The Audre Lorde Project

From the article entitled “Artful Concealment and Strategic Visibility: Transgender Bodies and U.S. State Surveillance After 9/11” written by Toby Beauchamp:

From his article, Toby Beauchamp wrote about how surveillance and security policies affect trans populations. These policies were created from the aftermath of Al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001. Beauchamp argues that transgender and gender-noncomforming bodies are more susceptible and likely suspected of criminal intent due from the assumption of practicing deception through perceived gender presentation. These new policies help form normatively gendered bodies and behaviors, which affect the people who differ from the dominant gender norms. It is deeply rooted in the monitoring and enforcement of normatively gendered bodies, behaviors, and identities. Beauchamp is critical of gender-normatizing aspects of security surveillance. Because of these new policies, (such as the Real ID Act, no-match policy, and 2001 USA PATRIOT Act), and the Department of Home Security (DHS) Advisory, trans populations would be targeted as suspicious and subjected to new levels of vigilance. The new surveillance and security policies focuses not necessarily on transgender identity, but more on targeting perceived gender deviance and those that don’t comply to the dominant gender norms. (The DHS advisory does not specifically write the term transgender populations in their text, it doesn’t mean it is not relevant to trans populations.) (Beauchamp 49)

 

Who is Audre Lorde?

Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934, in New York City. She was known as the leading African-American writer (of poetry and essays) and also internationally known as an activist and artist, along with being the Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, and warrior who gave voice to the oppressed people. She plays an important role in the discussion about the struggles for the liberation among oppressed people. Lorde expresses how it is important to unify and organize a coalition across differences. These differences are from issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, and ability; along with the issue of identity. Lorde considers herself a warrior because she refuse to be victimized by breast cancer. She even wrote about her struggle over her battle with breast cancer from her nonfiction work, The Cancer Journals, 1980. She continued to be remembered today for being a great warrior poet who valiantly fought many personal and political battles with her words. Audre Lorde died on November 17, 1992 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Works by the Author

Poetry

  • The Collected Poems Of Audre Lorde (1997)
  • The Marvelous Arithmetics Of Distance: Poems 1987-1992 (1993)
  • Undersong: Chosen Poems Old And New (1992)
  • Our Dead Behind Us (1986)
  • Chosen Poems: Old and New (1982)
  • The Black Unicorn (1978)
  • Coal (1976)
  • Between Ourselves (1976)
  • The New York Head Shop and Museum (1974)
  • From a Land Where Other People Live (1973)
  • Cables to Rage (1970)
  • The First Cities (1968)

Nonfiction

  • Burst of Light (1988)
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)
  • The Cancer Journals (1980)

What is the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) about?

Home

http://alp.org/

Mission
The Audre Lorde Project (ALP) is a community organizing center for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, two-spirit, trans and gender non-conforming (LGBTSTGNC) people of color communities. This progressive organization is located in the New York City area. Their mission is to reflect, represent and serve their various communities that are struggling across differences (race, gender, sex, class, age, and ability). The ALP work for community wellness and seek for progressive social and economic justice “through mobilization, education, and capacity-building”. (Capacity building is basically an conceptual approach that refers to strengthening the skills, competencies, and abilities of people and communities in developing societies so they can overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering.” The goal of community capacity building is to tackle the problems that are related to the policy and methods of development while considering the potential, limits, and needs of the people of the community or communities concerned.)

History
The history of the ALP was first formed in 1994 by the Advocates for Gay Men of Color (a multi-racial network of gay men of color HIV policy advocates). The goal of the ALP expanded in order to address the multiple issues that face their diverse communities, (which is the LGBTSTGNC People of Color communities). The ALP is also described as a place  “to serve as a home base that LGBTST peoples of African / Black/ Caribbean, Arab, Asian & Pacific Islander, Latina/o, and Native/Indigenous descent can use to organize, support, and advocate for our diverse communities.” As a whole, their community strategies can be unified because these multiple issues are intersectional to one another.  Their commonality is shared through their collective histories of struggle against discrimination and other forms of oppression.

TransJustice

http://alp.org/tj

“TransJustice is a political group created by and for Trans and Gender Non-conforming people of color. TransJustice works to mobilize its communities and allies into action on the pressing political issues they face, including gaining access to jobs, housing, and education; the need for Trans-sensitive healthcare, HIV-related services, and job-training programs; resisting police, government and anti-immigrant violence.”

How does the ALP relate to Beauchamp’s article? (Such as its connection to this week’s theme: “Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, & Administrative Violence) How does it help us understand ALP? How does ALP illustrate and/or complicates the ongoing course discussion?

The Audre Lorde Project work to seek economic and social justice for LGBTSTGNC people of color organizations and communities across differences. This progressive organization is connected to Beauchamp’s article because it’s important to recognize how the state surveillance and security policies does not affect only the trans populations, but can be expanded to discuss how it also affect other various, diverse groups. It’s important to organize a coalition to unite diverse communities to work together on their multiple issues and to not polarize them, in order to not create marginalized groups. If the “us vs. them” is created to polarize communities, then it’ll place certain marginalized groups to be more highly scrutinized. Certain marginalized groups would be more vulnerable and susceptible to oppression and discrimination.

