All posts for the month January, 2013

Holocaust Memorial Day, lessons for today

Published January 27, 2013 by Katy J Went

Today (27th January) is Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering not only the Jewish holocaust but others besides. The Holocaust (from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustoshólos, “whole” and kaustós, “burnt” also known as the Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, HaShoah, “catastrophe”). Within the attempted genocide (wiping out of a whole genus/people group) of the Jews, there were attempts to exterminate other ‘imperfects’ such as the Romany, people with disabilities, communists, and gays.

After a decade of turning a liberal blind eye to LGBTIQ expression (particularly in Berlin) the advent of the Nazis changed Germany. In 1933 research into sexology (homosexuality & transsexuality) was ended after the looting of the Sexological Institute by the Nazis. Founded in 1919, the Institute had been set up by the outspoken gay and Jewish activist Magnus Hirschfield, a world-renowned expert in the emerging discipline of sexology. During its existence, thousands of patients were seen and ‘treated’, often for free. The Institute also achieved a global reputation for its pioneering work on the understanding of transsexuality and call for LGBTIQ equality. In 1935 Germany strengthened the anti-homosexual law by which gays were knows as 175ers after paragraph 175 of the German law under which homosexuality had been condemned since 1871. Tens of thousands were sent to mental asylums or concentration camps and/or tortured for their sexuality; hundreds were castrated under court order or coercion. In the camps gay prisoners’ were made to wear pink triangles to identify them, often marking them out for additional persecution. Lesbian groups and associations were closed down but the women were not imprisoned as they were still considered capable of Aryan ‘breeding’, though nobody wanted the gay men to ‘breed’, up to a million were thought to exist lacking the German archetype “masculinity” and who were instead considered “degenerate” and “parasites”.

Other groups singled out for elimination were the physically disabled and/or those with mental health issues, up to 200,000 of the latter are estimated to have been murdered both in and outside of hospitals and institutions. Known as the T4 program (named after Tiergartenstraße 4, the address of the HQ of the General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care) and running from 1939-1941 they forcible sterilized another 300,000 with the consent and participation of the psychiatric profession. 

The Nazi ideology of cleansing their gene pool of ‘inferior’ peoples and persecuting society’s ‘weaker’ elements was made possible by their propaganda machine and an innate distrust of difference already present within the general population. This “fostered public acceptance of state-sponsored intolerance and brutality”. A lesson for today in countries affected by the now 6 year long credit crunch and austerity crisis as governments, commentators and groups, look for scapegoats to blame, persecute and save spending on. Now is the time to protect not persecute the most vulnerable members of society. The measure of a society can be seen in how it treats its least member, not how well the majority are doing.



11 year old trans girl Sadie reminds the President Obama what ‘full’ inclusion and equality for ‘all’ mean

Published January 24, 2013 by Katy J Went

Words of wisdom and a personal plea from an 11 year old trans girl to the US President. 

‎”Sadie was so proud of President Obama for including the gay community in his inaugural address on Monday; however, she felt like the trans community wasn’t included,” Sage, Sadie’s mother, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “That inspired her to write her own ‘speech.'”

President Obama made history during his Inauguration Speech on 21 January 2013 when he said everyone should have equal rights under the law:

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls [the influential women’s-rights Convention, probably the first to be organized by women in the West], and Selma [1965 Black rights marches on the Alabama capitol], and Stonewall [1969 LGBT uprising]…”

The US President continued:

“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

This the first time that a US president has addressed gay rights during an inauguration speech, but the trans community hoped that he would have gone further and been even more inclusive after mentioning women, Afro-Americans, gays and lesbians and the Stonewall uprising. Trans were a significant if not majority presence at Stonewall. The 1969 homophobic and transphobic NYPD police raid on a bar featured a large proportion of trans people including Afro-American trans and drag queens, and yet both trans and non-Caucasians have been somewhat airbrushed out of this part of LGBT history, not only by politicians but by the gay community and LGB historians. 

It’s a great start and Obama is the best President yet in that department (Clinton was pro-LGBT too), however, some trans have been waiting 44 years for recognition of their leading involvement in Stonewall (it was after all, in part, the NYC ordinance prohibiting wearing more than 3 items of women’s clothing that gave the dubious basis in US law for the raid on the Stonewall Inn – ie it was transphobic & dragphobic repression). 



It is a shame that many LGB/T organisations such as Stonewall England & Wales (Scotland is more inclusive) forget that you can’t spell S’onewall without a ‘t’. Neglecting trans rights on the basis that it would ‘drag’ the process because we are less politically acceptable could be classed as short-term practical expediency, but 44 years? Take the UK Equal Marriage campaign, no mention of trans, who have to divorce to transition, just of gays and straights. No mention of intersex at all. 


Now an 11 year old kid reminds us was true inclusion means. Sadie’s speech in full:  

“The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves, including people who have a creative gender identity and expression. Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job, and even make friends.


Transgender kids like me are not allowed to go to most schools because the teachers think we are different from everyone else. The schools get afraid of how they will talk with the other kids’ parents, and transgender kids are kept secret or told not to come there anymore. Kids are told not to be friends with transgender kids, which makes us very lonely and sad.

When they grow up, transgender adults have a hard time getting a job because the boss thinks the customers will be scared away. Doctors are afraid of treating transgender patients because they don’t know how to take care of them, and some doctors don’t really want to help them. Transgender patients like me travel to other states to see a good doctor.
It would be a better world if everyone knew that transgender people have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. We like to make friends and want to go to school. Transgender people want to get good jobs and go to doctors like they are exactly the same. It really isn’t that hard to like transgender people because we are like everyone else.”


Sadie transitioned from male to female in kindergarten, was then home schooled until recently and is now in public school fifth grade. Her mother is supportive and actively encouraged her to write the ‘essay’ to help her express herself. With affirmation at home, she has remained confident despite open discrimination and according to her mother, Sage:

“isn’t shy or ashamed of who she is,” who adds, “I’m always ‘on’ when we go out because I never know when she’ll strike up a conversation with the person in front of her in line at Trader Joe’s. When she chats with people, she introduces herself as, ‘Hi, I’m Sadie, my favorite color is pink, I’m vegan, and I’m transgender. Who are you?'”

Discrimination does not exist in the womb, being transgender does. It is great when young people teach adults a lesson in history, identity and hope.