the best of luck. She’s been one of the best council members this city has ever seen. Hopefully there is a Mayor Fischer political appointment for her somewhere. As for Green, I also wish her the best of luck. As I recently wrote, I think it is great to have a young person on Metro Council. I hope the Jessica I know uses this opportunity to bring fresh perspective, ideas and innovation to the city by picking up where Dr. Green and Attica Scott left off in creating a district and community that is truly for everyone — young and old, rich and poor, and the documented and undocumented alike.

Detroit Water Update & How to Help

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In a previous link roundup, we told you Detroit is in the process of shutting off water to 150,000 residents who are delinquent on their bills. Here’s an update: The U.N. has now said shutting off water to those who can’t pay “constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”

“Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying. In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, the expert on the human right to water and sanitation.    

The experts have been informed that a large-scale water shut-off for non-payment is happening in the City of Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been disconnecting water services from households which have not paid bills for two months, and has accelerated the process since early June, with the number of disconnections rising to around 3,000 customers per week. As a result, some 30,000 households are expected to be disconnected from water services over the next few months.    

Because of a high poverty rate and a high unemployment rate, relatively expensive water bills in Detroit are unaffordable for a significant portion of the population.    

Leilani Farha, the expert on the right to adequate housing, expressed concern that children are being removed by social services from their families and homes because, without access to water, their housing is no longer considered adequate. “If these water disconnections disproportionately affect African Americans they may be discriminatory, in violation of treaties the US has ratified,” Farha added.

A group called the Council of Canadians is planning to send a convoy to deliver water to Detroit on July 24th, saying, “Our water is their water.” A volunteer-led group called Detroit Water Brigade is working to provide emergency relief in the form of bottled water, water coolers, jugs, rainwater catchment barrels, filters, and other supplies to Detroit families. You can buy water to be sent to Detroit via their online registry. The high temperature in Detroit today was 88°.

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