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
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Wide Ranging Impacts of Misguided Georgia Pharmacy Bill

CN: Addiction, mentions of overdose.

Bill SB 81 in Georgia has been proposed with the intention of making opioid pain medications less available in an attempt to fight opioid addiction in Georgia. It requires, among other things, that prescriptions for any Schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs have prescriptions limited to a five day supply at a time. People who use Schedule II medications to treat ADHD and related conditions quickly noticed that as written the law would require them to get a new prescription every five days for medications like Ritalin and Adderal. After reading the bill, it appears to me that this would also require people who use testosterone medications to get a new prescription every five days as well, since testosterone containing medications are Schedule III drugs.

These medications often already require the patient (or parent or caretaker) to carry a physical paper prescription into the pharmacy. The new regulations would require medical providers, patients, and pharmacies to do staggeringly more work and paperwork. Some of these medications are usually used for years or a lifetime, and certainly many patients would really struggle with getting to their doctor’s office and the pharmacy every week. Continue reading “Wide Ranging Impacts of Misguided Georgia Pharmacy Bill”

Wide Ranging Impacts of Misguided Georgia Pharmacy Bill

Just Do Something

I know not everyone is able to participate in every kind of resistance that we are told to do. Our diversity of strengths and abilities is a big part of what makes movements to resist fascism great.

Those of us who can lobby our lawmakers in person should do that. In person lobbying is absolutely the most effective form of telling your representatives what you want.

Those of us who can call should. Write scripts, or use scripts written by others, to help. I believe the people who tell me it’s effective.

Those of us who can’t call should write. I’m told paper letters are better than email. Handwritten apparently better than typed? But fuck no I’m not handwriting a letter because my handwriting sucks. Writing letters, or even emails, is better than no action at all. Just because you can’t do the most effective thing doesn’t mean you don’t do the somewhat effective thing.

Those of us who can protest should. Those of us who can punch Nazis should, if we have a good opportunity. Those of us who can occupy airports today should. Those of us who can sit outside our lawmaker’s offices should. Those of us who can donate money should. Those of us who can write should. Those of us who can create protest art, and songs, and t-shirts, and signs should. Those of us who can feed protesters should. Those of us who can elevate the voices, in real life and online, of those who are most marginalized should. Those of us who can talk to family, friends, and co-workers about resistance should. Those of us who can dig into arguing with conservatives should. Those of us who can troll the comments sections of Brietbart should.

Feed someone’s pets while they’re out of town protesting or occupying. Knit. Paint. Sit and have quiet frank conversations with uncertain family members. Raise socially conscious children. Recycle. Make one phone call to a lawmaker or a thousand. Drive someone to the polls on the next election day. Design an incredible protest sign even if you can’t be the one to carry it. Glitter bomb a fascist. Scream in the face of a racist. Buy a drink for an exhausted lobbyist. Hug an immigration lawyer.

Just do something.

Just Do Something

How I Prepare To Protest

I mentioned in my Beginners Guide to Protesting that it’s a good idea to carry food and water to a protest. This is true, but it’s not really the whole story. There are more things that many people recommend having with you, especially as you get more serious in terms of how long you want to spend out at a protest or how much risk you are willing to take on. I’d like to share here a bit more about what I wear and bring currently to a protest march, and what I’m going to start doing in the future.

I want to be clear here that these are my own choices, and reflect my own risk tolerance. The risks you are willing to take on may be higher or lower than mine. Your financial means may be higher or lower than mine as well.
Continue reading “How I Prepare To Protest”

How I Prepare To Protest

A Beginners Guide to Protesting

If you have never attended a protest before, doing so for the first time can be kind of daunting. I was lucky enough to start as a teenager, before I was afraid of much, but I definitely sympathize with those who find the idea intimidating. I wanted to put together some of my perspective as a regular participant in, though never leader of, mass protests.

A little about my experience: I have participated in both spontaneous and well planned protests. I have been in big mass marches like the Millennium March on Washington and in many small marches and protests. I have participated in one large-scale occupation, at the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011. Some protests I have been in have been unchallenged by police, while others (especially BLM protests) have been more adversarial, though I have never been in a situation where riot control tactics like tear gas have been used. I have taken one official training on civil disobedience, but have never been arrested. Yet.

In fact, for many people my experience may be exactly what you hope to gain – participation in protests without ending up in dangerous situations. That’s pretty reasonable. While movements sometimes need people who are willing to take more serious risks, they also need boots on the ground, bodies in the crowd, people willing to show up and be heard. Protesting is less dangerous than many people think, and it is absolutely possible to do it and protect yourself at the same time. Once you’re comfortable with the safer parts of protesting you may want to re-assess your risk tolerance and decide if you are willing to take on more risk for greater possible impact, but I want to encourage you to get out there for the first time.

Continue reading “A Beginners Guide to Protesting”

A Beginners Guide to Protesting

Just Give Me The Content Notice

Content Note: This post includes a lot of examples of reasons one might use content notes, but none of them are highly detailed.

