Lohana Berkins

b16_days_topEach year the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers highlights sixteen women, men and organizations that standout in the fight against gender violence. Representing December 1st, is:

160206 – Update: Lohana Berkins died this week. ILGA has this to say:

We mourn the loss of Lohana Berkins

081201 – Lohana Berkins


Travesti* Activist

Lohana is an Argentine activist and the founder of ALITT (Asociación Lucha por la Identidad Travesti y Transexual/Association Fighting for Travesti / Transexual Identity). In addition to having run for legislative seats for left wing parties in Argentina, Lohana has organized prisoners, prostitutes, travestis, feminists, gay men, lesbians and poor youth to combat abuses.

After spending time in prison and experiencing various forms of police abuse, Lohana helped found the Argentine Travesti Association in 1995, and with ALITT has established a cooperative industry for travestis who want to leave prostitution.

Lohana has worked with many movements and crosses boundaries of identity politics: “I am a travesti, a woman, Socialist, Indian, fat, of colour, poor, labourer. I am all these things and much more. And I fight to build a world where I will be accepted for everything that I am.

*Lohana has described a travesti as “a person identified as a man at birth, who later chooses to identify as a woman”.


In Argentina prostituition is not illegal, creating a “public scandal” is. As a consquence, latitude for determining when a person meets this criteria is used by the police. That Berkins reports that she is: “the first travesti who doesn’t have to resort to prostitution in order to survive in Buenos Aires” tells you how many people are unable to lead a normal life in Argentina.

Sex re-assignment surgery is also illegal in Argentina. People who find themselves trapped in a body that does not feel their own cannot make the change as hospitals will not treat them, leading to street purchase of drugs, hormones, and silicone. In addition, it is illegal to change your name.  People who have adopted names more fitting to them are forced to show formal credentials indicating their original status.

One particular human rights effort is still very much at grassroots stage. Astraea is helping with a grant:

This year, with funds from Astraea, ALITT intends to purchase a video camera and their own computer.  Long overdue, these tools will enable them to more effectively educate society, lobby government officials and publicize their work.  “We will document how our compañeras are treated in the streets by the police, how we have to live in hotels, and how hospitals deny us health services. “


ASTRAEA: Meet a Grantee

Managing Identity While Managing Disadvantage: Peruvian Transgender Issues.

I Own My Vote, PUMA, The Denver Group, Just Say No Deal

For your use:

Transcript of the Feb. 6th Republican Debate

From WAPO, for your use:

Sanders-Clinton debate transcript: Annotating what they say

For your use:

Democratic town hall: Transcript, video

You all know I was in construction. As a production waterproofer and roofer in the Bay Area, I, at one time held union cards for both roofers and bricklayers, because in the Bay area waterproofing can overlap both these trades. So, you would think I would be very appreciative of Bernie Sanders’s plans to put us all to work. I want to be, but I can’t.

Now, I absolutely think our infrastructure has gone to hell in a hand basket. Sanders states that we need 3.6 trillion just to get back to good repair. Having worked in the production and managerial ends of building rehab, I can tell you that there are always unknown and hidden conditions that can and will likely increase costs astronomically over projected figures. When we start this proposed building boom we should be prepared for what will be much larger costs. Even so, we need it.

However, I feel bound to point out who will be working in this new building boom. As of 2010, just into the Great Recession, there were 800,000 women working in the field of construction. Of that amount only 200,000 were actually in production. The rest were secretarial, architectural, managerial, etc. This total equated at that time to around 9% of the construction population. In my field it was less than 2%.

Many women began in the trades because of affirmative action, required by work done on public facilities. Numbers were increasing up through 2007 but dropped dramatically when building began to fall off in the same sector as the recession hit. We all know how few jobs there were out there and women, like many men had to look elsewhere.

I want you to comprehend just how little 9% of 3.6 trillion is to women. It’s 324,000,000,000, or 324 billion. Of course that figure represents each woman as a cost of construction overhead, not what they will earn, which will be considerably less. Compare that to the 2012 procurement costs of the F35C at 93.3 million each, of which the Navy alone intends to buy 280. This is but one toy in the military’s vast arsenal. That doesn’t include the development costs, which are inching up around 160 billion. In the scheme of government costs, Sander’s implied 324 billion for women is a sop; it’s worse, it’s an insult.

