Gender Policing Children

I’m writing this becuase I am sick of the constant gender policing my daughter goes through. She has an Avengers lunch box. She got it for her fourth birthday. It’s one of her favorite possessions, but every few days she comes home from school sad because people keep telling her she likes “boy things”. She gets the same type of comments when she wears her Batman jacket. The conversation usually goes like this:

TJ: I’m not going to take my lunch box to school anymore. Everybody tells me I like boy things.
Me: Do you like the Avengers? Are you a boy?
TJ: Yes. No, I’m not.
Me: Alright then. You’re just someone who likes those things.
TJ: They’re what makes me, me.

We have a similar conversation every few weeks. It gets exhausting.
TJ also loves a lot of feminine coded stuff, like Barbies and My Little Pony. Her favorite Disney movie is Frozen. She prefers dresses and skirts over pants. On days when she’s completely femme, there are people who are surprised becuase they’ve seen her with “boy things” in the past. These people seem to forget that children are actual people, and just like people have varied goddamned tastes.

I went with her on a field trip and the amount of gender policing that went on was mind boggling.Some girl classmates were playing and a little boy came by and asked if he could get a turn. One girl told him no because it wasn’t a boys’ game. I told him he could play. The game? Wizard of Oz match three.

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Screenshot of a board from The Wizard of Oz Match 3 game

 

Another boy said he didn’t like flowers because they’re for girls. At one point I was sitting on a blanket with a bunch of girl classmates and one another boy sat down with us. His mom came along, grabbed him while saying, “why are you here with all these girls. They’re all playing girl games. Go play with the boys”. The girls were telling me about school.

I’m constantly told not to judge parents who restrict their children’s play based on perceived gender. Frankly, I’m going to judge you. You’re raising your child to believe in harmful stereotypes. Stereotypes which lead to trans and gender non-conforming people getting harassed and killed. We have states trying to ban trans people from using public restrooms. All because we reduce people to their genitalia. Then your children spread these bigoted thoughts and make children like mine afraid to express who they are.

If gender is so innate why are cis people so afraid of a boy who plays with dolls? Of a girl who loves trucks?

I’ve seen a lot of cis parents claim that Target making their toy aisles gender neutral is silly because gender isn’t a big deal and the people asking for these things are overly sensitive babies.

You wanna know who are the overly sensitive ones?
Cis people who can’t handle their son wanting a Barbie. Cis people freaking out about which bathroom trans people use.

Apparently gender while being so innate is also very fucking fragile and anything could make children go into gender questioning chaos. And if that child tells their parents and the world they are trans, they can get killed for it. But yeah, keep making it sound like people asking to pee in peace and gender neutrality in media are the bullies in this.

Gender Policing Children
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Victim Double Standards

CN: SA, CSA, domestic violence, corporal punishment

As a child, I was beaten and put down constantly. Anything I did, wore, or liked could be subject to ridicule. Any sign, imagine or real, of disrespect was met with a the buckle of a belt, a shoe or the calloused and hardened hands of my grandma. The people who should have been my protectors were my first abusers. So I grew up with low self-esteem and at 15 attempted suicide. In my late teens, I met my first boyfriend. He’d become my daughter’s father and the reason I deal with PTSD now.

People would ask how I could end up with someone like him. After a lot of therapy and introspection I figured out why. As I child, the messages I received were that I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important and never would be. I deserved the beatings and verbal abuse I got. After years of hearing that and hearing the messages I got from society , I finally understood my worth was very little.

So, this guy comes along and doesn’t call me names. Tells me I matter, well, that was new and I wanted more of it. But the reason he chose me specifically was because I was so starved for love and affirmation. Once I was “his”, he could reveal his true colors. Ok, but why did I stay? Because I had been conditioned since childhood to accept this type of treatment. Who was I to ask why I was beaten? Didn’t I know it was done out of love? I deserved it because I made the abuser angry. I needed to be reminded of the rules and who set them. (Aside: isn’t curious how the reasons people give to justify spanking children are identical to the justifications of spousal abusers?)

