What Is Annoying Me in the LGBTQ World Right Now

homonationalism

What is annoying me in the lgbtq world right now, post Supreme Court marriage equality decision:

This conservative stance being publicly embraced to tell the straight white middle and upper classes “we’re just like you!”. No, we are not.

Most of us aren’t able-bodied cis white gay dudes who just needed one more right to be as privileged as straight white dudes. Most of us have a broader vision for what love and family and relationships can be and who is important to our movement. I’d rather celebrate and honor our differences with love and understanding than enforce a sameness that happens to match neatly with capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.

It’s the Privilege Denying Dude!

Check out Privilege Denying Dude here. But be warned: sometimes he’s a little too real.

Por ejemplo:

Privilege Denying Dude

Too real?

Update 11/16/10: I am not making this up: the model in the photograph, as well as the owner of the photograph are claiming that being an internet meme is not lawful use of this image, and have convinced Tumblr to take down the Privilege Denying Dude website.

But, all is not entirely lost. PDD has continued to flourish on the Meme Generator, now with several new faces, belonging to white men who don’t mind contributing to feminist and anti-racist critique!

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To Vote or Not to Vote

I have been thinking about voting recently. About what it means to cast a vote, what voting means in our society (I mean the US), and why some people choose to vote and others do not.

Who are voters and non-voters?In my experience, the people who the most invested in equality and justice and social change, and who have the least to lose, are the people who are most marginalized. Those who are winning the game have little reason to change it, and so are not likely to be radicalized. So I find that poor people, people of color, women, trans people, immigrants, young people and queers or people with several of these identities are where you find those most dedicated to a just society—they are the ones with something to gain from it.

So I began to do some critical thinking when I noticed that to a certain extent, people with marginalized identities are less likely to vote. See this Pew Research Center study for the numbers. I thought, wouldn’t those most motivated to change society be more likely to vote? Wouldn’t those who feel the most comfortable with the status quo be complacent and likely to skip voting? That’s what I would have expected.

A common theory about why the marginalized don’t vote as much as those who feel mainstream is that they are stupid and/or ignorant and/or uneducated. The numbers do indicate that people with less education tend to vote less, and people who are marginalized tend to have less access to education. However, as individuals out struggling in the real world without the comfort of a self- or media-constructed façade, I have noticed that the marginalized often have a better grasp on reality than those with money, education, and advantageous skin colors. Without an ivory tower, cubicle cloisters, suburban self-segregation, or much mobility, marginalized people can’t escape the more depressing realities that anyone with advantage would escape from. So the claim by mainstream people that marginalized people don’t vote out of ignorance doesn’t ring true.

People with money and comfortable lifestyles often assume that poor people make inscrutable choices because they are stupid. This is of course pure self-serving prejudice, because it sets the comfortable up as the ‘smart’ standard bearers to whom everyone else must be compared. Perhaps the marginalized are also rational decision makers. Perhaps they too make the best choices given their options, and it is the comfortable who don’t understand the options they face. It is a safe assumption that people, regardless of income, sexuality, race or other such distinctions, make their choices out of rational self-interest. So when a marginalized group, such as poor people, decides to a large degree to abstain from voting, perhaps they have a reason.

I started to contemplate this reason. Assuredly, for different people the reasoning behind the choice to vote or not will be different. But perhaps there are some trends, or over-arching patterns that lead certain people to vote less than other certain people.

That brings us back to my question: why would those with the most to gain from social change choose not to exercise the most highly touted way for the common people to enact change?

What if some of us don’t believe that voting is an effective way to achieve social change? If we take the assumption that marginalized people’s brains work about as good as mainstream people’s brains, that means their choice not to vote is motivated by rational self-interest as much as the choices of mainstream people.

And if, as I suggest, marginalized people are compelled to deal with the harsh realities of our society more often than mainstream people, than their decision not to vote is potentially based on better information than the decisions of mainstream people. For example, when Indians were granted the right to vote in 1924, Chief Clinton Rickard of the Tuscarora declared that he had no interest in “white men’s elections”.

