Tag Archives: fighting back

hail & sexism & jobs & other things.


on tuesday evening i was taking the bus from my job to the main library. the bus was crowded & loud, and all of a sudden, the sky got really dark, almost like it was night, even though nightfall was hours away. the bus quieted down, and you could tell that everyone was having the same creepy feeling, that something was going to happen. what is it about extreme weather that does that to us?

when the first piece of hail hit the bus, it did so with a loud thwack, ice vs. metal, and everyone freaked out–screaming, laughing, crying–pure pandemonium. i love pandemonium, of course, so i was happy to be stuck in the thick of this odd scene. the hail kept coming, and it was a little scary because it was so damn loud, but more of an experience than anything. when i was a pizza-bike-deliverer in philly, i delivered in a hail storm once. it was really scary, but i made like $20 in tips in about 15 minutes, because people felt so bad for me, plus i got to one-up the dudes i worked with (we were always swapping stories of all the extreme weather/circumstances we delivered in).

one thing i remember loving about being a bike deliverer was the days when it was sunny and under 85 degrees, when i’d traipse into offices carrying bags of greasy styrofoam and cardboard into giant office towers. everyone in there was so pale & miserable looking, and i was tanned & happy & free. (as a side note, i REALLY wish i was familiar with tribe 8’s song “daredevil delivery” [i dunno if that link works, i’m at work and can’t actually listen to it] back then. it would have been my JAM back then. “they pay me to ride my bicycle! they pay me to live free! runnin’ reds, killin’ peds, bus exhaust all day…”)

don’t get me wrong. i didn’t want to be a delivery lady forever, as much as i loved it. i nearly got killed or severely injured at least once a week. riding your bike for 10 hours a day in a major urban center known for its bad drivers and assholes, for $4/hr plus tips, isn’t really the best situation. still, it remains my most beloved job to date, remembered and missed fondly…

in other work news, today i was eating lunch in the lunch room (NEVER a good idea, but it’s too cold to eat outside & i don’t want to spend money). the roof caved in on one of the other welfare offices, so a lot of the workers moved in here, so there’s a lot of people milling about our office who i don’t know. a whole gaggle of them were eating in the lunch room, talking loudly, but not a big whoop. one of their friends walked in. a guy from the gaggle called out, “hey, [name], i hear you’re a misogynist!” he said it in a sarcastic-yet-admiring tone. the other guy responded, “yep, i guess i am! whatever the hell that is,” sounding proud.

from the rest of their conversation, i ascertained that the misogynist had a poster in his cube that offended some woman/women. i wasn’t sure what it is, but the guy who originally spoke said, “after you went home yesterday, a whole bunch of angry women came by looking for you. i had to plead with them for your life!” uproarious laughter all around. ha fucking ha.

this is a relatively minor incident, of course, but just another drop of the poison. i don’t really know what to do. amanda & i had a good talk about this a while ago–how work is unbearable for us because things that 90% of people don’t give a shit about bother us profoundly, and when we talk about how it makes us feel, we’re branded as whiners or crazy or too sensitive or causing trouble or any other of things that we (mostly) aren’t. we just want to be able to work in an environment that isn’t like rubbing salt on our wounds every fucking day. but where do we go? amanda works at the library, an idealized work environment (for me, anyway)! the library is one of the coolest places in pittsburgh with a delightfully diverse staff of wingnuts! if she’s having such a rough time, well, where the fuck can we go? (i work at the welfare office, which is rough by pretty much anyone’s standards. usually when i complain about the depressing things going on, i get a reaction of, ‘well, what do you expect?’)

so what to do? right now we’re doing what we always do. surviving. dealing with it. staying mostly silent because speaking out just seems so pointless. (amanda speaks out more, she’s good at it. i am learning from her.) fighting back in little ways. what else can we do? what do YOU do, faithful reader?

an open letter to WPXI: stop yr transphobic reporting practices


so, this morning my boyfriend and i were looking for something totally unrelated on our local news’ website, and we came across this horrifyingly transphobic news segment: “Police Bust Men Posing as Female Prostitutes”.

In case you don’t feel like clicking that link and watching that awful video, 2 transwomen prostitutes were arrested recently in a sting. The news chose to portray them as men trying to pull a fast one on the johns of Pittsburgh. The reporter actually showed pictures of the women (who have long hair, breasts and who pass as women) to a random douchebag on the street and saying something like, “can you believe these people are REALLY MEN?!” they recorded his reaction: shaking his head in mute disgust, saying, “wow, i don’t even know what to say.”

we were both so angry after watching this clip. my boyfriend curled up in a ball on the couch. we didn’t say anything for a minute, and then he said, “i feel physically ill right now.” i rubbed his back and said, let’s do something about it. so he called the news station & called the jail (he is actually arguing with a reporter on the phone as i write this!), and i wrote the following letter to WPXI. i’m posting it here so that more people can read it. i encourage anyone who is outraged to call, write or email WPXI.

February 5, 2011


4145 Evergreen Road

Pittsburgh, PA 15214

To Whom It May Concern:

I was saddened and appalled by WPXI’s news item on February 4, “Police Bust Men Posing as Female Prostitutes in Strip District.” I feel that reporter Vince Sims (as well as the editors, producers and anyone else involved with the story) treated its’ subjects in a derogatory and disrespectful manner that was completely uncalled for, and requires an immediate public apology.

First of all, the story’s title is inaccurate. Tamika Jones and Nakala Jackson are not names anyone would associate with men. Their feminine appearance, female names, and the presence of breasts on their bodies are indicators that they are not men at all, but transgendered women. Their birth sex is irrelevant, as they clearly pass as women, identify as women, live as women.

While I don’t know Jones or Jackson personally, and cannot make a statement as to what they were doing in that hotel room, they were definitely not “men posing as female prostitutes.” They were not a pair of men who thought it would be hilarious to trick some unsuspecting johns into having sex with them. In all likelihood, they, as is the case with many transgendered women, probably found prostitution their only viable work option. Imagine interviewing for a job with a female name and long, flowing hair; and then having your employer ask for ID and having to sheepishly hand them a driver’s license with an “M” instead of the “F” they were expecting. Changing one’s gender legally is a very expensive, time-consuming process; some states will not allow it at all without a note from a surgeon stating that the person has undergone genital surgery (which can cost upwards of $100,000 and is not covered by any insurance). This lack of appropriate papers makes on-the-books employment an extreme challenge for many transwomen who cannot afford a legal gender change, and many turn to prostitution simply to survive. Dozens of trans prostitutes are killed every year by enraged johns who “discover” their “real” sex. It’s no laughing matter.

Sims’ tactic of interviewing a random man on the street, showing him pictures of Jones and Jackson and asking if he believes they were men, is stunningly unprofessional. The man-on-the-street (who’s not even from Pittsburgh!) shaking his head in mute disgust is presumably meant to drive the story’s point home–that these women are “freaks”. I can think of no other circumstance in which a reporter would show pictures of women to random people, record their disdainful reactions, and call that news.

The AP Style guide, 2006, says this about reporting on transgendered people: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.” I realize that standards are different for broadcast journalism than they are for print; however, I would like to think that WPXI holds itself to industry professional standards.

I actually watch WPXI news every night. I think it’s the best local news in the Pittsburgh region. However, until WPXI publicly apologizes to Tamika Jones, Nakala Jackson, and the transgender community in Pittsburgh for its thoughtless, unprofessional and sometimes downright cruel reporting of this story, I will never watch it again.

In Struggle,

[my legal name]