the philosophactivist

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Privilege and Protest

Sigh. If I see one more white man at Occupy X,Y,Z talking about how the man is holding "us" down ...
So I've been hanging out at Occupy Oakland, seeing what's what and I'm going to say wreaks of privileged folks. There is a large percentage of folks who are highly educated (whether from college or the school of..(should I even say "hard") knocks? No wonder so many people of color are skeptical about this movement. Our struggles are not all the same. I'm not saying that we can't come together over some commonalities...but to talk about the "man" holding us down as if "his" foot is on everyone's neck and that some aren't disproportionately affected- is more than ridiculous. Red Flag number one.

Red Flag number 2. Sexual harassment and women and queer folks not feeling safe and having to have their own section of the camp. I'm not even woman-identified and some man at the information booth found it necessary to put his hand on me and give me a little squeeze in an uncomfortable place. Also, there are men who are helping to organize the General Assembly and other committees who have committed sexual assault or who are sexually harassing women in the encampment. What's being done about that? Um. Nothing. Though there is a "Safer Spaces Committee" ...not many people are feeling safe. Men and their feelings of entitlement...and all under the guise of being an organizer/activist/community-builder who "knows everything" about sexual harassment and wouldn't dare commit such a thing. It really burns my biscuits when folks don't continue educating themselves  and use their status as an organizer to show that they can do no wrong (and that goes for sexism,racism, being homophobic,etc.)

Also...a few people of color see it fit to be divisive. Walking around the encampment talking about why there shouldn't be a POC committee and how "evolved" they are as if color-blindness has anything to do with evolution. It is racist in itself- denying differences and aiding in discrimination and is basically a "microaggression". Discrimination in itself. So, who exactly does it serve for us to be acculturated? Mhm. Exactly.

People (men, white folks, the educated, the economically stable) need to check their privilege before theytake it upon themselves to organize these movements. It is destructive for male chauvinists and "macktivists" and theorists and white folks to be heading this occupy movement. How can we build anything sustainable without people feeling safe or heard?


More Later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Diversifying the Stacks (book shelves that is)

We really need more queer and trans writers of color. Now, of course this desire partially comes from me wanting to read perspectives and issues similar to my own,  but I also say this for the greater good. It's not just about me not being able to relate to book after book after book - it's about a very monotone and singular perspective that we (people of color and others) have been subjected to for far too long. I get an instant breath of fresh air when I read Baldwin, Butler, Morraga, Chin, etc. Though I'm sure our life experiences are very different- I appreciate writings from people who have experienced similar oppression. When I read stories that actually have an analysis of the way that race (in more than a Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom way or just an outsiders perspective on what it's like to be brown or black), class, gender and sexuality intersect and affect our lives , I am giddy (yes, giddy) and excited. Relieved that something is being published from a perspective other than our colonizers. We need more memoirs and science fiction and poetry and creative non-fiction and...and...and...the sky is the limit.

I know that it is hard enough for people of color to get their stories published, so what about queer and trans POCs? I see them here and there blogging, in Zines, and on youtube. I see us organizing more and more in New York City, Oakland, and I'm sure many other places. But I ask- where are our stories? We need to write them. I want to see more brown and black trans folks talking about their transitions or writing characters like themselves. Oh. There's that giddiness again. The same kind I get when I see black or brown queer and trans characters on television series and movies. I know that there are real barriers for us getting our stories out there into the mainstream. We have to go through all kinds of gatekeepers. I'm sure that there aren't too many people sympathetic to queer and trans POC literature. Also, many of us have a history of oral traditions and might not be eager to get things into print. After all, books...literature...are all from the colonizers. Wouldn't it be great if we could all sit around telling our stories and tales around a fire like our ancestors did? to make it happen...sigh.

Diversity! We need to diversify our literature. How are we to understand each other if we're always seeing the same perspective? Hearing the same voice? I want to make it clear that I don't say this because I think our voices need to be validated but because we need to be able to heal through talking about our own experiences. It's also important for us to see that we're not alone in our experiences. I was once part of a QPOC writer's circle and it felt exhilirating to be able to tell  our stories together and encourage each other to write our experiences. For many writing is healing and this healing could inspire others. I know that there will be more and more QPOC writers soon. I'd like to encourage  people to write their own experiences and write the stories they wish to see- the ones they can't find on shelves or and I will do the same.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On Coming Out...again...and again...

I came out as genderqueer/gender non-conforming/trans to a friend of mine that I've known off and on for a while now. Her first question was..."when did you decide that?" This was a good exercise for me as I had been sifting through the dreaded myspace on that particular evening trying to figure out how far I had or hadn't come in the past 3 or 4 years. I decided that I became "definitely other than lesbian" three years ago. I told her that I'd always known I was a "bad lesbian". Something just didn't feel quite right. I also told her that a recent roommate of mine let me know that I was also a bad androgynous person. I thought for sure after seeing all the andros in Austin that ...yes that that must be what I was. But my roommate pointed out that I wore all men's clothing.

Oh. Right.

And after much self-reflection I started to see that...well, I'd always actually seen myself as a boi or more "masculine of center" though I'd never categorized myself as butch/dom/stud/ AG,etc.

There have only been about 2 years in my (adolescent and adult)  life that I didn't wear men's clothing. What can I say? It just always "felt" right. I've always been a boi and I don't think I ever really "decided" on that. It's just what I've been. What I did decide to do was to deliberately tell (or not tell) people once I began to acknowledge that I was outside of the binary.