What does that say about voting as a tool to enact change?
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The Oppression of the Rich

Please stop struggling to survive for a minute and feel pity for the rich, who struggle to attend fancy graduate schools, send their children to private schools, employ hired help, drive two cars, and own a large home in an expensive city. Sometimes, they may even have to limit how many times they eat out each month!

Todd Henderson

Oppressed Wealthy White Man

Todd Henderson, a University of Chicago Law Professor, during a lengthy pity party which can be found here (scroll to bottom), wrote last month:

 

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive.

Mr. Henderson certainly has an interesting idea of what life is like for “most working Americans”. This working American lives in a cheap, shoddy apartment with four roommates, no tv, works full-time, makes under $15k/year, has only rudimentary health insurance, is on food stamps, can’t afford any more school, and has no car.

The Wall Street Journal published some helpful advice for him so that he can learn to cut his exorbitant costs and save (the Horror!). One chilling suggestion they offer is that he mow his own lawn!

Bradford Delong, a Professor of Economics at UC Berkley, responded at length, including this tidbit:

Now it is time for a reality check on this “most working Americans.” The median household income in the United States today is $50,000. Half of all households make more than this. Half of all households make less. The big expenses in the Xxxxxxxxx family budget–their $60,000 a year in contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles, their $25,000 a year savings building home equity, their $55,000 for housing, their $60,000 in private school costs, even their $10,000 a year for new cars–are simply out of reach for the overwhelming majority of Americans. Half of all households make less than $50,000 a year–the Xxxxxxxxxs make nine times that. 90% of households make less than $100,000 a year–the Xxxxxxxxx’s make 4.5 times that. The Xxxxxxxxx’s are solidly in the top 1% of American households, in the select 1% group that receives more than $350,000 a year.

Michael O’Hare, Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkley, wrote:

So how does our third-of-a-million-a-year law prof/doctor couple and their three kids, barely scraping by already and falling before our eyes to the very bottom of the top 1% of US families by income, make out under Obama’s rapacious soak-the-rich commie attack on all that is holy and American and fine?

…His taxes will go down $3700; he can buy one of those ties every two weeks! And this guy is threatening to fire the gardener and the house cleaner, take the kid out of art class, turn off his cell phones, and try to raise competent adults with only basic cable.

…[Mr. Henderson] also blithely says ” The biggest expense for us is financing government.” No it isn’t: their biggest expense, and it’s three times larger, is financing their private consumption.

Paul Krugman seems to have found Mr. Henderson’s complaints particularly annoying:

[I]t has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.

[A] belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it.

…The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

As a high-income person in one of the world’s most high income countries (the US is ranked in the top 10 for both GDP and PPP), it is a little difficult for we little people to listen to his whining without lashing out. Clearly, I could not resist it either.

Update 12/13/10: I can’t believe I have to do this, but remember- if your comment is a personal rant against me, it will not get published. Please refer to the Comment Policy page.

Resource Generation

Resource Generation logoI thought I’d toss this interesting link out there: Resource Generation.

They describe themselves like so:

RESOURCE GENERATION organizes young people with financial wealth to leverage resources and privilege for social change.

Classified book coverI think their book Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change is pretty good.

Classified is a guide for people with class privilege who are tired of cover-ups, who are ready to dig through the buried files and figure out how their privilege really works.Complete with comics, exercises and personal stories, Classified gives readers the tools they need to stop hiding their privilege and instead put it to work.

Why I Am Uncomfortable Labeling Myself ‘Feminist’

Certain second-wavers would have it that I don’t use the word “feminist” too much because I am weak, or afraid to use it, or have given in to some sort of societal pressure not to stand up for women’s issues.