I didn’t like it. In fact I fucking hated it. But instead of hating my abusers, I hated myself for being so horrible that people needed to beat me. It was the same message I got as a child. It was just a different person saying it now.

“Oh you can’t blame your childhood! You’re making yourself a victim.” That’s what I was met with when I explained why I stayed.

“He was abused as a child. The abused will abuse.” This was also said simultaneously and no one noticed the double standard.

I was aware of the abuse he endured. He told me in the beginning of the relationship, which I now know was his way of trying to bond with me, to make me easier to manipulate. See, he understood me, I thought. 

So, why is it that I can’t say my childhood made me an easier target for abuse but he can justify his abuse of me with the abuse he endured as a child? Why is one OK and the other not?

Since news broke that Milo Yiannopoulos was uninvited from CPAC and the release of his book was cancelled over his comments regarding pedophilia, I have seen several people try to defend him. I’m not linking to anything by that guy. You can google him yourself. It’s bad enough he’s even being mentioned here but for the purposes of this post, he has to. One defense, I saw over and over was that Milo was a victim of CSA. The reasoning of “the abused will abuse” shows up again.

It’s very unfortunate that he lived through that. No one, I mean no one, no matter how much I hate them and their beliefs, deserves to be abused in that way. But having a fucked up childhood is not a justification for being an abusive adult. And yes, his transmisogyny, racism, sexism is all abuse.

Hearing that “the abused will abuse” made me think I would eventually become a monster. It would be inevitable that I would become like my abuser. While I know it isn’t true it’s still scares me.

The powerful or the privileged (or their supporters) can say , ‘I had a bad childhood” and all is forgiven. The marginalized and weak say, “I also had a bad childhood” and they’re met with derision. Ask yourself why that is.

Victim Double Standards

UPDATE: New Year, Same White Fragility: Cathy Brennan is still a Fake Goth

Back in July of last year, I wrote a post about Cathy Brennan. Since then, I and several friends have gotten 1, 3 and 7 day bans. Several friends have had their jobs called in the hopes my friends would be fired. They weren’t.
My last ban lasted a week back a few months ago. I was banned for simply posting “Cathy Brennan is a fake goth”.

It is now February 9th 2017, and I have just gotten a 30 day ban for that blog post from July ’16.

I am no one. I have this blog and Mandesty. I have my tumblr and Twitter accounts. I do not have many followers. So why the fuck does Cathy Brennan care so much if I call her a fake goth? It really is like white people JUST LOVE feeling oppressed.

My Facebook profile is a huge source of emotional support. Let’s talk about that, Cathy. I am a Latina, trans, single mom, disabled and poor. I blog about the oppression I face in my daily life.
You are a well off white cis lesbian who I’m told is a lawyer but all you seem to fucking do is go after people calling you a fake goth.

Don’t you claim to care about women, or is it just cis women you care about? No answer needed here. We’re all aware of Gender Identity Watch.
Don’t you espouse supposedly intersectional feminism? Is it in your feminism that you find it’s OK to get a Latina blogger banned on Facebook? Is that sisterhood?

Do you go this hard after the racist, sexist, misogynist posts? After the posts that make light of rape? The homophobic posts? Or do you only care that some small time blogger called you a “mean” name a few times?

Keep getting me banned on Facebook. You can’t ban me on all my social media. You can try but it’s not a good look, gringa. COME AFTER ME, I FUCKING DARE YOU.

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UPDATE FEBRUARY 9TH 2017

Cathy graced us with her presence over on my blog’s Facebook page. Below are screenshots of this. Of course she misgenders me and assumes I am male.

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According to her, I got banned for “bullying behavior”. If that was the case then how come Facebook never takes down pages or posts which post bigotry? Is she saying that bigotry is not bullying?

As the Blue commenter noted, this Catherine Brennan profile is new. My friends and I had her Cathy Brennan profile blocked. Can it be called bullying when we don’t go to her with this silly name? We post on our own pages, and she’s the one who finds us. That is not bullying. That’s abusing whatever influence or privilege she has to get vulnerable people banned.

As I noted, she insinuates I’m emotional, but again, all I did was post something months ago, and then this post today. Who’s emotional now?