One of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class, is good about giving content notes (aka trigger warnings). They don’t always call it that, but they consistently let their audience know if something potentially upsetting is in that episode. Unfortunately, they don’t stop there. Instead, they often then add an unnecessary bit, telling people who might be upset by that subject to skip the episode.

This is not the only media does this, just one example of a problem I see coming up with the increased use of content notes. Often, instead of just letting people know what is ahead, they tell readers or listeners what to do about it. This comes from a misunderstanding of the point of content notes, and it’s condescending in a way that I don’t think anyone intends.
Continue reading “Just Give Me The Content Notice”

Just Give Me The Content Notice

I Want Someone Else To Call

CN: Police awfulness and mistreatment of a vulnerable person, intoxication, bodily injury.

A few years ago, when I was newer to my working-class Chicago neighborhood, I was walking along one of the busier streets in the early evening in nice weather. There were a lot of people out and about, going about their business. This neighborhood is the kind of place with a lot of small liquor stores and few grocery stores, but a fairly low rate of violent crime. The barber shop on the corner contains conversations in at least four languages at any given time, and the public high school that dominates the immediate area seems rowdy, but not violent.

As I headed down a block on one of the main roads I came upon an older brown-skinned man laying on the sidewalk, curled into a near fetal position. Several other people passed him, not unconcerned, but looking like they didn’t know what to do. He was right in the middle of the busy sidewalk, not tucked away as if he was sleeping intentionally. I stopped, knelt next to him, and asked if he was okay. I saw pretty quickly there was a mark on his face, like a bruise with a cut in the middle near his forehead. I thought maybe he’d gotten hit in the head.
Continue reading “I Want Someone Else To Call”

I Want Someone Else To Call

Meme Discussion, Grammar Edition

CN: Ableist and otherwise problematic meme, discussion of ableism, racism, classism.

A friend from outside of my social justice circles posted the meme below on their Facebook page. The background is an image of black text on white paper, with red pen circling a the word “you’re.” The overlaying text reads: “I don’t judge people based on race, creed, colour, or gender. I judge people based on spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.”

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You know, I used to do this. Then I learned that what I was often judging people on was the quality of the schools they had access to growing up (and thus their childhood socio-economic level), their learning disabilities (dyslexia etc), and whether or not formal academic English is their first language (sometimes it turns out it is AAVE, another dialect, or a foreign language). I decided I did not want to judge people based on these things anymore.

Instead, I want to decide who I respect based on their values. One of my values is trying to recognize the ways in which my thinking oppresses other people, and trying to change my thinking to be less hurtful to people.

Ironically, as this meme is claiming to be a statement against racism and sexism, it has the risk of perpetuating racism in less blatant ways. Racism is not just judging people for their skin color – it also involves treating things that you associate with non-white people as bad. Judging people for using AAVE is racist. Judging people who speak and write more than one language, however imperfectly, is racist. Subtle racism, displayed in disdain for different communication styles, is racist and this meme perpetuates it.

Ableism is still one of those things that people don’t even think of when they create a list of prejudices they don’t want to hold. When this is pointed out, they will often recognize that they don’t want to judge people with physical disabilities, and further pressed they will recognize the need for empathy towards people with profound mental disabilities. But this work on lack of judgement rarely goes as far as recognizing the ways in which our biases may harm people with learning impairments, less visible disabilities, and mental illness.

I had access to pretty good schools growing up, and was taught formal grammar in classrooms that were mostly safe and mostly reasonably well funded. Not everyone has access to the kinds of schools I did. I have been inside schools that are not safe, that are not funded, and that are incredibly difficult to learn in. I had class on my side growing up, and not everyone did. This meme illustrates the classism that judges people for the access they have had.

I want my ideas to be understood by readers, so I make an effort to write in the clearest way that I know how. Often, but not always, this involves using formal and semi-formal English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This tactic works for me, but it isn’t always best. There are situations in which I will forgo these conventions for language that is more appropriate for the situation, and I’m fairly fluent in speaking Internet, which is pretty clearly its own dialect. I recognize that others will use dialects they consider appropriate to the situation, and sometimes the intended audience is not me.

Meme Discussion, Grammar Edition

Throwback Thursday: Fuck That Comic

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites, such as Livejournal, Science Based Sex, Queereka, Skepchick, or Skeptability. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays when I think they are applicable to current events. This post was originally posted on Queereka on August 5th, 2013.

Parade

This comic has been turning up on my Facebook page lately, generally by well meaning straight people. I’ve seen it about a half dozen times already. Each time I get a little more angry. Why does this comic piss me off? It’s a celebration of marriage equality, right?
Continue reading “Throwback Thursday: Fuck That Comic”

Throwback Thursday: Fuck That Comic

Multifaceted Causes, and Many Ways to Work Against Violence

CN: Discussion of the attack at Pulse in Orlando, violence and mass murder, hate speech, gun issues, politics, queerphobia, transphobia, racism. Brief mentions of domestic violence, sexual assault, suicide.

A personal note: I’m actually a bit too heartbroken right now to reasonably express my emotions about this situation. I sometimes go a little cerebral in the face of tragedy. If this post about causes and solutions is badly timed for you because it is so soon, that is completely legitimate and I encourage you to read it later.