This is not equality. Without activism, training, and affirmative action it is not equal opportunity. Sanders entire jobs list is based on rebuilding our infrastructure. We women can do these jobs, but our society has many other urgent needs that women do as well and should be paid for. This is a male oriented “lift all boats” plan that will leave some women indirectly but only relatively better off, and only till the construction money runs out. Also, there is no mention of how many of these jobs will be union or in what states, or how they will be prioritized, or whether they will take into account our new global warming fossil fuel constraints.

See below a cut and paste from Bernie Sanders web site, done today. Continue Reading »

160119-RIP Sam



By November 1963 John Kennedy had been assassinated and Lyndon Johnson had become President. The Vietnam War was omnipresent. I was 16. The draft was on. All the boys I knew then were hyper aware of what was coming for them. ROTC was on every campus. One friend was planning on joining the Merchant Marines, but most I knew weren’t trying to jump out of the gate early and sign up. It wasn’t a declared war and fighting the “Commies” in Vietnam, just because, was a pretty hard sell. On the West coast folks felt that Kennedy had tried to moderate involvement and Johnson was upping the involvement.

I joined the high school Young Republicans. Why? Someone asked me and I was into joining groups. When you moved every two years like I did, it was a smart idea to be a joiner. Plus, I was developing opinions and ideas about what was going on around me. The war was front and center.

I remember one meeting at the school; there may have been more. However, very shortly after that there was an announcement that we were invited to a statewide meet up where we would be choosing representatives.

The meet-up was in Stockton CA. We lived in San Rafael then. Woot! An out of town event for a 16 year old, chaperoned. Four of us, shiny geeky white republicans, plus, an 18 year-old chaperone went.

We got there, I think, during the middle of the day, checked into an event motel and had a very short meeting after which we were dispersed to “caucus”. Our chaperone disappeared. So we went to a few motel rooms to meet each other. In the first room were a few people saying absolutely nothing to each other. Though they suggested we stay, we thought we should look for some actual “caucusing” so we went looking and found: drinking, and next thing, a lot of sex. It seemed like every door we opened folks were writhing on the motel beds.

So, you know, as “Young Republican” representatives, this highly unethical situation left us not knowing what to do next. The four of us decided to go across the street to the bowling alley and go bowling. It was fun; I hadn’t bowled before and none of us were really any good, but we were a good new group together. I remember, it grew strangely quiet in the alley. When we got out of the door we saw it was dark and we started back quickly to see if anyone had shown up for the proscribed motel dinner. Walking out the door, four young Hispanic men confronted us. Stockton had a high Hispanic population even in 1963. Next thing I know, for no apparent reason, one of the locals had hit one of our smallest boys in the nose. I’ll never forget that clot of blood, the size of a softball, in his hand.

Protection mode kicked in and I went into the perpetrators face and confronted him. It was scary because I had no idea what I was going to do. Fortunately, because I think, he was expecting to kick the intruding boys off his turf, and not a girl, he stepped back from me enough that we achieved a kind of stand off. We walked away and took care of our friend. It was a time long ago; no knives or guns were involved.

The next day was the final meeting with a lot of hung over barely speaking representatives who voted in somebody for something. Clearly everything was prearranged and what we had witnessed those two days was “real” Republican politics in action. We left.

I have thought about that event often; how we invaded unknowingly another’s turf in an unfamiliar town, who they must have been and grown into, how we were scolded for leaving the motel, even though we knew it was safer than the motel, how my actions possibly impacted my friends self esteem as being the only one, a girl who stood up, whether the boys were smarter, how we never really talked to each other after that, and what the heck politics was all about anyway?

By 1964 we had moved again, this time to Lake Oswego, OR. I was 17, not yet a voter. Dad was a Republican and Mom was a Democrat. I was not a Republican.

Six months later, in 1964, Hillary Clinton was 17.




For your use:

The 4th Democratic debate transcript, annotated: Who said what and what it meant


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