Trans Rights, Representation, and Remembrance With Kate Sosin | Crooked Media
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November 18, 2021
What A Day
Trans Rights, Representation, and Remembrance With Kate Sosin

In This Episode

  • This week is Trans Awareness Week, leading up to the Trans Day of Remembrance on Saturday. This year is particularly important because 2021 is the deadliest year on record for trans and nonbinary people in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign. Kate Sosin, the LGBTQ+ Reporter for the non-profit news organization, The 19th, joins us to discuss the rights and safety of trans people in America, among other trans news.
  • And in headlines: tensions at the border between Belarus and Poland temporarily eased, two men found guilty of assassinating Malcolm X in 1965 are expected to be exonerated today, and President Biden unveiled a plan to drastically increase the country’s investment in coronavirus vaccines.

 

Show Notes

 

 

Transcript

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, November 18th. I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day by Crypto.com, the podcast, formerly known as What A Day by Staples.

 

Gideon Resnick: While we will miss the free office supplies, we’re excited to learn more about our new partners at Crypto.com, starting with what exactly it is that they do.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Other than printing T-shirts that say Crypto.com, I honestly have no idea. On today’s show, some migrants at the border of Belarus and Poland were finally moved to shelters. Plus, President Biden announced a plan for the U.S. to produce a billion COVID vaccines starting at the end of next year.

 

Gideon Resnick: But first, we’re going to focus on the rights and safety of trans people in America. And Tre’vell. This is all the more important because of a deeply tragic stat that we talked about last week.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so 2021 became the deadliest year on record for trans and non-binary people in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign. It said at least 45 trans and gender non-conforming people have been killed this year, and we say at least because trans deaths are often undercounted because they go unreported or misreported by police, the media and medical professionals.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it’s more than just violence. I mean, how else do trans people face numerous adversities in America?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So the lived experience for the trans community, especially those of us Black and brown, has only become more precarious as we continue to be more likely to be unemployed, in poverty, and to lack adequate affirming health care than our counterparts. But trans people are here, we have always been, and we are fighting for our right to survive and thrive. Take a listen.

 

[Speaker 1] Countless lives, countless trans people’s lives are destroyed every day and no one says a thing. But here we are, still in our power, still in our resilience.

 

[Speaker 2] These trans youth just want to participate with their friends and play sport just like everyone else.

 

[Speaker 3] You know, I think that trans youth are very vulnerable. They have often faced significant bullying and harassment, and they need our support.

 

Gideon Resnick: So that brings us to now. This week is Trans Awareness Week, leading up to the Trans Day of Remembrance on Saturday. So what does that all mean for the community?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It really marks an important time of reflection, especially given how the last year has been an emotional roller coaster of sorts. So Gideon earlier this week, I talked with someone who’s been on the frontlines of covering this all. Kate Sosin is the LGBTQ+ reporter for the nonprofit news organization The 19th. We started off our conversation talking about Rita Hester. She was a Black trans woman whose murder on November 28th, 1998 sparked the first transgender day of remembrance. 23 years later, her murder has never been solved, even though her legacy has been cemented in this way. I asked Kate, what does this say about the moment we’re currently in?

 

Kate Sosin: I think it’s really important to bring up Rita’s legacy. Rita was really beloved. And she died within two weeks of Matthew Shepard, but most of us don’t know Rita Hester’s name, and she sparked this international movement of Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s the reason why we count transgender homicides, where there has been this movement of remembering. Her murder was never solved, and if we can’t solve this first trans homicide, you know, the question has always been, what does that say about every other trans homicide that has come after?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely. Back in 2019, I believe it was, the American Medical Association called the violence that trans people face an epidemic. Could you talk about like what makes it so hard, apparently, to get justice or even basic safety and compassion for trans folks?

 

Kate Sosin: Yeah, it’s so funny that we call it an epidemic because I feel like we’ve run out of words for how to categorize this violence.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.

 

Kate Sosin: I’ve seen reporting that says that Black trans women are four times more likely to be murdered than their cisgender peers. How do we ring an alarm bell loud enough at this point? Like, it’s hard to capture the level of violence that trans women, Black trans women in particular, are facing.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: 2021 has been a landmark year for Republicans trying to pass anti-LGBTQ legislation, anti-trans legislation specifically. We’ve mentioned the state bills restricting which sports teams trans youth can play on on the show, as well as bills criminalizing trans-affirming health care. Talk to us a little bit about the political landscape as it relates to trans rights.