24 hours after the horrific mass murder in Orlando Florida yesterday my news feeds and social media feeds are a mix of sorrow, fear, and arguments over the causes of and solutions to this kind of horrific event. My friends, along with the rest of the internet, are discussing (with various levels of anger) causes and solutions, and often bitterly disagree about what those might be.

I submit this: It is possible for an event to have many causes, and for all of those causes to be real contributing factors. It is possible to work for multiple solutions to violence and for many or all of those solutions to be good and important causes.

I believe that homophobia and queerphobia in American culture and politics contributed to this mass murder. I believe that because I see violent and hateful rhetoric put forward by political and media figures every day. I hear slurs against my people thrown about by customers in my workplace and people on the street. I read incredibly hateful messages against queer people online constantly, including those that make very clear how many of my fellow Americans want queer people dead.

I believe that homophobia in Muslim communities contributed to this mass murder. I believe this because my Muslim and ex-Muslim friends and loved ones have told me about the homophobia they have experienced in those communities. They have said clearly that they do not want this homophobia erased in this conversation and that they believe that the rhetoric in Muslim communities contributes to violence. I believe them.

I believe that extremism fueled by religious intolerance contributed to this mass murder. I believe that because the perpetrator apparently said so himself. I’m certain that the media will focus on this aspect as a primary cause and that we will learn more in the coming days about his religious beliefs and messages. Some media outlets and politicians will pretend that this is the whole story, and they are wrong, but I will not pretend it is not part of the story.

I believe that toxic masculinity contributed to this mass murder. An important part of toxic ideas of manhood is the idea that violence is an appropriate solution to one’s problems. We know that this killer had a history of spousal abuse and violent rhetoric consistent with toxic masculinity. The idea that picking up a weapon makes one more of a man is a deeply held tenant of patriarchy, and one that I believe contributes to the culture of mass shootings in America and this one in particular.

I believe that the easy availability of guns, and especially extremely deadly assault weapons, contributed to this mass murder. While guns do not create a desire to kill, they make the process much easier. Guns like the AR-15 used in this case are especially effective at killing and injuring many people shockingly quickly. In fact, they are created to do just that. That they are so easy to acquire contributes to the frequency and death rates in this and other similar cases.

It is likely also true that transphobia, transmisogyny, and racism contributed to this mass murder. Pulse is not just a gay bar, but one frequented by the Latin community and was full of people of color on Saturday night. It was not just a gay bar, but also one that featured trans and drag performers. While all queer people are at an increased risk of being victims of violence, queer people of color, trans people, and especially trans women of color are at much higher risk. I cannot ignore the possibility that this club was at higher risk because of these issues. Racism and transphobia are real causes of violence and must be seen as part of this picture.

The causes of violence in general, and this attack in particular, are multifaceted. I believe the solutions are too. A major part of the arguments I have seen today have been over what is “the right way” to prevent things like this in the future. I do not believe there is “a right way” but instead that many struggles can lead towards a future with less violence.

It is crucial that we fight queerphobia in all of its forms from all of its sources. We must fight against oppression in politics, in all religious communities, and in culture. Decreasing hatred of LGBTQIA people decreases our risk of violence. Pretending that queerphobia comes from only one community (Christian churches for example) isn’t helpful, since the sources of queerphobia are legion. When we call out homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia we are working against violence.

It is crucial that we fight toxic masculinity in all of its forms. The idea that the path to strength is through violence creates enormous harm, and we must work against it and against all patriarchy. When we speak out against domestic violence and rape we are working against the kind of pressures that contribute to mass shootings in general and this one in particular. When we fight the patriarchy we are working against violence.

It is crucial that we work for gun control. The current situation of easy access to highly deadly weapons is not working. It puts everyone at risk, through public violence, through tragic but preventable accidents, and through increased risk of suicide by people with easy access to firearms. There is no reason why someone should be able to easily purchase an AR-15. When we work towards legal changes in gun regulations we are working against violence.

It is crucial that we work against Islamophobia. After cases like this the violence and threats of violence Muslim and perceived-to-be-Muslim people experience in America increase noticeably. My Muslim and ex-Muslim friends fear reprisals against themselves and their families from angry people who seek to respond to violence with more violence, often targeted at completely unrelated people. Worse, political and media figures feed this fear and anger by equating Islam with terrorism and talking about things like banning Muslims from coming into the United States. When we fight this rhetoric we are working against violence.

When we work to combat racism, transmisogyny, ableism, and oppression in all of its forms we are working against violence. When we reach out to care for our grieving and frightened friends and loved ones we are working against violence. When we find better, healthier ways to deal with conflict we are working against violence. When we work to heal communities and individuals we are working against violence.

There are many ways to work to prevent the next mass shooting and the next hate crime. I have not covered them all here, not even close. As communities of people who wish to see a world without violence we must work towards all of these goals and more. As individuals we will work on those issues that we are best suited to, or most driven to work on. This is as it should be. Arguing over which is “the right way” to work against violence isn’t helpful. Instead, let’s do the work.

Multifaceted Causes, and Many Ways to Work Against Violence