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January 2, 2015
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January 10, 2015

Community Responsibility

Yesterday, we, the TransAdvocate editorial team, learned that Alison Woolbert, an anti-violence trans activist who gained a measure of prominence in 2014, was convicted of a sexual assault 23 years ago. We were gratified to learn that Woolbert submitted a resignation letter to an anti-violence organization that she led; however, we are alarmed that the organization declined to accept her resignation.

Woolbert’s criminal history was disclosed to the TransAdvocate editorial team by freelance writers Emmagene Kaytlyn Cronin and Laurelai Bailey, new-media journalists who were working on an investigative piece. The investigation was undertaken because of concerns raised by a number of trans community members regarding the professional activities of the Transgender Human Rights Institute and Transgender Violence Tracking Portal.

Soon after learning of this investigative team’s efforts, Woolbert issued a statement in which she said:

Today, some individuals have discovered an abhorrent time in my past and have threatened to release the public information they found.  I would prefer that this information come from me directly.  The work of equality for all transgender people should not be tarnished solely based on a crime that I committed when I was a different person in my twenties.

Twenty three years ago, I committed unconscionable behavior as a human being.  I confessed and plead guilty to my crime asking only for treatment to insure that it could never happen again.  After four years of incarceration and therapy, the treatment was successful.

I have been very careful over the past many years never to speak about the past due to the potential of re-traumatizing or have others inflicting harm on the victim, a family member, who certainly does not deserve any further harm, media attention or victimization.

I cannot change my past which has weighed on me heavily over the past twenty three years. I have since worked hard to rebuild my life and become a good and responsible citizen endeavoring to be a positive influence wherever possible to fight for human rights and dignity.    I believe that I have fulfilled the punishment for my crime and have moved past it by being a better, stronger, self-aware and compassionate person.

I have offered my resignation to the Board of Trustees of the Transgender Human Rights Institute should they deem my present role as damaging to the organization in light of this revelation.  My commitment to human rights regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, religion, age,  etc is apparent in my life activities and it will not subside in the future.

As we endeavor towards the future, may we all have the human rights we deserve.

We at the TransAdvocate are committed to fact-checking, investigating and addressing issues affecting the transgender community. To that end, we felt the need to openly respond to Woolbert’s corroboration of the investigative team’s research as a validation of our team’s work. We reject Woolbert’s characterization of our team’s work as a “threat.” Not disclosing this relevant history is evincive of the types of claims that inspired our team to begin their investigation. The TransAdvocate’s editorial team believes full disclosure of potential problematic history is a necessary component of ethical community activism.

We, the TransAdvocate editorial team, feel that it was, and still is, inappropriate for Woolbert to involve herself in any anti-violence leadership capacity. Moreover, we feel it important to unequivocally state our support of our investigative team’s work. Transparency and evidence-based truths are essential to a robust, empowered and self-aware activist community.

Signed:

Monica Roberts, TransAdvocate Editor
Autumn Sandeen, TransAdvocate Editor
Cristan Williams, TransAdvocate Editor-in-Chief
Marti Abernathey, TransAdvocate Founding Editor

4 Comments

  1. Cristan says:

    Views: 21

    “I have been somewhat overwhelmed with J’s dominating conversations and manipulative style. J’s comments rarely bring any positive discussion and seem to frequently derail conversation. I feel like they threaten the safety of the group for the voices of transwomen and people of color.”  –  Complaint made to me from a PoC TCP group member yesterday

    Some Context:
    As many of you know, I’m involved with a historical project that seeks to uncover an erased trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory. This effort is called The Conversations Project (TCP). Here’s what TCP clearly says that its purpose is:
    From TCP’s “About” page
    I personally think that it’s important to reclaim the voices of those women who risked even physical violence (from TERFs) to make sure that that trans women were included in their fight for the liberation of all women. As a primer, check out the feminist courage that can be found in the trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory TCP is interested in examining:
    Sex Essentialist Violence And Radical Inclusion: An Interview With Robin Tyler, Jan Osborn, and Michele Kammerer
    Questioning Sex Essentialism As Feminist Practice: An Interview With Janis Walworth
    Sex Essentialist Violence And Radical Inclusion: An Interview With Sandy Stone
    In upcoming interviews, you’ll hear how a Black Lesbian radical feminist MichFest ride organizer related to Camp Trans. You’ll hear how TERFs destroyed one of the early militant radical feminist groups. In fact, there’s a year’s worth of upcoming interviews still to come.
    As a historian, it’s hugely problematic that these stories appear nowhere else in feminist hirstory. Instead, we (especially trans people) are taught to believe that “radical feminism” is anti-trans and that “radical feminists” are transphobic. Such narratives go a long way towards erasing the very real courage of radical feminist women who risked their groups, organizations, and even put their own bodies in harm’s way to ensure that their feminism was trans inclusive. That courage should have its place in feminist hirstory.
    Some disagree. Some, in the name of “radical feminism,” think those voices need to remain lost; they say time spent examining those voices is wasted time.