UPDATE: New Year, Same White Fragility: Cathy Brennan is still a Fake Goth

Social Justice y Mi Cultura

Content note: anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican sentiments, child abuse

This list brought back a lot of childhood memories (the tub of butter being something I do now but it bothered me when grandma did it) and things I had forgotten (Panky cookies! Now I must go in search of them!). It was mostly a nice trip down memory lane and reaffirmation of “Yup, I’m so Boricua”. However, two things bothered me. They’re something I’m constantly running across on Puerto Rican pride posts. Estas cosas me tiene’ harta and so here we are:

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(Image: Picture of a tanned woman, she has long black hair, is wearing hoop earrings. She looks displeased. White texts on the picture reads: How Puerto Ricans look when someone calls them Mexican)

This is implying something is wrong with being Mexican. It also speaks to the feelings of superiority that some Puerto Ricans feel towards immigrants. A perfect example is this T-shirt:

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(image is of a black t-shirt, with the Puerto Rican flag on it. It has white text on it which reads, Relax, gringo, I’m legal)

The joke is supposed to be that white people can’t tell Hispanics apart. But it pushes undocumented people under the bus. It’s saying, “hey don’t bother me! I’m one of the “good” ones”. Not to mention that no one is “illegal”.
I’m not exactly prideful or boastful of Puerto Rico being a colonia. Do you even know the history between Los United Estates and Puerto Rico? If you did, you wouldn’t think you’re better than undocumented immigrants. Also, someone explain to me why being confused for Mexican would be bad? I mean, Thalia, the food, the novelas, Selena (I know, she was from Texas but she was also Mexican) C’mon. The list is endless for reasons Mexico and its people are wonderful.

We’re all in this together. At the end of the day, Gringo isn’t going to care if I have a piece of paper or not. Racism doesn’t work that way.

And the second point in that list:

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(image of a medicine box, it has been digitally manipulated to say Bofeta, coco-taso flavored. Red text above the box reads, Trusted by Puerto Rican mothers, red text below the box, reads all over the world)

So, some translation is in order. Bofetada (in the Puerto Rican dialect the ending “da” is dropped) means “slap”. Cocotaso refers to a knock upside the head. Coco meaning coconut but in this instance it refers to the head.

Now, la chancla (the house slipper), la escoba (the broom) and la correa (the belt) are often looked back at fondly by Puerto Ricans as tools used by their parents for discipline. See, they were malo (bad) and needed que le rompieran la cara (literally: break their face, loosely; a beating). This glorification of child abuse is not something I can abide in mi cultura. I got la chancla and the belt buckle several times. I was constantly being beaten for being “malcri’a” (malcraida). Malcriada literally means that I was raised badly, but that meaning never seemed to bother the adults in my life who justified their abuse to me. I tried telling them and all it got me was a tapa boca (slap to the mouth). The abuse I suffered as a child is largely responsible for my being in abusive relationships as an adult. I believed I deserved the abuse. It was all I ever knew.  I under no circumstances condone child abuse. I don’t care if you say it’s a simple nalgadita (a spanking). I do not care if you claim it’s part of your culture. Machismo and homophobia are part of my culture too and I do not condone those either.

I love being Puerto Rican. I was born Stateside but raised in La Isla del Encato. I love las playas y la comida. I love that my hair and facial features easily speak of my African and Indigenous roots. Borinquen will forever be my homeland. I take the coqui’s song and the blue sky in my heart. I teach my daughter about la bomba y plena. Arrastro la letra R. I can talk to you about el campo y los Vejigantes. I am an atheist and I still ask grandma for la bendición. I consider myself Puerto Rican first, American second.

Just as I love my culture, I also repudiate it’s sexism, homophobia, it’s anti Blackness which seeks to forget Africa while wanting to eat una sopa de guingombo.