Administrative law plays an important role in the ALP and Beauchamp’s article. Administrative law is a tool that “structures and reproduces vulnerability for trans populations”, as said by Dean Spade from his book “Administrative Law and Critical Trans Politics”. (Spade 29) (As mentioned from a previous lecture, Dean Spade is one of the lead thinkers on trans politics and law.) The policing of immigrant populations is one instance to how administrative law is important as a tool. The legal measures of administrative law includes documentation, such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and passports. Without these legal documentation, (or lack of a single gender marking), undocumented immigrants would have a hard time getting a job. Racial profiling plays a role in the surveillance and security measures due to the Advisory’s focus on Al-Qaeda, such as Islamophobia. Other systems that relate to these measures are sexism, classism, and heterosexism. (Beauchamp 50)

As explained from Beauchamp’s article, transgender advocacy organizations has argued against these surveillance and security policies in how they affect transgender individuals. One such argument is the equal access of privacy rights, in order to protect  trans employees and gender-nonconforming employees. This way, the medical information on an employee’s gender would be left as only a private and privileged information. It may benefit trans employees and gender-noncomforming employees, but it does fail to consider how other groups are affected by equal assess to privacy rights, such as “undocumented immigrants, prisoners, and individuals suspected of terrorism, who may or may not be transgender-identified or perceived as gender-nonconforming”. (Beauchamp 54) This plays into the complexity within transgender studies in relation to surveillance and security policies because it questions which bodies are recognized as legitimate and which bodies are seen as suspicious? It’s based on how gender normativity forms the expected norms of society. It also relates to how those who differ from the expected gender norms are compared to the ideals of whiteness, class privilege, and heterosexuality, which mostly makes up the dominant normativity.

Another good example from Siobhan Somerville and how not all gendered bodies easily fit into the defined dominant normativity. Somervillle mentioned how black people can be understood from historical context through medical aspect, and racial and cultural expression in connection to perceived abnormality, along with gender and sexuality. She mentions Plessy v. Ferguson legal case, which progressed racial segregation and caused a panic from the supposed sexual danger of white women from black men. The second example mentioned by Somerville is the history of Saartje Baartman during the mid-1800’s. Somerville “historicizes” Baartman in connection to the discussion of gender and sexuality from a medical context, racial and cultural aspects. These two examples illustrate how perceived gender normativity is not only related to gender, but also in connection to race, class, sexuality and nationality.

Transgender studies provide a an important contribution to the ways of how the state surveillance strategy are understood and interpreted. Normalizing gender can be analyzed from medico-legal surveillance. We can think through how state surveillance affect gendered bodies “in terms of medical and psychiatric monitoring of trans people.” (Beauchamp 47) It also relates to how legal gender is defined in relation to medicine and law. Spade argued how medicine and law work together as a way to “correct” people whose body or gender presentation doesn’t fit the expected gender normativity. (Beauchamp 48)

Whether or not a trans person or a gender-nonconforming person did go through medical intervention (such as sex reassignment surgery), it’s more important to think about the visibility strategy, the notion of “going stealth” or to claim status as a “good transgender citizen”. The visibility strategy is discussed by Sandy Stones. (Beauchamp 52) If trans people remain visible and not erase their trans status, then there is a way to overcome how transpeople may be perceived as deviant. A counter discourse, such as the analysis of intersectionality of recognition can be studied and analyzed more if trans people do remain visible, making their trans status not erased from their (sex) history. This way issues such as oppression of trans people can be analyzed from intersectional of recognition based on its connection to differences of race, gender, sex, class, age, and ability.  It’s important to realize that no single form of oppression is the root cause, as explained by Richard M. Juang from his article “Transgendering the Politics of Recognition”. This is why the ALP found it especially important to recognize and unite diverse communities to overcome multiple issues, such as oppression and discrimination.

The notion of legitimacy is the assimilation to be a “good transgender citizen”, in order to escape state surveillance. (Beauchamp) This way, “going stealth” doesn’t mean erasing one’s trans status, but instead means being a “good citizen, a patriotic American — erasing any signs of similarity with the deviant, deceptive terrorist”. (Beauchamp 54) Going stealth and maintaining one’s trans status is placed very far away and differentiated from being labeled “deviant”. This is also a way to shift the importance of protecting trans people from state violence, (and from other types of violence), and to have organizations focus more on protecting the whole nation from terrorists/acts of terrorism.

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Audre Lorde Project

  1. Hey Vivian! I really took interest in your blog post presentation particularly because I am a huge fan of Audre Lorde. I think she a phenomenal representation of how to use the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality as a means to strengthen LGBTQ scholarship and activism. Also, being such a huge advocate for intersectionality I think it is important that there are organizations like the Audre Lorde Project to provide a safe space for these LGBTSTGNC people of color communities. Considering how very unique their struggles are, it’s important that we acknowledge this as a means to perform proper modes of resistance to discrimination as well as proper forms of activism. Essentially I agree with your statement that said “it’s important to organize a coalition to unite diverse communities to work together on their multiple issues and to not polarize them, in order to not create marginalized groups.” Certain marginalized groups ARE more susceptible to oppression and discrimination just because of the way intersectionality influences their experiences. This is of course not to say that anyone’s oppression is more important or worse than someone else’s. I think it is important to remember that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression are deeply embedded in institutions like our schools, health system, government, etc. When we acknowledge the unique experiences of these groups of people we can more effectively tackle these forms of oppression. For example, LGBTSTGNC people of color are more likely to have limited access to health care. There are a variety of variables that influence this such as the environmental conditions in which these people live, which is also affected by their race, sex, class, gender, and sexuality. All of these individuals are marginalized within the margins and if we do not pay attention to these differences then we cannot effectively act upon liberating them from these oppressive institutions. Overall I really enjoyed the connections you made to the reading and enjoyed your post!

    • Thank you so much for enjoying my post, Jasmarie! It’s definitely important to acknowledge those differences/multiple issues, in order to liberate individuals who are marginalized from the oppressive institutions that you have mentioned from your comment.
      And I’m hoping to read more of Audre Lorde’s works, especially her poetry. Can’t wait! I’ll just add it to my long book/reading list. Lol!

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