Thursday, April 28, 2011

Statehouse Adventures: Immigrant Rights are Human Rights and Healthcare is a Human Right

Today I parked in front of the Statehouse planning on doing some computer work nearby. But the golden dome called. I've been meaning to go on a tour forever, as I believe it's important to go there other than just for Healthcare is a Human Right rallies and HIV/AIDS Awareness Days. I went in to speak with my legislators about H.202, the healthcare bill that will hopefully make Vermont the first state to lead the country in providing universal health care to its people. "Its people." When I write this I mean everyone within the created border of this state. Regardless of age, color, ethnicity, religion/spirituality, ability, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, legal status, etc. It is this last example here that I am particularly concerned with today. Legal status.
The healthcare bill H.202 passed the house, however in the Senate an amendment was included that would exclude undocumented Vermonters. This means that the people who crossed a desert not only with the threat of death by dehydration and exposure, but also the threat of being caught by immigration officials, or worse, shot at by "
Minutemen" (anti-immigrant vigilantes who patrol the US side of the Mexican-US border), the people who crossed an entire continent to reach the Northeastern US, those people who work so hard (as in 12.5 hour shifts 6 days a week, for example) to keep our Vermont dairy farms running would not be included in "healthcare for all." But they're here illegally, people say. When I hear this I try to keep a straight face and cool head, but this is the image and emotion that comes to mind:

Image created by Yolanda Lopez

My Pilgrim ancestors did not receive an invitation before departing aboard the Mayflower. And that may seem like ancient history to some, but 400 years in the big scheme of things is not a long time. I do not claim this land as mine. There were people here long before my ancestors arrived and I don't feel as though I'm more entitled to live here than someone who's just recently arrived. The term "illegal" makes my skin crawl (as well as referring to someone as "a Mexican," "an Indian," etc. It usually implies a male gender and it lumps people together in a faceless mass. Likewise, when I am outside the US I don't like being referred to as an American - which excludes our neighbors both to the North and South - and when I speak of my nation of birth I specify that it's the United States of America, not just America.) I'm not the only one bothered by people being referred to as "illegal," there is a campaign asking people to pledge to stop using the I-word and encouraging the media to do the same.

"You wouldn’t call someone a w*tback, or the n-word. Saying “illegals” is just as bad. The I-Word creates an environment of hate by exploiting racial fear and economic anxiety, creating an easy scapegoat for complex issues, and OK-ing violence against those labeled with the word. People are not illegal. Let's stop feeding the hate machine. Drop the I-Word." - Colorlines

I just signed my pledge to drop the I-word, and they ask you to write why you're doing this. I wrote "I pledge to drop the I-word and encourage others to do the same not only because this language is dehumanizing and perpetuates misunderstanding and inequality, but also because besides indigenous people here in what is now known as the United States, we are all immigrants, including my Pilgrim ancestors." You can sign on to Colorlines' Drop the I-Word campaign.
Back to the Statehouse... I went in search of my representatives to talk with them about the Brock-Sears amendment. I got sent all over the place trying to find the conference committee meeting, since all meetings in the VT Statehouse are open to the people, as they should be. However, this particular meeting hadn't started yet, I found out later. As I searched for the room, I told everyone who directed me about why I was there. I ran into one of my Reps and one of my Senators, both of whom were in support of the bill and in opposition of the amendment (Thank you, Sen. Pollina and Rep. Hooper!). Eventually, I picked up a pile of pink "while you were out" slips to leave notes that the pages would deliver to my other Reps and Senators, as well as the people who are most likely to be appointed to the committee discussing the amendment. I figured a good old-fashion note might receive more attention than a quick email.

As I was looking around for a comfortable spot to sit and write, I overheard a conversation about healthcare and butted in. All but two men dispersed and I got talking with one of him, telling him that I was there in support of H202, but in opposition to the Brock-Sears amendment. I was talking with Senators Sears. As in the Brock-Sears amendment Sears. We had an interesting conversation (that was a bit confusing to me at times) and though we seemed to disagree on many points, I think we listened well to each other for the most part. As our conversation died down I found out that the other man standing there (I hardly know anyone at the Statehouse, so I just figured everyone was a legislator or lobbyist) was a reporter from the Associated Press. Right place at the right time, aye?!

