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Identity policing

While I very much appreciated your transgender coverage (NI 486), I wanted to make a few points.

First, cis-trans is a binary that not everyone belongs in. Many people who are not cis (because of being, for example, genderqueer, non-binary, intersex) do not consider themselves trans, and do not appreciate having transness thrust upon them by others – it means very different things to different people. A fundamental aspect of respecting gender diversity is not to fall into the subtle trap of ‘identity policing’, where a person feels they have a right to police someone else’s identity or choice of labels to define themselves. It’s always best to ask before imposing labels.
I also think the head/heart/groin graphic to illustrate the difference between gender, sexual orientation and sex is a dreadful oversimplification, and itself an example of identity policing, in that it reduces the validity of someone’s sexual identity to what’s between their legs.

Padmavyuha Green Devon, England

Equals all

Congratulations on your issue (NI 486) focusing on the plight of trans people around the world. Vanessa Baird’s excellent article deftly articulates the effects of the heterocentrism that pervades society. 

Until trans people are celebrated and respected as absolute equals, continued vigilance is required by all. 

David Andrew Paddington, Australia

Acceptable alternative

‘Per’ is an acceptable non gender-specific pronoun alternative. An abbreviation of person, it can be used in place of he/she/him/her, and perself rather than himself/herself.

Christie Elan-Cane via our website

All eyes on Australia

Thank you for your edition on Syria (NI 485). Australia has volunteered to take 12,000 people from Syria and Iraq, after much public pressure that broke through the anti-refugee rhetoric of our government. The Labor ‘opposition’ has supported the anti-refugee policies of the government. 

In August 2013 the government said that future asylum-seekers arriving by boat would not be resettled in Australia. This was part of a game both sides of politics have been playing to ‘put the people-smugglers out of business’.

The worst off are those in ‘offshore’ camps on Nauru and on Manus Island (part of Papua New Guinea). There are about 1,600 people on those two camps, with families on Nauru and only men on Manus Island. These two are notoriously isolated and poorly run, with terrible living conditions. In March the UN said that the Nauru detention centre breached anti-torture conventions. The Moss Inquiry found sexual assaults have taken place on Nauru. On Manus, one inmate, Reza Barati, 23 years old, was murdered, probably by a guard. Attempted and completed suicides are common. Some 2,000 asylum seekers are ‘detained’ in the other Australian camps.

For those who arrived by boat after the beginning of August 2013 there has been literally nowhere to go. There has been next to no resettlement on Nauru, none on Manus, and a bizarre arrangement for Cambodia to take a small number of people, four of them, and the Cambodian government was paid $50 million.

So people’s spirits are being broken by indefinite detention, with no end in sight. The camps, those offshore and around mainland Australia, and on Christmas Island (part of Australia) are run by private companies such as Transfield, that are interested in profits and not the welfare of the inmates. Remember that these people have done nothing wrong. They have come to a country, a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, that they thought would help them.

As well as this, boats of desperate people have been towed back to Indonesian waters. Sri Lankan Tamils have been handed back to Sri Lanka (‘refoulement’).

It is up to us, as activists in Australia, to pressure our government to live up to its international obligations. We are up against the largely supine mass media that accepts the government’s deceptions. ‘Detention’ of asylum-seekers arriving by boat has been ‘normalized’, it has been going on for so long. I would ask activists overseas to make their feelings known to our government. Please, NI readers, write to our embassies. Australia deserves the reputation that Hungary seems to have cultivated. Australia needs to know that, as well as the pressure for change from inside, the world is watching.

Stephen Langford Paddington, Australia

Loving a leader

Re: ‘I love you, and you love 20 million people’, NI 485.

How to make sense out of loving a spiritual, political, economic, creative or other leader? They are kings and queens among us. In the film Frida there is one answer. When asked how she could love Diego Rivera given all of who he was, Frida Kahlo replied: ‘I love him for who he is. I cannot love him for who he’s not.’ Ain’t love grand?

Rita via our website

No entry

New Internationalist has never masked its antipathy to the Christian faith and one assumed that this was based on a detailed study of its teachings. Your September issue (Only Planet cartoon, NI 485) has demonstrated that this assumption was mistaken. When the founder of the Christian faith was detailing who could enter heaven he made it quite clear that it would be more difficult for a rich man to gain entry than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. But the depiction in the cartoon of that heaven as only being accessible to millionaires demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of the religion which you decry. It is disturbing to find that NI bases its opinions on prejudice rather than knowledge.

Stephen Carr Zomba, Malawi