Demand ensues for open investigation into an Aboriginal trans death in custody in Sydney (Article by Rachel Evans)

May 31, 2010

On March 10, 2009, three days after the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 34-year-old Veronica Baxter was arrested by Redfern police. She was charged with six counts of supplying a prohibited drug and held on remand at the all-male NSW Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre.

Despite being a trans woman, she was placed in the maximum-security jail for men. Six days later, after a 14-hour break between checking her cell, she was found dead, hanging in her single cell.

Baxter was an Aboriginal woman from the Cunnamulla country, south- west of Queensland. She dressed, appeared, and had identified as a woman for 15 years and was known by family and friends as a woman.

Yet she was placed in a male jail against NSW government policy, which states that trans people be placed in the jail of their choosing.

Ray Jackson, president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association and elder of the Wiradguri nation, and has been fighting black deaths in custody for decades and campaigning around the Baxter case for a year.

He explained: “If trans people are post-operative transgender women, they are considered real women, and are placed within the women’s jail. If they are pre-operative transgender women, they are considered ‘male’ and are normally processed in a male jail.”

Trans people face a disproportionate amount of abuse, rape, and murder in jail. Consequently, in Australia, strict guidelines exist, requiring protective segregation of trans people from mainstream prisoners.

The Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 states “any person received into the custody of the NSW Department of Corrective Services (DCS) who self-identifies as transgender has the right to be housed in a correctional facility appropriate to their gender or identification”. It says: “Transgender inmates are to be managed according to their chosen gender of identification.”

Trans women normally request to get placed in women jails. “After processing in the male jail, pre-operative transgender women are then given an opportunity to go to a women’s jail, but have to stay in solitary confinement because they are still considered ‘male’”, Jackson said.

“Pre-operative transgender women won’t be in solitary confinement in a male jail, but they will suffer more harassment, assault and abuse.”

This policy discriminates against poor trans people. In Australia it costs up to $20,000 for a male-to-female sex/gender realignment surgery and up to $14,000 for a double mastectomy for a female-to-male trans person.

Baxter was allowed to move about Silverwater, among other male prisoners, and had not been checked on for 14 hours before she was found hanging from her cell hook. This contravenes another Department of Corrective Service (DCS) policy of regular cell check-ups.

“We don’t know for sure about why she was placed in Silverwater. That’s because the NSW Department of Correctional Services has not released any paperwork regarding Baxter’s death”, Jackson said.

In August 2009 he sent a letter to the NSW state coroner demanding a full report be sent to the family. In October 2009, the coroner’s office replied that it was initiating a full investigation into the death of Baxter, and that it would be “inappropriate at this time to comment on the specific circumstances surrounding Ms Baxter’s death”.

The coroner’s court has advised it will be meeting in mid-April to make a decision as to the actual date of the Baxter inquest.

Queer rights activist group, Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) is demanding action on this campaign. Steaphan Markatony, CAAH co-convenor, said: “Was Veronica Baxter killed in custody by transphobic guards or inmates? We don’t know. The only way we will find out is if there is a full, open inquiry. Support CAAH’s campaign to get it.”

Solidarity Action with Greece…I know this may not be entirely Queer in nature but…

May 8, 2010

Date: Sunday; 16th May, 2010
Time: 2pm-5pm
Place: State Library; Corner of Swanston Street and La Trobe Street in Melbourne (CBD)

Considering that this country [Australia] has the largest Greek population outside of Greece there should be no question about the need to show solidarity.

Those who support the struggle against capitalism, state power and oppression should make their way to this action.

Tell your mates, boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers, comrades, union delegates, classmates and whoever else.

For those of you who use Facebook there is a link below for the event with interesting links for further reading.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=114700448566739

While we dance, they die. While we club, they are condemned…Ugandan Queers under attack!

March 25, 2010

After much deliberation and frustration from some other members of the Queer community who see the liberation movement as something that is to push for the liberation of Queers worldwide and not just focusing on the “right/rite” to assimilation; the matter of the oppression of Queers in Uganda should be brought into the mainstream of the Queer Activist Arena in Australia at least.

So we can put the Equal Love (Marriage Equality) campaign aside for just a little bit so we can get the message out about Ugandan Queers.

Uganda proposed an Anti-Homosexuality Bill on 13 October 2009 that would, if enacted, broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality in Uganda by introducing the death penalty for people who are considered serial offenders, are suspected of “aggravated homosexuality” and are HIV-positive, or who engage in sexual acts with those under 18 years of age. People who are caught or suspected of homosexual activity will be forced to undergo HIV tests; Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside Uganda will likewise fall under the jurisdiction of this law, and may be extradited and charged with a felony. Furthermore, if passed, the bill will require anyone who is aware of an offense or an offender, including individuals, companies, media organisations, or NGOs who support LGBTI rights, to report the offender within 24 hours. If an individual does not do so he or she is also considered an offender and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 250 “currency points” or imprisonment up to three years.

Because Western governments have put pressure onto Uganda – threatening to cut financial aid – the Ugandan government removed the death penalty measure in exchange for life imprisonment.

Prior to all of this extension of anti-Queer repression, homosexuality in Uganda was punishable by14 years in prison.

The evangelists and other Christian groups have hurried to this opportunity like flies to shit, to set back Queer Liberation in Africa.

This is a call out to all Queers who have vision past the bullshit that is peddled by the mainstream Gay&Lesbian Rights Lobbies in Australia that Marriage Equality is the be all and end all.

This is a call to action. Get the fuck out there and organise; even if it means sticker bombs on walls, graffitti in bathrooms, standing in the street with a large placard on the corner where the public can see you (have leaflets made to hand to them if they want more info), writing letters into the papers and mainstream Gay media calling for action. Bring this issue into the mainstream where it can be heard and hopefully addressed.

Act up! Disrupt! Bash Back!

Pride March Victoria 2010: Call up for First action for the year.

February 1, 2010

Members/supporters of BashBackMelbourne and other Queer Anarchists will be present in this year’s Pride March in Melbourne. This is more about making our presence known to the local community. Visibility is a good thing.

The Pink&Black assembly will be meeting from 12noon next to where the VIXEN (Victoria Sex Industry Network) crew will be hanging out. Look out for the Pink&Black flag and if you are trying to find VIXEN, chances are they will have all sorts of red umbrellas open.

The groups that march in Pride meet at the corner of Lakeside Drive and Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.

Bring signs, flags, partners, friends, affinity groups, picnic stuff, boom-box etc.

The march starts at 2pm and re-groups at Catani Gardens down the road.

Hope to see some people there…again this is a call up.

First communique from Bash Back Melbourne…an intro

December 25, 2009

Like the movement in the USA we are an Queer Anarchist group/collective made up of Queers of all genders and backgrounds. We recognise the fact that there is little done to advance the liberation of Transfolk and other Queers who will not accept the bullshit fed to us by the mainstream LGB(T) movement who strive only towards assimilation.

Like the US chapters of Bash Back!, members must agree to:

1. Fight for liberation. Nothing more, nothing less. State recognition in the form of oppressive institutions such as marriage and militarism are not steps toward liberation but rather towards heteronormative assimilation.

2. A rejection of Capitalism, Imperialism, and all forms of State power.

3. Actively oppose oppression both in and out of the “movement.” All oppressive behavior is not to be tolerated.

4. Respect a diversity of tactics in the struggle for liberation. Do not solely condemn an action on the grounds that the State deems it to be illegal.

We may be small in numbers for now however we intend to grow and make ourselves noticed.

The pink and black are on the attack, so don’t just sit there looking slack, stand up, act up…BASH BACK!