Sen. Sears said that the same wording that was in the amendment has been part of the bill all along. When asked why the amendment was necessary then, he said it was just to make it clear. (I'm paraphrasing here. Note to self: get a recording device. Pink "while you were out" slips certainly do not provide sufficient space for taking notes for passing on accurate information, sorry.) He also said that the response to the amendment has been misconstrued by "these people" to raise money. He was referring to good people at The Vermont Worker's Center who have been working tirelessly over the last three years on the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign to make healthcare accessible to all. They are very outspoken about their political stance - directly challenging corporate control of our healthcare, as well as racism, homophobia, classism, and other forces both within the movement and in mainstream culture in general that keeps us divided and fighting amongst ourselves for crumbs while the powers that be hold a majority of wealth. They are also member-based, supported by donations. They've lost funding because of their strong stance of solidarity (i.e. losing a big grant because they refused to make anti-abortion statements in terms of healthcare). They are not raising awareness about this amendment for financial gain, they are doing this as a matter of integrity and solidarity.

Migrant farmworkers support a Vermont way of life by doing work that most people born here are unwilling to do. They pay state and federal taxes, Medicare, and Social Security, supporting services that they do not themselves benefit from. They are providing our communities with sustenance, yet they are almost entirely cut off from the community. They often fear leaving their farms to shop, attend church, or get medical care (if there's access to it) because of the possibility of being reported. This fear is quite valid, in the 2nd whitest state in the U.S. where people of color and/or those who speak another language stand out so much. Unfortunately there are those in our communities that believe migrant farmworkers don't belong here and take it upon themselves to report them to officials. This simple act of picking up a phone and making that call can lead to arrest, detention, and deportation. This act breaks up families, hurts dairy farmers and VT agriculture, and in the big picture, negatively affects us all. This fear and vindictiveness perpetuates the cycle of racism.

I need to double check this statistic, but I was recently at a Central Vermont Farm Worker Coalition where I learned that VT having the highest per capital deportation rate in ... the US? Northern US border states? I'll correct this statistic once I find out for sure. Regardless, the rate is high and the risk is real.

"De qué me sirve el dinero
Si estoy como prisionero
Dentro de esta gran nación
Cuando me acuerdo hasta Iloro
Aunque la jaula sea de oro
No deja de ser prisión"

"What good is money
If I am like a prisoner
Within this huge nation
When I remember I even cry
Although the cage is golden
It's still a prison"

This quotation is from the
Golden Cage, an exhibit of portraits and interviews with migrant farmwokers and dairy workers, showing at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center in Burlington, VT until June 10, 2011. As debates rage with the recent anti-immigration/pro-racial profiling legislation passing in Arizona and Georgia, the Golden Cage documents these issues that are playing out on our farms right here in rural communities in Vermont, amongst a population that is often hidden from sight and kept silent.

In December 2009 migrant farmworker José Obeth Santiz Cruz was killed in a farming accident here in Vermont. Migrant Justice
 sent a delegation to Mexico to return his remains and document his family and community coming to terms with his death and sharing stories about the causes, effects, and their experiences of migration. Their stories draw attention to the conditions and economic policies that force migrants from their homes in Mexico and suggest a need for a new dialogue about the root causes of migration. This journey was documented in the film "Silenced Voices."

Another film which documents the lives of Vermont migrant farmworkers is -
Under the Cloak of Darkness: Vermont's Mexican Farm Workers, a film by Bjorn G. Jackson

Though Senator Sears tried to dismiss his amendment as a non-issue and say that there was no story there, it's really just the tip of an enormous iceburg having to do with access to health care, immigration policy, human rights, farming, racism, and community.

For those of you in the area, I hope to see you at the Healthcare is a Human Right Rally this Sunday May 1st at 11am at City Hall, and then over to the Statehouse. There will be an Herbal First Aid and Street Medic Contingent, come find us! I also hope that you contact your legislators to let them know that you support healthcare for ALL in Vermont by signing this
petition and giving them a call/email/visit.

