Land of the Free
After seven years in prison, two suicide attempts and more than nine months of solitary confinement, on May 17 Chelsea Manning walked out of federal prison a free woman. The story of her incarceration is significant in many ways: Her leak of thousands of classified documents has been called the largest in history, her 35-year sentence was the longest a whistleblower has ever received and she is transgender.
Former President Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence mercifully ended her ordeal. But as the world celebrated Manning’s release, many could not help but mourn the countless other trans people who struggle daily in prison.
“While I am trying to feel happiness and hope for Chelsea, I struggled most with frustration, anger and confusion,” wrote Pinky Shear, the partner of Ky Peterson—a black trans man imprisoned for killing his rapist. Shear has been advocating on the behalf of Peterson for the past three years.
“I’m heartbroken that even within the civil rights and organizing communities, racism, classism and greed for glory are deciding who is deserving of help and who gets left to rot,” Shear wrote.
Whistleblowing isn’t an experience most trans people can relate to, but state violence in the form of imprisonment—especially the placement of trans women in men’s facilities—is commonplace. And trans people of color are the primary targets.
41 percent of black respondents and 21 percent of Latinx respondents in the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported that they had once been held in a cell for their gender alone. Despite its tortuous effects, correctional facilities present solitary confinement as necessary to protect trans inmates.
High profile cases involving the incarceration of black trans women include those of CeCe McDonald, Meagan Taylor and Ashley Diamond. All three were placed in men’s facilities. All three faced solitary confinement at least once as a result.
Meanwhile, undocumented trans women suffer similar abuses in immigration detention centers.
“How great it would be if Trans Latina Women who are getting released from immigration detention centers would get the same monetary and community support that Chelsea Manning is getting,” wrote Bamby Salcedo, president of the TransLatin@ Coalition. “Why is it that people can’t see that? What would that be called? Please enlight [sic] me!!”
The names and stories go on and on. •
By Vincent McDonald
“Independent media is more important than ever!” the New York Times and the Washington Post have incessantly yelped since November, like dogs begging for treats. Except one of the dogs is owned by the CEO of Amazon. And instead of kibble, it’s actually money it wants you to pour into its thinly-veiled bowl of propaganda.
Enter Bitch Media, the nonprofit that publishes Bitch Magazine, an independent magazine that publishes feminist analyses of pop culture. Since 2009, Bitch has been reader-supported through a monthly membership program its called the “B-Hive”. According to Bitch, the “B-Hive” is “quite literally” the reason they’re still kickin’.
In late May, Bustle—a website supposedly for women started by venture capitalist Bryan Goldman, who once said, publicly, “I am a dude. I don’t have a lot of overlapping interests with most women my age. I’m really into history. I’m really into markets and finance” (as if women aren’t also into these things?)—launched an “exclusively inclusive community” also called the “BHive.”
Only readers who are roughly between 18-34 and are willing to answer monthly surveys can participate in Bustle’s “BHive”. That’s right, this is actually just a way for Bustle to mine its readers for data so it can generate more paid listicles sponsored by LUNA bars.
Bitch rightly called out Bustle for stealing the name in a stinging post on its website. Then, Bustle showed it’s true stripes and told Bitch it would change the name, but only if Bitch took down the post. This was all communicated via Bustle’s corporate lawyers.
The dogfight hasn’t concluded yet. But there’s an important lesson to learn here: It’s important to look at who funds your media. Be wary always—especially if it’s a white guy with millions of dollars—lest you find yourself the media’s good boy. •
By Molly Minta