Wouldn’t you know that my fraught relationship with that word is the result of self-education, listening to the voices of marginalized women, and a large amount of introspection? You see, I was able to use my own brain power to autonomously decide “feminist” is problematic, just like any normal human being!

Here is why.

To wit, “feminism” has become so closely allied with, and claimed by, women of privilege that to claim it would be a vote of support for privileged (mostly Western, white, middle-upper class, heterosexual) women and against the repeatedly expressed concerns of the rest of us: trans women, queer women, poor and low-income women, women of color, non-Western women, differently-abled women.

I haven’t just seen this on the blogosphere, in the various wars where WOC critique white feminists’ passive racism, and a bunch of white self-described feminists leap into the breach to try and silence the WOC voices and validate the white ones. I have seen this in real non-computer-mediated life. I have literally observed white feminists deliberately push women of color back to the margins just as the WOC are trying to push to the center. I have seen queer women’s specific needs regarding sexuality, relationship formation, and child-care sidelined as less important. And etcetera.

I have seen white feminists get angry at the suggestion that power within this supposedly all-inclusive women’s movement be shared. Race is a separate issue, a distraction from the sisterhood, they say. So is disability. So is recognizing the very different life experiences of women from different social classes.

It is almost too painful to even discuss what cisgendered feminists say about trans women. Let’s just say that the majority of cisgendered feminists aren’t at all convinced that trans women’s issues are worth a modicum of their time.

I can’t use the word feminism anymore without thinking about all of this. The liberation of privileged white women has little to do with my liberation. Until feminists realize that “[their] liberation is bound up with mine” I don’t have much motivation to join their exclusive movement.

Please read this article at the Guardian to get the perspective of a woman of color on this matter.

Housing Discrimination in Westchester County

Looks like St. Bernard Parish isn’t alone in the blatantly racist housing practices department.

Westchester Adds Housing to Desegregation Pact

Huh, Westchester is one of the wealthiest suburbs in America. Interesting.

Hmmm, I love the crisp smell of racism in the morning.

Best comment at the NYT: “Why should a community have to import poverty, of whatever color? If people, with or without color, have the money to buy a home there, fine, but to say that a group of affluent people should be “punished” for being Affluent While White by having poor and probably culturally incompatible people dumped on them is absurd.”

Oh, the burdens one must bear, when one must live in proximity to the poor! Oh, it is so terrible to be forced to look at the distasteful dwellings and personages of the dusky-complexioned! Quelle peine!

Cis Is Not an Insult

For those of you not familiar with the terms “cisgender” or “cissexual”, here is a reference.

Check out this post at Questioning Transphobia. The post addresses a piece written by a cisgendered gay man who claims the term cisgender (i.e. non-trans) is offensive. A popular blog that I usually enjoy, Pam’s House Blend, has decided to bow to these claims and ban the words cisgender and cissexual, as well as any comment that supports their use.

Cis is not an offensive prefix, nor an insult.

There is a subset of white, well-off gay men who want the LGBT movement to reflect their needs and desires, their rage at being one privilege short of absolute privilege, and who despise the fact that the LGBT movement wants them to make space for the different needs of trans folks, bisexuals, gay men of color, poor gay men, lesbians, and other queers. They don’t want to be saddled by the greater struggles these other groups face. They want to leap that one hurdle that separates them from joining the most privileged group in the world, and the rest of us hold them back. So a small group of white gay men are pushing back against inclusiveness, against the idea of having our own house in order, and against trans respect and equality.

I know most of you gay white men out there are not like this. Those who are, are not part of my community.

Headline Choices

What’s the difference between these murder headlines:

Immigrant Murders Woman

Muslim Murders Wife

Transgender Woman Murders Husband

And these ones:

Wife Murdered

Man Murders Young Actor

Woman Arrested in Murder of Area Woman

All of these murders took place in the UK or the US. In the second group of headlines, all of the perps or accused perps are white, cisgendered US/UK citizens.