(To read more about
No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, a humanitarian aid organization that provides water and first aid care/supplies to those crossing the desert from Mexico into Arizona, herbal lip balm-making, and a popular education activity to trace workshop participants’ ancestry across oceans and borders please read (Im)migration and Lip Balms for Social Justice?! )
Additions May 2, 3, and 8, 2011

The day after this amazing rally:
…Healthcare is a Human Right May Day Rally organizers and other community members were at the Statehouse from 8am until past 9pm to be present for the conference committee meeting that would be discussing the healthcare bill. There was a press conference at noon on the Statehouse steps in support of Universal Healthcare for ALL – with no one excluded. Signs read “Universal = Everybody: Strike the Brock-Sears Amendment” and “Everybody In, Nobody Out!”
That night the Brock-Sears amendment was struck down! Thank you so much to all the people who have been in touch with their representatives in recent days to bring about this positive change! Thank you to the Representatives and Senators on the committee (Fox, Ayer, Mullen, Larson, Fisher, and Copeland-Hanzas) who listened to the people and took a stand to help ensure healthcare for all! I’d like to also thank Senator Sears, who listened to the people and decide to not only oppose his own amendment, but also called for Federal Immigration Reform. And a HUGE Thank you to the organizers of the Vermont Workers Center and the Migrant Justice for all your work in bringing the people together to make this happen! The future is indeed shaped by the people that show up. Thanks for showing up, y’all! And for those who’d like to get involved, please contact these organizations to learn more.
Recent press:
Pre-recorded interview with Dana Woodruff (that's me), herbalist, health educator, and citizen activist. Tuesday Morning: News, Views, & Media Reviews with Renee, WGDR 91.1 FM May 2, 2011
Vt. health care bill draws debate over immigrants by Dave Gram, April 29, 2011

Activists decry exclusion of undocumented workers from H.202
by Anne Galloway, May 2, 2011
Lawmakers call for study of migrant worker health care by Anne Galloway, May 3, 2011

Everybody In, Nobody Out: Rallying For Universal Healthcare in Vermont
by Sam Mayfield, May 4, 2011
First Universal Health Care Bill in U.S. Marks Success of Vermont's Human Rights Movement by Anja Rudiger, May 7, 2011

Picture Healthcare as a Human Right Photo Petition:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Praise of Pink (Toenails), Masculinity, and Transgender Propaganda

When we look at what the factors are that make life so miserable for young gays and lesbians, it’s tempting for progressives to point the finger at religious traditions that are hostile to sexual pluralism. But the young men in American high schools who are beating up other boys whom they suspect of being gay are rarely doing so in order to comply with a misunderstood dictate from the Torah or the Pauline epistles. It’s not faith that drives the hate as much as it is an overwhelming desire to establish masculine bona fides. “I torment faggots, therefore I can’t be one; I beat up queers, therefore I’m a man.” That toxic equation may be aided and abetted by conservative religion, but it isn’t rooted in it. Rather, the hateful behavior is rooted in the rigid rules of American masculinity, a masculinity predicated on a contempt for and a paranoia about even the slightest whiff of femininity among the be-penised. ~ "Homosociality and Homophobia: Why the Distorted Rules of “Manhood” are the Real Problem" by Hugo Schwyzer

As a little one, I adored pink and covered myself with it. And then at some point, I started to hate it. Perhaps it had to do with being outnumbered by brothers? I don’t know. La
ter, I started distancing myself from masculinity. I straight-up ran away from it after leaving home, surrounding myself almost exclusively by other women during a time when I equated masculinity with violence and power-over. Now, I crave spaces made up of all kinds of genders. And I love to hear male-identified folks discussing masculinity in a way that is conscious of and challenges misogyny (women-hating), homophobia, and power dynamics. I also enjoy observing what kind of masculinity attracts me. At the Reproductive Rights Conference that I recently attended, I sat in on the Masculinity panel where I bore witness to four masculine-identified folks talking about their relationships, favorite music, childhood, privilege, and their vivid gender expressions. (To see projects that some of the panelists are apart of creating, check out Interseqtion and The Brown Boi Project) My assumptions were challenged in many ways by hearing the stories of folks who may feel most comfortable with a hyper-masculine presentation and who also use a female pronoun. Or folks who choose a masculine identity that challenges their upbringing, who also love their toenails painted and love glitter and faerie wings. I love this both/and (rather than either/or mentality) and the space felt really liberating to me. I've been reflecting since on the conversation about masculinity as separate from domination and misogyny, disentangling these in my mind.

As thoughts of masculinity have become more present and rolling around in my mind these past days, pink keeps coming up, as well as the theme of community response. I recently read the article Brazil Stadium Turns Pink After Faggot Chants Shock Community. In response to homophobic chants targeted at Michael Santos during a game, his volleyball teammates showed their support by wearing rainbows and pink. The larger community responded as well...

