Erasure During Pride Month

CN: Specific examples of erasure of asexual, aromantic, fat, disabled, and elderly people. Discussion of erasure generally. Brief mention of kink.

I often experience pride month, pride events, and pride media not as a fantastic celebration of a community that includes me, but as a reminder that I’m not the right kind of queer. The erasure of a whole variety of queer people is deeply alienating for many, and that erasure can feel especially stark during June.

Yesterday this video from the fitness company Equinox came up on my Facebook feed. It is purported to be the alphabet of the LGBTQA community. The video is well designed and has some good things about it, but the entire thing was ruined for me by the very first line:

“I consider myself and advocate and an ally.”

This video BEGINS with one of the deepest and most common erasures in the queer world. The inclusion of cisgender heterosexual allies and the erasure and alienation of asexual, aromatic, and related identities is consistent and deeply harmful. The fact that cishet people literally come first in this video is deeply flawed, especially because there are much better options for the “A” in the queer alphabet.

This could have been mitigated if there was, at any point, an inclusion of ace spectrum people in the video – but none appeared. As far as this company and the community center they partnered with are concerned allies are part of the community, and ace folks are not.

Three other groups of queer folks who are frequently erased from the community, ignored, and forgotten are also absent from this video. These are groups people whose bodies are generally seen as unattractive, undesirable, unsexy. Fat people, visibly disabled people, and older people are utterly absent from this video, just as we (I’m fat btw) are so often absent from visual media. Queer communities are simply no better about this than the general culture, and this video makes no attempt to include anyone who isn’t commercially attractive.

As a fitness company it is clear that Equinox is trying to promote itself as a specific kind of environment. They want to say that this is a place where you won’t have to share a locker room with anyone you may not find attractive. The use of only commercially attractive people in a video like this has several effects – it sends the message that “real” LGBTQ people are thin/muscular, young, and able bodied, and it sends the message that fitness spaces like Equinox are also only for those who are the same.

There are things I like about this particular video (it’s highly racially inclusive, pretty, and definitely not femmephobic). I liked the inclusion of SM without making it all cishet (because cishet kinksters aren’t queer, but queer kinksters totally are). I liked the inclusion of nonbinary people, since they are often also left out. However, the things it celebrates are largely those that are already celebrated in every other pride event and media thing I see. Those that are absent are the ones that seem to be absent so often.

Ace spectrum people are a part of the LGBTQA community. Hell, they are right there in the name. Queer fat people, disabled people, and older people are part of the LGBTQA community. They deserve to be seen and included. My fat ass is just as queer as the gay model who gets into a viral video. My over-60 and over-70 friends are just as queer as a young androgynous blue-haired waif. My friends who use mobility devices deserve as much recognition in their queerness as a professional dancer does.

It’s time for the erasure to stop.

Erasure During Pride Month

Not Just Flipping Burgers

When people discuss raising the minimum wage some argue that people should not be paid more for “just flipping burgers.” Often their image of a low wage job is something they consider easy, and they don’t really think about all of the awful parts of those jobs. They imagine “flipping burgers” to be like cooking a meal in their own kitchen, not an 8 hour shift on their feet in a hot kitchen. They don’t imagine hauling out big bags of greasy dripping trash to a dumpster several times a day. They don’t know that you have to smack that dumpster a few times before opening it, or you’ll end up with a rat jumping out at you. They don’t think of the manager who keeps cutting their hours, and thus their pay, every time things slow down.

Those who disparage low wage workers don’t know about the aspects of those jobs that never appear on the job descriptions. They don’t know about the hotel housekeepers who are constantly sexually harassed by guests. They don’t know that the night auditor at that same hotel has to try to get the passed out drunk guest up off the hallway floor almost every night. They never realize that the cashier at the grocery store has to listen to that guy with no boundaries tell his entire life story every week, and she has to smile while he does it and look like she cares the whole time because her boss is watching.

They don’t have to hear “I guess it’s free then!” every single time an item doesn’t scan. Every time. All day. All week. All year. They don’t have to try desperately not to scream in the face of the next person who says it, and laugh like the joke is clever.

The person who says “minimum wage is supposed to be for high school students and low-skill workers” doesn’t understand the skill it takes to carefully de-escalate the customer who throws a full-blast tantrum because he has just been told “no.” They do not recognize the problem solving skills required to calculate the fastest way to get from your second work shift of the day to the daycare center to pick up your kid on time.