So why do editors decide not to mention the race, religion or trans status of white murders in headlines? Why do they deliberately include that information only for people with some sort of minority status (immigrant, black or brown, trans, Muslim, etc.)? Does it make the story more “sensational”? If so, why? If not, than for what other possible reason would they include that information?

The effect of emphasizing what makes minority murderers different, not like us, while declining to emphasize the identities of white, Christian, straight, non-immigrant murderers, (who are more like “us” i.e. the majority), is to make it appear to the general media-consuming public that these minorities are more likely to commit crime, and/or that their minority status has something to do with the murder.

What would happen if every time a white person murdered, their race, religion, citizenship status, and trans-status were included in the headlines? Let’s try it out.

Straight White Man Murders Wife

Christian Citizen Murders Woman

Cisgendered White Woman Murders Husband

White Christian Man Murdered Wife

Straight Citizen Murdered Young Actor

Cisgendered Christian Woman Arrested in Murder of Area Woman

Interesting effect, isn’t it?

No One Can Live on Only $500K a Year!

On February 4th, Obama imposed a $500,000 a year salary cap on executive pay at financial institutions that are receiving government funding (i.e. taxpayer’s money) to stay afloat.

Bankers and the like have been quite cavalier about receiving bailout funds that are coming from the pockets of ordinary Americans. Bank of America received $45 million in bailout funds, and then held a $10 million Superbowl party. After taking $10 billion in taxpayers’ money and laying of 5,000 workers, Morgan Stanley held a conference in a 5-star hotel in Palm Springs. And etc.

It is clear these people have no clue as to how 90% of Americans live their lives. They are demonstrating that they lack any ability to reflect upon how actions like those above will appear to regular Americans who haven’t seen a real wage increase in decades and who are experiencing rapidly-growing unemployment.

Today, Allan Alkin wrote an amusing piece in the NYT about how hard life will be for executives who *only* earn $500,00 a year: Trying to Live on 500K in New York City. (I am currently living on less than 1/20th of that amount, BTW. How do I do it??)

Does [$500K] buy a chief executive stockholders might prize, a well-to-do man with a certain sureness of stride, something that might be lost if the executive were crowding onto the PATH train every morning at Journal Square, his newspaper splayed against the back of a stranger’s head?

The man would certainly not feel like himself on that train, said Candace Bushnell, the author of “Sex and the City” and other books chronicling New York social mores.

“People inherently understand that if they are going to get ahead in whatever corporate culture they are involved in, they need to take on the appurtenances of what defines that culture,” she said. “So if you are in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, it’s like the same thing that goes back to high school peer pressure. It’s about fitting in.”

Uh oh, somebody call the WAAAAAAAaaaambulance! Read the full article to learn about the full extent of the hardships that will befall [apparently male] executives who may be forced to live on the paltry sum of half a mil a year.

I wish someone would force me to live on $500K a year, come to think of it. Obama? Get on that!

What the Different Owe to the Normal

Blogger Shiva made a thought-provoking comment in a discussion on Bird of Paradox:

it seems to basically say “oppressed/marginalised people can be treated as property” (to be “borrowed”, something must be “owned”), and simultaneously that an explanation of difference is something that the “normal” have a right to demand at will from the “different” (a term commonly used in the autistic liberation movement is “self-narrating zoo exhibit”).

Thanks to Questioning Transphobia for drawing my attention to this discussion. Go over to Bird of Paradox for the original context, or Questioning Transphobia for additional ruminations from a specifically trans angle.

I find the phrase “self-narrating zoo exhibit” both powerful and useful. Many of us who have, shall we say, non-mainstream identities, whether identities as queer, trans, Muslim, disabled, Native, Jewish any combo thereof and etc, know exactly what this phrase means.

We know what it feels like for others with some sort of privilege we lack to expect, nay demand explanations for our very personhood, or our right to membership in humanity.