Michael Santos and his teammates

Community response - a pink stadium! and "
Vôlei Futuro Against Prejudice" banner

Soon after reading about this brillant community response to homophobic targeting, my friend sent me this clip: Stand Up! - Don't Stand for Homophobic Bullying by the BeLonG To, an organization which supports gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth in Ireland.

Again, positive, strong, and loving community response! More and more in the media and sometimes in our schools, workplaces, and even our own homes, we're surrounded by people on ridiculous and hateful tirades about topics that really have nothing to do with them, besides feeling threatened by their own insecurities, as if those seeking basic human rights are personally attacking them. Writing them off silently or with sarcastic remarks doesn't really do anything to make our world safer for all of us to be who we are and love who we will without fear or threat of violence, homelessness, being disowned, etc. We need to take action. And I love creative community responses like the one above.

Another public homophobic and transphobic attack has taken place recently. Targeted at a 5 year old! JCrew recently included a photo of designer Jenna Lyons giggling with her son. The scandal - her son's toenails are painted! Pink!!!!!

Media Research Center, which claims to be America's Media Watchdog whose mission is to bring balance to the news media, published J.CREW Pushes Transgendered Child Propaganda:Women's clothing company highlights pink nail-polish wearing boy in promotional email, where they write that JCrew is "targeting a new demographic - mothers of gender-confused young boys. At least, that's the impression given by a new marketing piece that features blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children." Lyons is "exploiting Beckett (the son) behind the façade of liberal, transgendered identity politics.... Propaganda pushing the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls is a growing trend, seeping into mainstream culture."

I was speechless when I first heard these claims. How someone can see this image and instead of feeling warm and mushy inside and/or have the urge to paint their toenails pink, see gender-confusion and transgender propaganda only shows how our rigid gender-roles keep us all confined. Boys and men must stay within such a narrow path of the ever-changing rules of what it is to be a man, otherwise they are called names (often accused of being queer - as if this is a bad thing - which shows how linked sexism, misogyny, and homo/transphobia are), assaulted, even killed. When I've traveled in parts of Canada and Ireland I've been struck by some the interactions between men that I’ve witnessed - standing closer to each other, dressing nice without this calling into question their sexuality - and realized how suffocatingly limiting the rules for "manly" behavior here in the U.S. are.

When my nephew was 2, he loved pink, just like his big sister. They'd get into some pretty intense fights over who got to use the pink cup at snacktime and when I painted my nieces toenails pink, he wanted his done as well. I definitely was not going to tell my 2 year old nephew that his sister was allowed to have pink toenails, but he couldn't, or why some grownups might get bent out of shape at the appearance of his new paint job. So I went ahead and painted them. And gave them the Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls genderific coloring book (also available: Sometimes The Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon and Girls Are Not Chicks coloring books), and I hope that they know that whoever they choose to be, whoever they choose to love, I will support them. Whatever pronoun they wish to be called by, whatever gender expression they choose, whoever they want to date, they have my blessing and my only concern is that they are happy and healthy and growing. And I've got a new little OOMS on the way, soon to arrive. My nephew just came up with this gender-neutral term, OOMS = Offspring of My Sibling. I thought of nephiece. His was better. (Just another part of the Transgender Propaganda Machine!)

And as always, Jon Stewart's had a hilarious response to this whole pink toenail fiasco:

Psychiatrist Keith Ablows' article on Fox News is actually even more frightening that what's included in the above clip. Responding to the text in the advertisement, he writes

"Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your “innocent” pleasure. This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such “psychological sterilization” [author's word choice] is not known."

He goes on,

Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians? ...These folks (at JCrew) are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race.

First of all, who amongst us couldn't use at least a little bit of therapy?! Especially in a mainstream culture that is so brainwashed by and obsessed with the idea that heterosexuality is "normal" and that all else should be dismissed, belittled, or destroyed. Unfortunately, even for those of us that can access therapy, psychiatry as a field creates a hostile environment for those whose gender and sexual identities lay outside what's considered "normal." Transgenderism (called "gender identity disorder") is still listed in the DSM - The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association- as a mental disorder. Homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder as well, up until 1986. So, in terms of seeking out therapy to explore gender identity, unless a practitioner has done their work to explore gender both personally and systematically, and in a liberating way, rather than what is sanctioned by the field, we've got a case of trying to dismantle the master's house using the master's tools, which, as Audre Lorde writes, can not be done.