Acknowledging the parts of my culture I don’t like makes the love I have for the other parts stronger. I appreciate everything else so much more.
I’m proud to be a queer non-binary Boricua. La bomba y plena with it’s clear African influence makes my heart swell with so much joy. I hate the colorism that runs rampant in Puerto Rico and its diaspora. So con más gana’ muevo mis caderas and show off my big curly hair porque esas cosas son tan odiadas.
I’m a feminist and Latino Machismo is no match for me. Soy fuerte e independiente. A mi no me ganan. My daughter knows, unlike I did at that age, that she is just as important as the boys. She knows that gender is a spectrum and not a binary.

The day when child abuse and bigotry is no longer something celebrated in my culture cannot come fast enough. Yo soy Boricua, pa’ que tú lo sepa. But I’m also a social justice warrior and I will have my culture with justicia y concienca.

Header photo taken Sunflower Punk SJW, Puerto Rico 2014- Flamboyan tree

Social Justice y Mi Cultura

I am not your Teaching Moment

I’ve recently come across two well-meaning but horribly misguided posts concerning homeless people and I’d like to discuss them here. The first deals with a care package and the things it can contain. I’ll explain why some of the things inside aren’t a very good idea.

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“Blessing Bags” to keep in the car when you pass homeless people. Something special you can do with your children or grandchildren to teach them about caring/giving for those in need!
Gallon Size Ziplock bags
Chap stick
Packages of tissues
Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste
Travel size mouthwash
Comb
Soap
Hotel size shampoos
Trail mix
Granola bars
Fruit cups
Crackers
Pack of gum
Band aids
Coins or predetermined dollar amount, say 5.00 (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)
Hand wipes
You could also put in a warm pair of socks
A packet rain poncho
Tampons (for women)

The ideas could be endless!

Assemble all the items in the bags, and maybe throw in a note of encouragement. Seal the bags and stow in your car for a moment of providence…or….drop some off at a food shelter place.

The toiletries and socks are a great idea. Those are always needed. Feeling clean and warm is so important in feeling human. The menstrual products are a good idea too, although I would suggest asking the person you intend to give them to if they’d prefer pads. Foods like the ones in this list and shown in the above picture are good to donate to food shelters, but they should be avoided as hand outs because you never know what allergies a person may have. Sure, they could just say no thanks, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t take very kindly to a homeless person refusing help. Even if it could be something that could potentially kill them. Giving money, or if you feel weird about that, offering to buy the person some food is usually a better way to go.

I would rather not be used as a lesson in kindness for your children. I’m a person, not a teaching moment. It feels incredibly condescending to me. “Here’s this person that needs help, let me parade them in front of Jimmy so he can see just how kind I am? Aren’t I kind? Where is my kindness cookie?” It feels like you aren’t helping us because you want to, but rather because of how much you can pat yourself on the back afterwards. Which brings me to this post I found on Facebook. It’s a pretty long post and I’ll be addressing the points that I feel miss the mark, to put it kindly.

I spent Friday on the streets of Portland and learned so much. Here it is:

1. It’s not a big deal to hold a sign asking for money, because everyone ignores you. I found an unoccupied corner right off 405 and stood there for an hour holding a sign saying ‘Local business owner trying to understand our homeless problem. All funds to be donated’. Nobody made eye contact with me. They fiddled with the radio, texted, looked everywhere else. I did make $25.52 in that hour, thanks mostly to one woman that gave me $20. All the people that gave me money were women. I plan on donating $250 to Sisters Of The Road in honor of this experience.

To the people who stand out in whatever weather with their signs, it’s a big deal. Whether they’re ignored or not. Feeling ignored isn’t a very nice feeling especially when you’re in such a vulnerable position like asking for money from complete strangers. 

3. I saw a man washing his clothes in the Saturday Market fountains. He then laid them out to dry in the sun. They looked great! I was impressed.

You’d be surprised how crafty and resourceful homeless people become. 

4. I had some wonderful conversations with complete strangers. I wore my ‘Kindness Matters’ t-shirt and a woman commented that kindness is often mistaken for weakness and we had a deep 5 minute conversation on the philosophy of kindness on a street corner. I now also know everything about poodles, the breakdown of society in Somalia and the different types of immigrants (economic and political). These were deep, smart conversations.People are very lonely and just wanted someone to listen.