When I worked with the refugee community, I fielded a lot of requests from grad students who wanted to interview refugees for their theses. Their plan:

1. The refugee service agency gives them the private contact information of their clients.
2. They set up interviews with these clients to compel them to relive some of the most horrific moments of their lives.
3. Grad student success! They write up a compelling, moving theses, get published, and land an amazing position at a prestigious university.

What’s missing here? Oh yeah, the fact that refugees are PEOPLE, not exhibits to be researched. Not only that, but the recently-arrived refugees who my agency worked with were in incredibly vulnerable situations. New to the country, little or no English ability, few financial resources, survivors of unimaginable trauma, often suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues. Did the grad students really think we’d just give out their contact info and let them milk refugees for all the juicy details of how they watched their fathers die, their mothers get raped, their houses burned?

What were the refugees supposed to get out of this little exchange? Oh, nothing. The students never even gave a second thought about that, they just assumed the refugees would be honored to get attention from them. The students never considered volunteering, developing real relationships and trust, donations of any kind. It was to be a one-way transaction for them, and the understaffed, underfunded service agency was to facilitate it, and the refugees themselves were TO LIKE IT, GODDAMN IT!

America was giving them shelter, so the refugees should be expected to explain themselves. Again. And again. And by themselves, we all know that we mean: the juicy violent horrible stuff, not their personalities and their likes and dislikes.

Whew, sorry, the anger is coming back. Well, belately I now know what I would have said to those annoying grad students. Refugees are not your self-narrating zoo exhibits, bitches! So shove your thesis where the sun don’t shine!

Political Correctness

I l-o-v-e it when people agree with me! Hearts out to A Truly Elegant Mess, a blog that recently posted the amazing bit Who wakes up and says, “I wish I could be oppressed too”?.

My favorite part:

As far as this idea of “politically correct” (scare quotes intended) as code for “uptight” or “restrictive,” I don’t see why it is so important to some people to be allowed to use words that create an othering effect of specific groups. One thing that must be put out there right now: complaining about being forced to be “PC” is, in essence, complaining that you can’t be a racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic douchenozzle without there being consequences.

Agreed. I have this train of thought often. I hear people gripe about the expectation to be “PC”, implying that somehow their freedom of expression is cramped, or that it gets in the way of honestly expressing themselves. Well, here’s the thing. Being PC is about respecting all people equally. Specifically, it is about not using terms that traditionally oppressed or marginalized groups find offensive. Using such terms is typically (though not always) something that a privileged group does, with the intended or unintended effect of reinforcing oppressive social structures.

You don’t have to be PC – you don’t have to treat anyone with respect either. But there are, and should be, consequences if you decide to treat certain groups with disrespect by using insulting terms towards them. If your honest feelings towards a group of (traditionally oppressed) people is one of inferiority, feel free to be honest. Like all moments of honesty, if the truth is painful, people will react. So complaining about being PC is like Dori from the above post says: it’s complaining that you can’t be a bigot without some degree of public censure. Allow me to join you in a big Boo Hoo.

Perhaps you’ve always been accustomed to using certain terms amongst your peer group that you realize get a bad reaction when used outside of that group. For example, certain words you use to describe blacks while in your all-white circle of friends don’t fly when the group is racially-mixed. I would suggest to think this one over. If POC find the terms offensive, why use them at all? Especially when out of earshot of people of color? The fact that we would use certain terms when in an all-white (or all-male or etc) group but not in a mixed group demonstrates that we know the difference between offensive and inoffensive remarks, but we still resort to insulting terms when we think it’s safe.

I have this suggestion. Why not use only terms that you would be unashamed to use in any social situation, regardless of the make-up of the group? Particularly for those of us who belong to social groups that have a lot of privilege, why not respect those who don’t? Why actively participate in white supremacy, male dominance, heteronormativity, etc? This is a relatively easy form of rebellion against social inequalities… give it a go!