That a psychiatrist, so soon after the recent suicides by youth who endured constant bullying about their sexualities, insists on using such inflammatory language to create a vicious environment is completely unacceptable, unprofessional, and dangerous. That professionals who are supposed to support our overall health are so caught up in projecting their own personal judgments and obsessions that they refuse to accept their clients' life choices
that cause no one any harm is psychologically abusive. This is a form of violence.

Ablows’ claim of “crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts” is not only completely medically inaccurate, it clearly shows how fear-based his entire argument is. He isn’t talking about the anatomy of those with vulvas being amputated, but he doesn’t specify his personal horror at the thought of being de-penised. Clearly, he has no clue about gender confirmation surgery, sometimes called gender reassignment surgery. This irrational claim sounds quite similar to medically-inaccurate, fear-based abstinence only sex ed programs that claim to be based on morals, but instead are completely out of touch with reality and end up actually causing more sexually transmitted infections and pregnancies. These are just the tangible results of such programs and the mentalities they’re based on – they also encourage an atmosphere of shame, secrecy, and ignorance about other’s bodies and our own. This creates fertile ground for abuse. Ablows’ comments similarly create such an atmosphere and does a disservice for not only those questioning their gender, but also the family members, friends, religious leaders, co-workers, health care providers, and other community members who care for and about them. For those interested in learning how to better support their friends and loved ones who are going through gender transition and/or confirmation surgery (specifically “female-to-male” top surgery), see Jacoby Ballard’s zines (booklets) listed on this site’s product list page. Also, the organization RU12? leads trainings for health care providers and community members focused on improving patient care to queer and transgender clients/patients.

As for Albows’ use of the term "Psychological sterilization" - With this country's long history past and present of genocide through sterilization of indigenous, Puerto Rican, Black, Japanese, and other women of color, homosexuals, and people with disabilities (though of course sometimes these identities overlap), referring to this non-event as a form of "psychological sterilization" is completely disgraceful. Dr. Ablows is drawing on his manufactured authority as an educated, upper-class, straight, white male to again speak about something he clearly knows nothing about. White people who grasp for racial parallels to bolster their own argument completely out of historical context only contribute to misunderstanding, racism, and white supremacy. Attempting to connect painting a boy-childs toenails with changing one's skin color to pretend they're members of another race is problematic in numerous ways. First, race, like gender, is socially constructed, but he talks of these like they are biological categories that threaten the whole human race if defied. Also, Caucasian is a fictitious categorization of light-skinned (white) people who wanted to create a non-African place of origin for themselves. (Details, details, but I think it's important when discussing "race" and racism to remember that much of what we've been taught, and the language that we've been given to discuss it, is confusing at best and usually perpetuates racist ideas of people being broken up into distinct races in the first place.) And it's just plain irresponsible and ignorant for a white person in the U.S. to bring up the topic of skin color without doing their homework to understand and pass on to others accurate information about the history of skin color in terms of economics/employment, class, racism, and slavery, and how it affects us still today.

It's up to us to educate ourselves because Fox News is not about giving us empowering information to understand the world around us, and to be able to see through weak and selfish arguments such as the one from Ablows, who seems to lack any integrity at all.

He was also wrong about the pink nail polish. It was not an attack on masculinity. It was a transformation of masculinity, a fabulousization of masculinity! And if we don't want his type of masculinity, which attacks people, stigmatizes gender exploration, and perpetuates homo/transphobia, then we have to change it! It is easy to write off a wealthy white man on Fox News. However, homophobia and transphobia could not thrive if it wasn't upheld daily in a million different ways - ways that we ourselves within our families, schools, homes, workplaces, places of worship, doctor's offices, organizations, and other communities act out oppressive dynamics that we were taught.

Oh, and the Ultimate Fighting Champion, Chuck Liddell, that Jon Stewart refers to? Here are his sweet feet:

Pink and black!
To the Masculinities panelists, Interseqtion
, The Brown Boi Project, BeLonG To, Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls coloring book creatrixes, Jenna Lyons, the players of Vôlei Futuro and all you lovely people with your pink noodles in the crowd, Chuck Liddell and his toenails, and all the others who transform masculinity daily just by being your beautiful pink-toenail-polished (if you like) selves: Thank you! You give me hope.

I’ve recently offered to all my male-identified friends and family members to paint their toes pink with non-toxic nail polish, along with an herbal footbath and foot massage. I’d love to offer the same here, but I know some of you are reading from quite far away, so I’d like to encourage you to team up and make this happen yourselves - I’ll post some herbal spa self-care info and recipes soon.