 

Kate Sosin: Yeah. So in 2020, we saw an unprecedented number of anti-trans bills, but they got sort of halted by COVID, right? So we only saw these two pass, and then COVID shut down statehouses. So we were sort of bracing for another wave of anti-trans legislation, and that’s exactly what happened. All these anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced into state houses, many of them targeting trans youth. And the two kinds of bills that we saw, one were these anti-trans sports bills mostly targeting trans girls wanting to play after school sports, and the other was targeting trans kids wanting to access gender-affirming medical care. So this pauses puberty until you’re old enough to decide if you want to transition or not. Only one of those trans medical bans passed, in Arkansas, and nine anti-trans sports bills we saw pass. And that doesn’t take into account all the other anti-LGBTQ measures that we saw. We had a lot of anti-LGBTQ measures slipped through in like COVID church bills. So exemptions for turning people away in terms of like religious liberties that were slipped in. What this is done that’s really important to note is many people expected it to be the year when we saw the Equality Act passed. The Equality Act would have been federal legislation that would have provided blanket protections across the country for LGBTQ people in many parts of the country. It is still legal to fire someone if they are gay, if they are transgender, to turn someone away from housing, public accommodations, to discriminate against someone. And most of us don’t realize that. We think it feels wrong, then it should be illegal. But that’s not the case. And this blanket protection was on the books to be passed this year but because this legislation moved so quickly, had so much support, it moved the playing field for this other legislation, and it really looks like the Equality Act is not going to move this year.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, one of the things that stands out to me from a recent piece that you wrote, you note that out of 102 anti-trans bills, that in seven states that you all looked at, the word transgender only appears eight times in all of those many bills. I’m wondering, like, what should something like that tell us about these efforts that we’re seeing unfold?

 

Kate Sosin: Yeah, I think this is something that was really interesting in the reporting that we found, which is that all of these anti-trans bills don’t actually name the thing that they’re legislating, which is particularly strange. Advocates argue that this lack of naming is an effort to dehumanize transgender people, right? If you don’t acknowledge, that it doesn’t exist, it won’t be real. And then the other consequence of that sometimes is if you’re doing a ballot measure and you won’t name transgender people, people become confused. No one wants to vote against a transgender person. That’s a protected class of people. A lot of us know of a transgender person. But they will vote against a man going into a little girl’s bathroom. That language feels alarming, right? Like, and advocates are like everyone wants to vote against that. But that confuses an issue, right?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. Which is odd, but also seems very purposeful and intentional, right? So I want to switch gears slightly just a little bit. The last time we had you on the show was to talk about Netflix and the Dave Chappelle foolishness around his latest comedy special, The Closer. Kate, could you give us a little bit of an update of where we are with that? Because I know there’s been a number of developments.

 

Kate Sosin: Yeah, so two employees, of course, have filed for retaliatory action. The other piece of this that I think is interesting but not explored that we sort of dug into it at The 19th is this issue of ERGs. So before Netflix ever hit this problem, they actually had a tool in place, which was an Employee Resource Group, and this group was basically formed by employees who wanted a greater stake in issues happening at Netflix. Whether that was they couldn’t get health insurance that was supportive or support at work for changing their IDs. And then sometimes there were content issues that arose. What happened with that Employee Resource Group, though, is that it started doing some of the functions that an H.R. department would do, and for some people, that was 30 to 50% of their jobs. So you would have a software engineer who was paid to be doing software stuff for Netflix, and they’re actually doing human resource functions that they’re not really trained for, but they are trans so that’s, their function is to be trans at Netflix. And so I think when Netflix put the special out, it was a special slap in the face to a lot of trans employees that they just did this without the consultation of an ERG that they were already over-reliant on. And so I think there’s a big question about what is Netflix going to do now that they have essentially circumvented this ERG that they were relying on for labor that they were not hired to do.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It seems like this issue isn’t going away. We’ve seen queer and trans Employee Resource Groups at other tech companies release statements or do demonstrations in solidarity with the Netflix employees. So I guess we will all stay tuned for that. But 2021 hasn’t been uniformly trash for our community. All of the stuff that we’re talking about is occurring while we are experiencing unprecedented visibility in pop culture. We added Michaela Jae Rodriguez from Pose became the first trans performer to receive an Emmy nomination in the lead acting categories earlier this year. Brian Michael Smith just last week became the first trans man featured on people’s Sexiest Man Alive list—shout out to him. And then earlier this year, Demi Lovato and Elliot Page both came out as non-binary. I’m wondering what other like positives or gains do you feel like we’ve had as a community this year that you like to highlight?

 

Kate Sosin: Wow. Yeah, this feels like the longest you’re ever now that you’ve named those things. Look, you know, we are in a different position politically than we were. It’s unmistakable that this presidential administration looks at LGBTQ people differently. We’re not talking about erasing transgender people off the face of the country, so it does feel like a different time.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely. One of the things we like to do on WAD is tell people like how they can help, like move the needle with some of these issues. And so for all the cis people who are listening to us, in what ways come to mind for you that they can and should be showing up for trans folks.

 

Kate Sosin: Practice using lots of different pronouns. And I would say read about trans lives and trans history and educate yourself.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I want to talk a little bit about trans joy. I’d love to know who or what in community has given you joy this year.