Post-Racial. Replaces “Equal-Opportunity Offender” as My New Least Favorite Phrase.

America has completed its evolution into a racial meritocracy.

-Phillip Morris, Cleveland Plains Dealer

We’re done folks! Laura Hollis at Townhall.com says “racism is dead”! We can now safely blame people of color for health, education, incarceration and wage disparities that exist between POC and whites. And, between you and me, what a relief! I HATE feeling guilty!

The following major news sources have used the term “post-racial” or something similar following Obama’s successful presidential race.

The New Republic

NPR

LA Times

Washington Post

New York Times

And check out this video!

Read some great criticism about the MSM’s obsession with prematurely inaugurating an imaginary “post-racial society”.

RaceWire

Pam’s House Blend

Womanist Musings

I keep hearing a certain subset of white people harp on this post-racial meme. They seem less interested in ascertaining that POC are truly no longer persecuted, and mostly concerned with washing their hands of ever having to confront their white privilege again. They see an easy way out and they are taking it! Smooth. Well, their racist panties are showing above their colorblind trousers. Some whites can’t think of anything positive in Obama’s election besides gaining ammunition to tell POC never to complain about racial discrimination again. From here on out, it’s their own fault!

Thank the lord so many bloggers are cutting through the bullshit and letting the light shine in on these worms.

(c) idyllicmollusk 11/17/08

SPACE

Have you ever found yourself in a situation resembling the following?

· You are a christian student and notice that there is an active atheist club on campus.

· You are white and see that there is a hip new bar in town catering to African-Americans.

· You were born in the U.S., but see a cool new social networking organization for young Vietnamese immigrants pop up in your area.

· You are a man and notice that there are now several vocal women’s safety organizations in your town.

· You are straight and you have become aware of a vibrant and edgy queer art scene in a neighborhood near you.

If you can identify with any of these scenarios, you are just one of many. Many people in society become aware of the interesting goings-on in marginalized or oppressed communities, and are naturally curious.

If your curiosity leads to a desire to find out more, you can turn into one of two people:

1. An awesome supporter and ally of a different community

or

2. A shitty co-opter who uses affiliation with a marginalized community to look “cool”.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE NUMBER TWO.

To be a supporter and ally:

Before attending a community’s event, try to find out if outsiders are even welcome.

Be prepared to learn, not to teach.

See how you can “bring something to the table” through promoting, donating, volunteering or working to end oppression experienced by the community.

Be thankful for the opportunity for an inside look at the community.

Keep your mouth shut- spend your time listening.

If members of an oppressed community decide to share information with you about how they experience discrimination, be supportive and affirm their feelings.

Make it clear that though you haven’t had the same experiences, you still value their perspectives.

Be open to experiencing things that will change the way you perceive larger society.

Be ready to work out differences.

To be a shitty co-opter:

Assume that outsiders are always wanted and welcome.

Tell members of the marginalized community what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

Steal ideas, style and strategies without offering anything in return.

Act like the community should be grateful simply for your presence.

Take up all the space by insisting on constantly being the center of attention.

Deny that members of marginalized communities experience discrimination or oppression, and tell them they are wrong to feel that way.

Pretend that you can fully understand all aspects of the situation of someone from an oppressed community.

Refuse to legitimately try to understand the perspective of the community in question.

Claim a the community’s identity as your own.

It’s about space. Co-opters actually hurt and further oppress the communities that they prey on by invading their space, whereas allies help them thrive. People who stand in a privileged position in society may learn to expect that they have a right to access any and all community space. They may also come to think that they know what’s best for communities that experience oppression. It is easy to feel this way when you are accustomed to society catering to your demographic’s needs, especially if you are white, male, christian, straight, or US-born, etc. Please be aware that people who do not share these characteristics with you have had very, very different experiences with our society. This is not a reason to distance yourself from marginalized or oppressed communities, but to instead practice being an effective ally.

© 3/31/08 idyllicmollusk