P.S. My toenails are painted pink right now. In solidarity and because I'm reclaiming the color...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Glenn Beck and NARAL Have BOTH Upset Me

Trying to read through some of the avalanche that has become my email inbox, a particular subject heading caught my eye. “Glenn Beck says “hookers” use Planned Parenthood.” My initial response was, “duh!” People of an enormous range of professions, ages, genders, sexual identities, class backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. use Planned Parenthood. That’s kinda what they’re for. I had a feeling this isn’t what NARAL Pro-Choice America was talking about. Having recently attended a Reproductive Justice conference, a Dismantling Rape Culture conference, and a panel on how Class affects youths’ opportunities, all in the span of a week, I’ve had a lot on my mind to say the least. I’ve been surrounded by vibrant, grounded, fierce, loving, healing, and brilliant beings. One of these was Samhita Mukhopadhyaya of, an online community for feminists and their allies, with this fabulous logo:

‘Nuff said?! Her message that you don't need any more than what you've already got! in order to speak up has really stayed with me. Yes, we can read up, talk with elders and neighbors and friends and family, etc. There’s always more to learn, but we can’t let that silence us. So, inspired by that, and learning from amazing presenters at the Reproductive Justice conference, I decided to write back to NARAL.

Maybe they’ll read my email and maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll take my thoughts into consideration and positive changes will come within the organization. And maybe not. But I couldn’t in good conscious just click “delete” and feel that by being silent I was myself contributing to the stigmatization and violence against those involved in the sex trade and street economies. I couldn’t just let it be decided for me that “hookers” are those that I need to somehow separate myself from and protest, “No, Planned Parenthood is for good girls like me!” In general even organizations that claim to be working toward the liberation of all women treat those involved in the sex trade as needing to be saved or at most, see them as victims and/or survivors, but definitely not allies, teachers, or co-creators.

As I reflect on the term "we," I’m remembering the days way back when I was at a school (college) that finally offered women’s history. I soaked it up, so thankful to have historical role models in the white women that were fighting for the right to vote, while also understanding that their liberation was entwined with the liberation of African American men and women as well. And then we got to the part in history when the white women stepped away from their alliance with African American activists and drew upon their white privilege – saying that they as white ladies surely deserved the vote over ignorant black folks. I was crushed. I believe that this was my first realization that the supposedly all-encompassing “we” that so many middle-class, able-bodied, straight, white, cisgender (non-transgender) women speak of usually means people that look exactly like themselves. Oh, and who aren't part of the sex trade. I wince at this individualistic, myth-of-scarcity mentality of taking this current system of inequality and using it to get ahead and continue standing on the backs of others to gain what we think of as power. I give thanks that there are so many in my life that understand it’s not about more of us being included in this hierarchical system, but rather it’s about us working together, learning our histories, dismantling what’s caused so much pain and trauma, and transforming it into something that includes us all and values us all.

Now, here’s the letter…

Dear Nancy~

I have just received the message that you sent. I had not heard about Glenn Beck's statements, which are beyond out of control and I'm not even going to waste any energy typing about how ridiculous and hatefull he is. Something you said, though, upset me as well. While everyone has a complete right (obligation?) to be disgusted by Glenn Beck, it seems you are most disgusted with him stooping to new lows because he's comparing American women to hookers? Well, though the term "hooker" is offensive to many, some American women are sex workers. I recently attended the Reproductive Justice Conference at Hampshire College in W. Mass and there learned more from those representing the Young Women's Empowerment Project in Chicago, Jessica Yee of Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and others about the realities facing those - particular cisgender {non-transgender} women and transwomen - working in the sex trade and street economies. A movement towards reproductive freedom that contributes to the patriarchal stigmatization of those of us doing what's needed to survive lacks strength, integrity, and solidarity. Organizations such as NARAL should be contributing to and learning from such grassroots and empowering organizations, especially ones led by indigenous youth, women of color, and other groups historically excluded from mainstream feminism, which so often inaccurately claims to support all women. Thank you for your time.

Take care,
Dana L Woodruff

From: Nancy Keenan, NARAL Pro-Choice America
Subject: Glenn Beck says "hookers" use Planned Parenthood
Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 2:38 PM
NARAL Pro-Choice America

Dear Dana,

Women in America… hookers?