So then they’d become bit players in your pat-on-the-back story of kindness. She had a FIVE minute conversation but it was so deep, y’all.

5. It’s exhausting being homeless. My body hurts from walking and carrying a backpack. There’s nowhere comfy to just relax. By 4pm, I was exhausted and took a nap on a park bench. All of these years, I thought that the people sleeping on the sidewalk in the day time were just totally strung out druggies. I’m sure some are, but the people I met told me that they sleep during the day because it’s safer. They can’t rest as deeply at night and they are tired! After one day out there, I was grumpy, tired and dehydrated. It sucks! I can’t imagine the toll that a week out there would take on a body and spirit.

Oppression is not a costume. At the end of your day, you were able to go home and eat well, sleep in your bed and not worry if you’d eat the next day. Homeless people do not get that luxury. How incredibly generous of you to concede that not all homeless are “druggies”. So what, should those particular homeless people with drug addictions not be given the same consideration? This is why I’m wary of this post. When you so flippantly refer to people with an illness as “druggies”, you’re only adding to the stigma. 

7. Nobody tried to sell me drugs but 3 people asked me if I had some for sale.

Explain how and why this is relevant.

8. I fell in love with Portland in a whole new way. This city is alive and I felt alive in it. I saw a TV show taping, dancing in Directors Park, a dude beautifully playing a flute in front of Powells, three different music acts at the Bite, a miniature stonehenge made out of bananas, numerous history plaques, another band and the movie Grease on Pioneer Square. I walked by hundreds of people on their phones missing the whole thing.

 This sounds a lot like a platitude. There is no beauty in homelessness.

10. There are different groups of homeless. There are those interested in drugs down on the waterfront, there are those with mental illness wondering around everywhere, but most of those I met were having a crisis of spirit and trying to find themselves. There was an executive from Seattle whose life fell apart when his wife left him and he is trying to pick up the pieces. There were many people here from other cities because Portland is a great place to be homeless. I understand this after spending a day falling in love with the city too.

Drug addiction is a mental illness, dearie. “Portland is a great place to be homeless”, this is where I would flip my laptop over but I won’t because I can’t afford a new one. Listen, there is NOWHERE ON THIS EARTH where it is great to be homeless. There may be places where there is better access to resources and help, but that does not mean that it’s a great place to be homeless. You spent one day out in the city. You do not know anything about being homeless. You spoke to a few people, but you haven’t spent days starving, wearing the same clothes, hoping someone, just anyone will give you a few bucks for a cup of coffee. You know nothing, Renee Spears. 

11. What can we as a city do? Clearly we need to address the bigger issues of poverty, mental illness and addiction but we can do better right now. We need more public restrooms. There aren’t enough and they are too far apart. We need more water fountains. We need a public laundromat and bathing facility. We need a public place for people to come in from the elements and relax in safety. We need a place for people to store their belongings so they don’t have to carry them around all day, and it litters up our city.

Finally, something we can agree on. I’d also add that we need to talk about sexism, racism, bigotry against LGBT folks, especially LGBT youth who are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

13. I ended up going home in the early morning hours. My intention was to learn from the people there and I did that. I didn’t feel unsafe for one minute. I found the people kind and friendly. I wondered what would change if we all just opened our eyes to what is happening instead of ignoring it.

We are not your teaching moment. We are not your inspiration porn. We are not your feel good moment. We are people. It is incredibly condescending to think that you know anything about what it’s like to be homeless. Your social experiment has a lot in common with the social experiments of the woman who put on a fat suit to see what it was like experiencing fatphobia, John Howard Griffin putting on black face, non-Muslim women wearing hijab to “experience” anti-Muslim bigotry, men wearing skirts and heels to see what is like to be a woman and rich folks going on so-called Food Stamps diets. They’re offensive because however well-intention they may be intent isn’t magic. You all get to take off the fat suit, the hijab, the skirts; you get to go home to a warm bed and a stocked fridge. You don’t know what it’s like to live in the oppression you wear as costume because for you, it’s just that, something you can take off at the end of your experiment. For me and others, it’s our whole life.

I am not your Teaching Moment