    Quick Glossary
    GQ: Genderqueer
    IS: Intersex
    MAAB: Male Assigned At Birth
    NB: Non-Binary
    Primary Emergency: This is the term Andrea Dworkin used to language the primary problem facing the trans community. Andrea identified this problem as being exclusion from the women’s liberation movement.
    SET: Sex Essentialist Theorist
    TCP: The Conversations Project
    TERF: Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist; a feminist term used to acknowledge that some “radical feminist” identified people seek to exclude trans people from some/all aspects of the women’s liberation movement.Show All 8 TermsShow less
    The Internet Drama
    Here’s the long and short of a drama that’s been unfolding around TCP for months now. The project has a FaceBook group whose purpose is quite clearly spelled out:
    The pinned TCP FB group guidelines.
    Part of TCP is the serialized publication of a discussion between John Stoltenberg and I that began more than a year ago. This conversation is important because it represents a trans feminist and a radical feminist (finally) coming together to have an in-depth talk about radical and trans feminist hirstory and how that hirstory has affected the lives of just about every trans person in America. Through that context, a lot of radical and trans feminist content is covered. I know of no other book-length discussion like this. In some significant ways, this is what reconciliation between radical and trans feminism looks like.
    John Stoltenberg is a radical feminist author and was the life partner of Andrea Dworkin. That John would be willing to break ranks and engage in a conversation like this with me, a trans woman and editor of the TransAdvocate, has been viewed as (in certain circles) a heresy of the highest order. For John’s (perceived) betrayal, TERFs have spent the last couple of months character assassinating John. Here are the basic BS criticisms of John and, of course, TCP:
    John didn’t really know Andrea the way that her friends knew her. A couple of people who knew Andrea (and who tends to think that Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys had powerful insights into what they call “transgenderism” and “transgender ideology”), think that they, not her life partner were privy to Andrea’s true feelings towards trans folk.
    A friend of Andrea used Andrea to submit her anti-trans screed to a publisher who rejected it and this proves that she was anti-trans. Nikki Craft asked Andrea to please submit Nikki’s anti-trans essay to Psychology Today. Because Andrea did this for her friend, this proves that, contrary to what Andrea herself wrote, Andrea was anti-trans. Moreover, passing along an essay, means that Andrea actually co-wrote the essay. Yup, physically touching a paper to hand it off to someone else is apparently now enough to bestow full co-author status to Andrea, thus proving that Andrea didn’t support trans people accessing trans health care.
    Talking about what Andrea wrote in Woman Hating about trans folk is wrong because Andrea actually later repudiated it. Where? Nobody seems to be able to actually point to anything specific, but I’m told that if I “read Dworkin’s other books” (which I have, more than once) I’ll see that this is true.
    People of color won’t participate in TCP because it’s all about white people. (*cough* quote at the beginning of this post *cough*)
    I’m not going to innumerate that attacks against me because they’re just the same stuff TS Separatists used to say about me when I was researching “transgender.” Except now they’re saying it about “radical feminism.” Basically, it’s all different shades of this nonsense:
    “Cristan is a MAN and MUST be hiding something!!!! Also, let’s pretend that the TransAdvocate didn’t out the Woolbert story!!!”So, Julian Real is someone who has been publicly open about being a member of TCP group. Julian is also a supporter of the cis woman who’s promulgating many of the above claims. After numerous group member complaints and innumerable moderation incidents relating to Julian’s posturing within the group, Julian was recently removed from the group by unanimous consensus of all six group moderators.  As a result, Julian (a white non-trans woman MAAB) is now running around bemoaning TCP’s purpose and talking up how much more radical and feminist their understanding of everything is and how the voices of TCP are really just neoliberal pablum.
    So, for the record, here’s how things went down:
    Julian attacked a commentary about a specific passage in a specific book that was written in a specific historical context… for not being commentary about something other than that specific passage of that specific book in that specific historical context. Then, after being confronted for trying to derail yet another group conversation, Julian began to again posture in the group. Here’s the response to Julian’s behavior that I posted:

    Your reply is erasure from a place of privilege.
    You’ve privileged yourself in deciding for poor trans women of color that exclusion -as full Sisters- from the women’s liberation movement should be subordinate to you ideas of how to overcome “capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy” (as if we’re talking about fundamentally different things). The irony is that you rhetorically subordinate their inclusion from women’s liberation from an asserted position of speaking *for* them. It’s sometimes a bit like hearing the rich of the USSR tell the poor -in the name of anti-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy- that work will make them free.
    Your persistent effort to, in violation of the boundaries of this group, advocate that its members should to spend their group time thinking about the rationals SET “feminists” cite when projecting, popularizing, and promoting their anti-trans fears, anxieties, and animus is an act of hostility against this group and its membership. Moreover, it’s an act of profound disrespect for group, the group members and the erased, hidden, and silenced inclusive radical feminist hirstories we meet here to respect.
    I 100% reject your premise that focusing our group on the radical feminism that bravely fought to include trans women as Sisters in women’s liberation = being pro-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy. Additionally, I think the fact that you are not a trans women whose existence has been defined by the (as you privilege yourself in seeing it, irrelevant) actions of a “few white lesbians” (as you call it), contributes to the problematic ways you’ve engaged in this group. While I also reject this characterization as being patently false, that you state it as fact provides some insight into the place of (apparent) unexamined privilege you engage from.
    As a trans woman who lived through the deaths and hardships caused by the very ideology you claim must be considered, in the name of life and liberation no less, I experience your verbal gesticulations as a (possibly clueless) hubris born of privilege that is very toxic.
    It’s not only me that experiences your privilege as toxic, numerous individuals of various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have, since your arrival in this group, contacted mods to express exasperation with the position/way you approach group participation. In fact, I’ve noticed that we’ve lost members and that *many* others no longer participate.
    It’s not that people are turned off by the theory you sometimes share. I very much enjoy some of the books, resources, etc. that you share. I think they enrich the experience of this group. That’s not the problem that I and others have with your participation… It’s the way you privilege yourself to define for others what their primary emergency is that’s the issue. From what I see, the fact that you’ve not shared that primary emergency seems to color much of the way you interact with this group.

    It’s ridiculous
    At this point, I find the sound and fury coming from the side that wants TCP to just go away ridiculous. It’s a bunch of wasted time and energy. Do these people really think that we’re going to stop interviewing the people who were on the ground in the 70s and 80s? Do they think we’re just going to stop publishing those hirstories?
    If anything, as evidenced by this very post, their hyperbole just brings attention to the very thing they wish to mandate out of existence. Yes, their blogosphere chamber might well echo, but really… Why lie about Andrea co-authoring anti-trans screeds? Why spend months personally attacking and defaming John? Why use (as in, appropriate) the oppression and pain of POC as a tool to disrupt conversations about silenced feminist hirstory? How does any of these online teapot tempests advance the liberation of women as a sex class? How can they claim to do all of this in the name of feminism?

    Personally, all of this feels very familiar to me. It feels a lot like the pushback I faced when researching the history of “transgender”. When I was researching the history of “transgender,” the demonstrable historical record conflicted with the history a certain identity was founded upon and they attacked. Now I’m researching the historical narrative that asserts “radical feminism” wants to mandate trans bodies out of existence. Both John and I have faced significant pushback for our efforts.
    Even so, I expect that what will happen is that, regardless of these attacks, this hirstory will become part of the feminist hirstorical record. I expect that it will become harder for international news outlets to propagate the false narrative that “radical feminism” is anti-trans. I expect that those who are fighting to keep an erased feminist hirstory eradicated will find that people are actually interested in what these silenced voices have to say:
    Presenting on The Conversations Project at Rice UniversitySo, hopefully this will be my one and only post regarding the hyperbole spewing from a certain section of the internet.

  2. […] is accurate, fair and thorough.” The TransAdvocate reiterated this when they released their Community Responsibility statement on January 8th. “Transparency and evidence-based truths are essential to a robust, […]

  3. […] failure-laden white masters who serve us poorly. People who mismanage our activism like Gwen Smith, Allison Woolbert, and their ilk are actively harming trans women by promoting a monoculture, refusing to allow […]

  4. Dee Omally says:

    “The investigation was undertaken because of concerns raised by a number of trans community members regarding the professional activities of the Transgender Human Rights Institute and Transgender Violence Tracking Portal.”

    Ok….what were the “concerns”? Lacking detail, I reserve criticism in either direction but for now I will add this:

    I treasure and cherish the work that TA does and has done. Although I am often long-winded, this is why I do most of my commenting here.

    With a lengthy background in public safety, including the removal of sex perps from society, I learned that such perpetrators are so deviant that there sexual impulses are beyond their ability to control. Rap sheets show a history of repeated offenses, known as recidivism. Many who lack maturity and under influence of drugs or alcohol, find themselves running afoul of the law. Sexual crimes are indeed violent crimes, however any sexual tryst can quickly go wrong, resulting in criminal charges if consent was not given but understood to have been given.

    It is not uncommon for perpetrators who committed misdeeds to repent after learning a harsh lesson. This is far from being a recidivist criminal, however repugnant the crime might have been. It is crucial to make this distinction. Indeed many with a criminal history go forward successfully, successfully rehabilitated by their own efforts. The common and accurate measure of this is none other than time itself. A 23 year clean history stands as proof of rehabilitation.

    Insofar as leading a transviolence reporting site, it would be the prerogative of the members to decide how to proceed. Although undoubtedly TERFS will take this two-decade history and use it as cannonballs against us, with a 23 year clean history, there would be little bite to that bark.

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