I am disgusted: Glenn Beck sunk to new lows on Tuesday when he called women who access health care at Planned Parenthood “hookers.”

With politicians still trying to defund Planned Parenthood, I had to send you this Huffington Post article and ask you to take action again.

Congress is going to vote on Thursday whether to continue to fund Planned Parenthood health centers.

Our last hope is the Senate, where anti-choice senators don’t have a majority. Please call on your senators to oppose attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

After you take action, will you post our action to Facebook and Twitter, and share this email with your friends?

Nancy Keenan
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

HuffPost Media

Glenn Beck Mocks Lawrence O'Donnell, Says Only “Hookers” Need Planned Parenthood (AUDIO)

First Posted: 04/11/11 11:16 AM ET Updated: 04/11/11 12:06 PM ET

Glenn Beck and his radio co-hosts mocked Lawrence O'Donnell's emotional defense of Planned Parenthood--and the woman whose email drove him to tears.

On his Monday show, Beck played the tape of O'Donnell--a host whose feud with Beck is long-running--reading the email from a friend of his who described her need for Planned Parenthood's services. He said he couldn't believe that O'Donnell had teared up about such an issue.

"I believe that my country is under attack, and that man's freedom as we understand it is over," he said. "He gets on the air on Friday and [cries] about, 'we're not going to kill babies anymore.'"

He started playing the tape, but asked his producer to stop after O'Donnell read a part of the email where his friend said that she depended on Planned Parenthood.

"Stop just a second!" Beck said. "Hookers? Who depends on Planned Parenthood?" He then impersonated the woman, who said she had had an abortion.

"I've got 400 abortions that I have to have!" Beck said. "I have to have these children aborted!" He and his co-hosts then continued making fun of O'Donnell and the woman for several minutes more.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

My Confession & (Healthcare) Testimonial

Healthcare is a Human Right Rally at the Statehouse 2010 & 2011!!!

As I confessed in the April Herbal & Community Health update this month, before the March 31st 2011 Senate hearing on healthcare I’d never even been in the big Senate room at the Statehouse. And this week I’m testifying in it! Sort of. I can’t physically be there, as it’s the weekend of the Reproductive Rights Conference (!), so I’ve written a testimony that my friend is going to read for me. (Thank you, Heather!) On 3/31, once I began listening to everyone’s moving stories about lack of access to healthcare, I wish that I’d arrived earlier and signed up to testify. I’ve heard many express that they don’t feel like the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign here in Vermont is focusing enough on increasing access to traditional medicines (herbalism, acupuncture, midwifery/homebirth, massage therapy, etc). You know why that is? Cuz we haven’t been showing up enough and putting in work! This movement, like any, is shaped by those who show up, that means y*o*u! And me, too. So I’m showing up via written word, and I hope that others will turn out to show support and/or send in a written testimony!

What’s happening: The health care bill, H.202 (a bill seeking to establish a Vermont based universal/single payer healthcare system), passed the House last week by a vote of 92-49! This is the result of lots of hard work by thousands of Vermonters who care about making health care a human right in Vermont. At the 3/31 Senate Hearing for patients and "consumers" of health care services – 60 signed up to speak and all but 3 spoke out in favor of healthcare for all. The next Senate hearing is for Healthcare Providers Thurs April 7, 6-8pm– Everyone Welcome! People's stories affect the outcome of any legislation – and this is your chance to tell the Senate Committee members how the current health care system affects you, your family, and your clients - how you'd like to see the system changed and what the human right to healthcare means to you. If you plan on testifying, or would like someone to read comments on your behalf, please show up early in order to sign up and keep your testimony to 2 minutes. If testifying isn't your thing, please know that coming to watch others testify is a great way to provide moral support for those that are speaking up!!! Please see info above. If you have any questions, please contact Heather Pipino at or 802-595-1671

As we get closer to actually establishing healthcare as a public good in Vermont, the opponents of this movement are turning up the heat. It is really important that we continue to be a presence and a voice for health care justice. Please join us if you can and spread the word to your networks. For more info see:

Save the Date!!

Healthcare is a Human Right! Rally at the Statehouse in Montpelier: Sun May 1st 11am A lot will be happening in the days and weeks leading up to this, please help us make this march and rally HUGE! Join Sen. Bernie Sanders and thousands of Vermonters all over the state as we build a movement for Vermont to be the first state to have universal healthcare. Share with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers!