 

Kate Sosin: Oh, I feel like I have so much trans joy. One thing that has really given me a lot of trans joy is just seeing so many brilliant trans journalists, like yourself and others, but like up and coming folks really sort of spread their wings this year and come out and report. And I feel like media is changing and making space and growing in ways that are very important.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That’s my chat with Kate Sosin, the LGBTQ+ reporter for the nonprofit news organization The 19th.

 

Gideon Resnick: And I’m so glad that they could join us. We’ll have links to resources in our show notes so people can learn, support trans folks and more. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.

 

[ad break]

 

Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.

 

[sung] Headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: Tensions at the border between Belarus and Poland temporarily eased yesterday, when Belarus bused some migrants to a nearby warehouse for shelter from the cold. Since November 9th, thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have gathered at the border in hopes of entering the EU through Poland. European leaders accuse Belarussin President Aleksandr Lukashenko of weaponizing these migrants to punish their countries for imposing sanctions and harboring his opponents. And yesterday, Lukashenko also slowed down a pipeline in his country that transported oil from Russia to the EU. Meanwhile, in Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on Wednesday for a three-day trip to address several different crises on the continent. There’s a civil war in Ethiopia between the ruling government and the political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The UN says authorities have arrested at least 1,000 people of Tigrayan descent in the past two weeks. And in Sudan yesterday, Reuters reports that security forces killed at least 15 people in Khartoum who are protesting the October 25th military coup.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Two men found guilty of assassinating Malcolm X in 1965 are expected to be exonerated today. Both Mohamed Aziz and Khalil Islam spent more than 20 years in prison for killing the civil rights leader. But a recent biography and a Netflix documentary sparked a 22-month review of their cases by their lawyers and the Manhattan DA’s office. That investigation found that both the FBI and NYPD withheld key evidence that could have led to the men’s acquittal. One of the men’s lawyers said to the New York Times quote, “This wasn’t a mere oversight. This was a product of extreme and gross official misconduct.” Muhammad Aziz was released from prison in 1985 and is 83 today. But Khalil Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009.

 

Gideon Resnick: That is unbelievable. Wow. A million vaccines isn’t cool. Do you know what’s cool? A billion vaccines. That is right. This week, President Biden unveiled a plan to drastically increase the US’s investment in coronavirus vaccines, with the goal of producing at least one billion doses a year domestically beginning in the back half of 2022. This step is the first of many in the Biden administration’s new plan announced Wednesday to work with the pharmaceutical industry to address vaccine needs both domestically and overseas, as well as to prepare for future pandemics. Nope, going to erase that one. Among the goals of the administration is to have vaccine capability within six to nine months of identification of a pandemic pathogen. So hold on to that sour dough starter kit, folks. It’s grim. While activists say this is a step in the right direction, some are wary of the plan’s dependence on the private sector. But like a maid of honor hosting a bachelorette bar crawl in Nashville, we can all agree that more shots are a very good thing.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, more shots, please. Thank you. On Wednesday, Congress banded together to pass an official “we’re not mad, we’re disappointed.” The U.S. House of Representatives censured one of its members for the first time in over a decade, formally rebuking Republican Paul Gosar for posting a crudely edited anime video showing his avatar killing Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before turning two swords on Joe Biden.

 

Gideon Resnick: Normal.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: If you haven’t seen the video—spoiler alert—it’s way more foolish than you expected. The vote was largely along party lines, with two Republicans joining the Democrats. This is the 24th time in Congress’s history the body has voted to censure a member, the last time being in 2010. The censure, which is basically a historically-documented “tsk tsk,” of course, worked immediately. Paul Gosar apologized to AOC, the American people, and anime fans everywhere. Just kidding. Gosar actually retweeted the video minutes after the vote. Glad to see he’s doing OK of course. It would take me way longer to recover if all my coworkers got together to vote on how much they hated one of my tweets.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Please never censure me over any post. But I also, I won’t post an anime video killing members of Congress. I can say that pretty confidently.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I hope so. OK?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s on record. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: check out today’s episode of Hysteria with Alyssa Mastromonaco and guest host Julissa Arce, where they discuss Alex Jones, Cuba, and Democratic efforts at immigration reform.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Plus, Representative Pramila Jayapal joins to talk about the Build Back Better Act and Democrats perpetual aversion to being in array. New episodes of Hysteria drop every Thursday. Listen and follow wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, censure your enemies, and tell your friends to listen.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: If you are into reading, and not just how to censure people in real life like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. Tre’vell Anderson.

 

Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

[together] And long live the Staples Center!

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s the better name. Come on.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Is it? Just kidding, just kidding.

 

Gideon Resnick: I don’t know. You know, whatever. Just, Crypto.com is not going to work for me. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein. And our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.