I find it comical that a handful of people from my past who I've come out to in the past couple of years have said that they've always sensed this about me. (Just like when I was coming out as lesbian how people said- 'Oh yeah I knew that.') How could people know this before I did? Is that possible? I guess having terminology and a community of people who identify similarly has helped me to acknowledge that I am different. I wonder if I'm better off for going and buying into all this queer theory- and queer politics. A lot of queer people of color I know don't care about being politicized. They just are. I miss the simplicity of just being. Damn liberal arts colleges and queertopias. Now I guess all that's left for me to do is reconcile who I was with who I'm becoming and decide if these labels really represent me and if I want to use them when coming out.

Check out this article on the harm done when closeted and when dealing with subtle discrimination or microaggression, stigma, and social inequality:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Reclaiming our inner Self. Issues with Spirituality and Sexuality.

I know that spirituality can be a touchy subject for people who don't identify as straight. I remember religion being the reason that I suppressed all those thoughts and sentiments that I had for people of the same sex. People in the South ( I should say, many of the people I was surrounded by- family, friends, co-workers, etc.) can be really religious. There are churches on every corner. Churches that aren't necessarily accepting of us non-heteros. Some scriptures contain very hurtful interpretations of what past spiritual teachers have said about non-hetero sexual actions. Few preachers, pastors, etc. bother to acknowledge that few past spiritual leaders have commented on an actual non-hetero lifestyle. We queers (or however we may choose to identify) are not only the sum of our sexual actions. A friend of mine is always saying "I don't care what you do in the bedroom. I don't care what any of you do, as long as it doesn't affect me." And after a few years of hearing this, I finally countered with "It's not just about who I'm sleeping with. This is my partner. It's not just about sex." But for some reason...we are reduced to this solitary action. Some spiritual teachers teach about desires of the flesh and lust and put our love into that category. When I was younger I couldn't help but feel ashamed for the feelings I had about women. I was taught that this was wrong...not just wrong but abominable. Lots of us walk around feeling a lot of shame and guilt about who we are. That's why the pride parade was invented. It was us being proud about who we are in a society that makes us feel "less than". It was also satire. They made fun of all that heteros felt we were by dressing up as that. I feel like we've lost that message a lot of times...

Spirituality is an important tool. I feel that one of the many reasons that there are so many people who are dependent on drugs and alcohol in our community is because we are so often rejected from different spiritual paths (and of course, society). I remember feeling animosity for the church and vowing never to go to another church. I felt really hurt and I couldn't understand a God that didn't love part of his creation. God specifically hated me, or as some preachers actions. And this whole "don't hate the sinner, hate the sin." Ugh. What kind of God or religion would say that we should hate anyway? I couldn't comprehend. Luckily I found one of the only churches in the U.S. with an LGBT congregation and pastor. I felt more at ease with my faith and sexuality, then. Though I decided to continue with my spiritual search and didn't stay with that particular church- it definitely was my first step in the reclamation of Self. It was a step towards reconciliation and the obliteration of internalized homophobia. I found other spiritual paths that were open to members learning about other religions and this opened a whole new world for me, unfortunately some of these paths were not accepting of LGBT members- or they taught that one day we would change. There is nothing worse than being closeted on your spiritual path. How can we find our true Self if we are hiding parts of it from our spiritual community. I don't believe that we can truly discover Self if we have such intense feelings of shame.

Some spiritual paths teach that our sexuality, gender, etc. are not "who" we are. I agree. At the core of all of us-- we are That. The Great Spirit. Creator. Brahman. Ultimate Reality. Tao. God. However we choose to identify how we are interconnected. To me, spirituality is about sifting through these layers around our true identity to find our true inner Self. Believing that one of these layers- our sexuality- can prevent us from discovering  Who we are is very dangerous. It's extremely difficulty feeling guilty and, at times, even questioning our very existence because of one aspect of our identity. You know, there are actual religions that say it is better for LGBTTSGNC to kill themselves. Suicides are becoming more and more frequent for queer and questioning youth. For many youth, they do not have a choice as to what religion they will be or what spiritual path they will take.

The fear that some of us deal with on a regular basis and the affect that it has on us reminds me of a curanderismo term called  susto or soul loss. It is believed that various fearful and traumatic events can cause us to experience this loss of a part of our soul.  Soul retrievals are performed to heal us of past traumatic events and to help us regain that part of ourselves. I feel that many spiritual traditions have a form of this whether through prayer, chant, or meditation. These are tools for finding, understanding, and healing our self and ultimately understanding each other. Our community is being denied the chance to heal. Sometimes we are even told that we cannot heal unless we give up our "unnatural" actions which causes further harm.

 I wonder how in the course of history queer people went from being heavily revered soothsayers and medicine (wo)men to being rejected from society? Obviously western religion and culture had a lot to do with this in the West. (I am not exactly sure how things went down in the East but suspect that religion has a part in discrimination there as well). Sexuality has become yet another grounds for discrimination and injustice.

How do we find what's "right" or believe that we can do what's "right" when some religions are always telling us how wrong we are? How can we feel whole again, and for those of us who are spiritual seekers in search of community- how do we continue the search and keep from being discouraged? The answer is different for everyone. I have been very lucky in that, though much of my journey has been alone, I have found accepting and inspiring people along the way. I hope that everyone at some point unplugs for a bit and makes an attempt at self-realization and the reclamation of Self. With all that our community faces- healing is imperative for survival. I believe that we can heal ourselves by learning to understand ourselves and each other. We certainly must be compassionate to ourselves first and foremost and seriously acknowledge our own suffering and hardships before we can be supportive of others. This might be one of the first steps in reclaiming our Self. Bit by bit we must reconstruct ourselves into that which we aspire to be. The truth is...we've been that all along and how can we ever feel ashamed of the beautiful butterflies we are?