This is a guest post by Jen O’Leary- although, as you can see below, it’s cosigned by me and several others. Jen had been planning to host David Rovics for an upcoming gig in Dublin this month. Here is her explanation for why she no longer feels able to do so.
If you’d like to cosign, let me know in the comments or via my Twitter or Facebook and I’ll add your name. And I strongly encourage people to share this one- I feel it’s important that a strong message be sent to Rovics about showing respect for trans people’s identities and dignity. On to Jen:
Why I won’t be hosting David Rovics.
On the 17th December, David Rovics’ Facebook pages posted an automated status marking Chelsea Manning’s birthday. However, the post referred to Chelsea Manning by her old name which she has explicitly asked not to be referred by. Not only did David Rovics refuse to edit his scheduled post to reflect Chelsea’s stated wishes, but he proceeded to insist that the text of the post was a “statement of fact” and published the following comment: “Was Chelsea Manning born that day? No”.
David says he does not see how his words are disrespecting to Chelsea’s wishes. However, by insisting he’s right, he is disrespecting not only Chelsea, but by extension, the wider Transgender Community.
David Rovics says that Chelsea Manning is his hero, yet he refuses to amend his words which have the potential to hurt her by validating the treatment which she is currently being subjected to by the state. Before the court-martial even began, Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for three years and for over nine months of that period, she was subjected to inhumane conditions, including solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and stripping naked in front of prison guards.
Chelsea Manning has also been refused hormone therapy and surgery related to transition. She was sentenced to 35 years in an all-male prison, in violation of her rights as a trans woman. She is facing years of imprisonment in an environment that is hostile and dangerous to queer people. Transgender people in prisons face difficult struggles and are often forced to do time in solitary under the guise of being “for their own safety”, or get housed in protective custody which means restricted socialisation, meal times, and recreational times. David Rovics is at best ignoring the associated risks to Chelsea, and at worst reinforcing them.
Our main goal, as activists, has to be to get Chelsea Manning out of prison, but we also need to fight for her rights while she is in prison. If Chelsea Manning’s own allies continue to misgender her, this makes the fight to convince the state of her rights much harder.
For this reason, I no longer intend to host David Rovics for his Dublin gig on the 16th January. We have a responsibility to Chelsea Manning and to the trans community to support them in all aspects of their lives and we call on David to apologise and act as a strong advocate for Chelsea and trans people everywhere.
Please contact David Rovics either by email, or through his Twitter or Facebook pages, to ask him to edit his post and issue an apology.
Aoife FitzGibbon O’Riordan
Michelle Hamilton (Glasgow)
Bas Ó Curraoin