My Testimonial: (Feel free to leave comments!!)
My name is Dana L Woodruff and I’m speaking today as a Community Herbalist and Health Educator. I’m able-bodied and fortunately in good health and have not often needed to call upon the medical system often in my life. I’ve had periods of being insured and others when I’ve been uninsured. Many in our community are much more dependent on the mainstream medical system, needing insulin, dialysis, or surgeries for basic survival. While I am grateful for the existence of this mainstream medicine for emergency response and acute care this is but one form of healthcare. I believe absolutely that healthcare is a human right. This right is not only about increasing access to doctors, specialists, and medications. What is broken about our system is not only the masses that it excludes through both cost and policy, but also how limited our view has become of what kind of healthcare is considered legitimate. Strolling down Main Street you may notice the window display of Montpelier Pharmacy filled with bottles and jars of old-time extracts and liniments made with plants. Not long ago, the pharmacy and doctor’s housecall bags were filled with such herbal medicines. Herbalism, midwifery, and other holistic practices thrived long before the American Medical Association formed and began its campaign to discredit their legitimacy and close down their schools. Even still, it is often herbalism, acupuncture, massage therapy, and other traditional forms of holistic healthcare that have brought relief from chronic pain and insomnia, have prevented surgery and lowered blood pressure, have improved quality of life and returned the body to health long-term. I imagine that the logistical details of putting the idea of universal healthcare into practice here in Vermont can be an overwhelming task. I’m asking this evening that in the process of the important work of determining the specifics of what services will and will not be covered that you will consider the healthcare needs and choices of many Vermonters who want increased access to both mainstream medicine as well as preventative care and traditional holistic healthcare services. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Keep on Calling to Free Oscar López Rivera!

Students, senators, family, friends, celebrities, and other community members from the U.S., Puerto Rico, and beyond who support the release of Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera have been continuing to call in to the US Parole Commission. (To see Oscar’s art, learn more about his contributions to the community, and his case, see my earlier blog posts at Freedom for Oscar López Rivera and The Campaign to Free Oscar López Rivera Continues! or visit the Boricua Human Rights website)
East Coasters (U.S.) - Tuesday is our day! Those calling from the Midwest have been calling on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the West Coast as been calling Thursdays or Fridays. Please mark your calendars and take a few moments to call into the USPC to call for the end to Oscar’s nearly 30 years of incarceration for his commitment to the liberation of the people and land of Puerto Rico. The USPC may tell you that you must put your comments into writing. You can print out a letter to sign and mail in. I’ve printed out extra letters and have been carrying them with me to work, on errands, and to events that I attend to share with others and mailing in the signed letters. If you can let the Boricua Human Rights Network know the number of letters you’re sending in, it helps them keep track of how many supporters are in touch with the USPC. Also, continue to call! Leave a message with the operator if you can, or leave a message on their voicemail if they put you through or if you call outside of business hours. Your calls, your letters, and your faxes really do count. Asking friends, family members, co-workers, and people in organizations that you’re a part of to sign letters of support for Oscar not only builds a stronger movement calling for his release, it is also a great way to spark conversations about US Political Prisoners, incarceration, and issues affecting communities near and far.
If you’re already familiar with the case, you can call (301) 492-5990 and hit 0 to speak to operator or leave a voicemail. You can simply say “Hello, I’m calling for the release of Oscar López #87651-024 and I live in Vermont [NY, ME, MI, etc.] The Parole Commission should reconsider its order denying him parole, and grant him immediate parole.” For a phone script and for the letter to print out and mail in and/or fax, please click here.
Another way to show some love and raise awareness about Oscar’s (and others’) incarceration is to wear your message. May 29th marks the 30th anniversary of Oscar López Rivera's arrest, and to commemorate this a new OLR t-shirt (image above) has been created and is on sale now! The t-shirt is available in med, large, XL, and 2XL. Each shirt costs $20 plus $5 shipping and handling in continental US and Puerto Rico. The designer, Michael Reyes, is Oscar's nephew and a portion of the sale of each t-shirt goes to the campaign to free Oscar.

To order, please mail your check and t-shirt size to:

National Boricua Human Rights Network
2739 W. Division Street
Chicago, IL 60622
I know I’m sending my check in soon and hope to see others rocking one soon, too! Many thanks for taking the time to support our community members who are locked up for their political belief, community actions, and dedication to freedom.
Please be in touch if you have questions or comments!