They think that because a job doesn’t require a college degree it doesn’t require skills, because they don’t recognize the things these employees do as skills. They believe the work is easy because if they see these jobs at all they only see a few moments of a long shift in a long week.

All work should be paid a living wage, because after fighting off rats in the alley the burger flipper should get to have a good meal too.

Not Just Flipping Burgers

Environmental Worldview

I am coming close to finishing my degree in Environmental Science and was asked by a professor to write about my environmental worldview. What follows is my response to that assignment.

The world is an old and natural place, built and maintained by physical forces, and occupied by chemical living things that evolve and change over time. I do not believe that life has intrinsic purpose, or that this planet we live on exists for us, any more than it exists for any other species, extant or extinct. I believe that the forces that control Earth and all life on it are natural, understandable, and even predictable with the right knowledge. Since humans have rational brains that are able to learn about our world, we also have a moral obligation to make choices that will keep the world a livable place for our fellow humans and other species.

My sense of justice requires that I try not to make the world harder for others that I share this world with. This means that I want to work for environmental justice, especially focusing on people who have had environmental harms pushed on them by a racist, classist, and ableist culture. This means that I want fight policies that lead to the destruction of the land of indigenous people, or that lead to climate change that disproportionately impacts developing nations. The same groups of people who have been economically and socially marginalized in the United States and around our globalized world also experience environmental injustice and I believe my efforts to improve the world must be focused on these people.
I also believe that humans are not the only species worthy of my efforts, and that humans should not destroy other species for our own ends. I am outraged by the rate of species loss created by environmental harm caused by human activity. I believe that we have a responsibility to preserve the planet not just as a place that humans can live, but as a place where we can coexist with the other life.

I also believe that the best way to make decisions is to ensure that those decisions are informed by accurate facts. I do not want to make my environmental decisions based on what feels good, but on what the best scientific knowledge shows. I believe that while scientific methods do not always come up with the correct answers, they are still the best methods we have to understand the world and predict outcomes. When I work based on scientific consensus, rather than fallacy or propaganda, I believe my work will be most likely to have the outcomes I desire.

I understand that working from a scientific basis means making hard choices. I do not believe that science will bring us a panacea through technology, but that technology may be one part of larger tactics to make the world a better place. Sometimes the facts show us that any decision we make will have consequences that we do not desire. It can frustrating for individuals and for cultures to decide between environmental causes and economic ones, for example. But I believe that in the long run protecting the environment from further harm is usually the best choice for everyone, because we need to think not only of ourselves, but of other people, species, and the future.

Environmental Worldview

“Stupid” Is The New “Gay”

CN: This post includes examples of ableist and homophobic language used to illustrate my points.

In modern English speaking cultures (and I suspect many other languages too) we often use ableist words as shorthand for other ideas. When we encounter an idea that we don’t agree with we may say “that’s stupid.” In having this response we haven’t given much actual information about what the problems are with the idea expressed, but we have made our disdain for that idea clear. We will often also make our disdain for the person expressing it clear with “You’re an idiot.”

This is a similar (but more persistent practice) as expressing our dislike of an idea with “That’s so gay” or our disagreement with a person with “You’re so gay.” During the last few decades this practice grew, became deeply ingrained in many people’s daily language, and then has largely died out as homophobia has become far less socially acceptable. While some still use it, it is generally seen as outdated and clearly coming from a place of prejudice. I haven’t heard it in public for awhile.

In both cases people are expressing distaste by comparing something or someone to a group of people we see as lesser in some way. In both ways they are degrading both the specific idea or person we dislike, and the group of people they’re comparing them to. What they are saying is “This idea is so bad it must have come from someone who is cognitively disabled” or “You’re so disgusting to me you must be similar to a gay person.” These statements assume disabled people and queer people are the bad thing people don’t want to be compared to.

Unfortunately, as we effectively encouraged people to stop calling things “gay” when they didn’t like them, we often encouraged them to use cognitive slurs instead. “Don’t call things gay when you really mean stupid!” is basically what I said all through the 90’s and early 00’s. I didn’t see that I was asking my peers to replace one group of people as the target of ridicule with another.

I did this because I believed that I was trying to get people to correctly identify what the problem was with the thing they objected to. I thought that the real problem with a bad idea WAS that it was stupid. I have a much better understanding now, and wish that instead we could actually properly identify what is wrong with a thing or idea. Instead of either “That idea is gay” or “that idea is dumb” it’s more accurate and less harmful to say “that idea is wrong” or “that idea is hurtful” or “that idea is mean.”

“Stupid” Is The New “Gay”