the philosophactivist

Monday, January 28, 2013

Environmental Racism- A Journal Throwback but Forever Relevant

I stumbled across a blog/journal a few students and I had from March and April 2010. It documented our journey into learning more about environmental justice and environmental racism. A group of us worked throughout our time at school toward supporting an environmental justice group called MEAN (Mossville Environmental Action Now) in Mossville, Louisiana. Environmental racism is something occurring all over this country and world, actually. Many people don't really stop to think about why refineries, power plants and other types of factories set up shop in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Or why these communities may have toxic dumps, brown fields and wastelands and other wonderful biproducts of capitalism that end up in our backyard and doorstep so many times. There are many stories of people (a lot of times women) who have come together to fight against places like Conoco-Phillips who pollute their water, air, and soil. These chemicals lead to chronic asthma, birth differences/deformation, cancer, and all kinds of health issues for generations down the line. The majority of folks affected are low-income communities and communities of color.

Mossville is a community that began with freed formerly enslaved people. You may know a similar story. They were doing ok for generations and then the greedy (white) capitalists showed up. The land was/is "unincorporated" and not owned "legally." These businesses/entrepreneurs (gluttons?) began to build their factories (14 right now in Mossville to be exact) and dump their sludge into their water and their chemicals into the air and ground. People started getting really sick but there wasn't a lot that could be done. Have you ever tried to take on a million dollar industry?

The state government is in "cohoots"- collaborating with these factories. Many people work at these factories and when we talked with them, we found they had a strong allegiance to the companies who gave them such great health care. (??) It is a really complicated situation and the federal government paid lip service for some time before CNN did a story and colleges, outside organizations, and the United Nations started listening and demanding action.

Unfortunately this is a common story for communities of color and many communities don't have the media or government's ear. You may be living in one right now or have family living in a community like this. A toxic town. Maybe a part of cancer alley?
Mossville Video

You can read my reflection on our community organizing and "participatory action research" here.
**Participatory Action Research or "PAR" is a way of collecting information for organizing that honors, centers, and reflects the experiences of people most directly affected by issues in our communities.For more about Participatory Action Research:

The 17 Principles of Environmental Justice- written by People of Color at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, 20+ years ago:

Environmental Justice Movement Background:

"Up to the late 1960s, racism was defined as a doctrine, dogma, ideology, or set of beliefs. The central theme of this doctrine was that race determined culture. Some cultures were deemed superior to others; therefore, some races were superior and others inferior. During the 1960s the definition of racism was expanded to include the practices, attitudes, and beliefs that supported the notion of racial superiority and inferiority. Such beliefs and practices produced racial discrimination.

However, researchers argue that to limit the understanding of racism to behavior misses important aspects of racism. Racism is also a system of advantages or privileges based on race. Racism is thus more fully understood if one sees it as the execution of prejudice and discrimination coupled with power, privilege, and institutional support. It is aided and maintained by legal, penal, educational, religious, and business institutions, to name a few.

Environmental racism is an important concept that provided a label for some of the environmental activism occurring in minority and low-income communities. In particular, it links racism with environmental actions, experiences, and outcomes.

The term environmental racism, or environmental discrimination, is used to describe racial disparities in a range of actions and processes, including but not limited to the:
  • increased likelihood of being exposed to environmental hazards
  • disproportionate negative impacts of environmental processes
  • disproportionate negative impacts of environmental policies, for example, the differential rate of cleanup of environmental contaminants in communities composed of different racial groups
  • deliberate targeting and siting of noxious facilities in particular communities
  • environmental blackmail that arises when workers are coerced or forced to choose between hazardous jobs and environmental standards
  • segregation of ethnic minority workers in dangerous and dirty jobs
  • lack of access to or inadequate maintenance of environmental amenities such as parks and playgrounds
  • inequality in environmental services such as garbage removal and transportation

During the 1980s people of color began organizing environmental campaigns to prevent the poisoning of farm workers with pesticides; lead poisoning in inner-city children; the siting of noxious facilities—landfills, polluting industrial complexes, and incinerators—in communities like Warren County, North Carolina; Altgeld Gardens (the "toxic doughnut" on Chicago's South-side); Convent, Louisiana's "cancer alley;" and Kettleman City, California. Activists also demanded the cleanup of communities like Triana, Alabama that had been contaminated with DDT (dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane), and the monitoring or closure of facilities like Emelle, Alabama's commercial hazardous landfill (the largest of its kind in the United States). In addition, they questioned the placement of large numbers of nuclear waste dumps on Native-American reservations.

Meanwhile, activists, scholars, and policymakers began investigating the link between race and exposure to environmental hazards. Two influential studies exploring this relationship—one by the U.S. General Accounting Office (USGAO) and the other by the United Church of Christ (UCC)—found that African-Americans and other people of color were more likely to live close to hazardous waste sites and facilities than whites. The study by the UCC was particularly important because it made an explicit connection between race and the increased likelihood of being exposed to hazardous wastes. The studies also made the issue of race and the environment more salient in communities of color."

You can read more here:

Mossville is Like a Toxic Town
A paper on Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice groups:

Health is a serious issue for QPOC and POC. With all this energy and focus on just surviving it can be the first to be overlooked. While some of our health is affected by the individual choices we make, you can see that there are some huge determining factors that are involuntary. Do we control what's in our air and soil and therefore our food? Are diabetes and cancer actually  genetic? Do we as POC have a "predisposition" to these chronic dis-eases or is it tied to pollution of our environment and food sources? How can we gain more autonomy- more control over our environment and bodies?

I'll return to environmental justice, sustainability and intersections with food and economic justice in the future.

As always- giving you food for thought.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shades of Masculinity: On Masculinity, Strength, Perceptions of Power and Desirability

What does strength look like to you? Many are caught up in the ways that we've been socialized to believe what strength looks like, especially as it pertains to masculine presenting folks. A lot of times I see “strength” being tied to the performance of male roles and traits...especially aggression, cockiness, etc. I see it tied to a specific kind of power that has been relegated to males and that is connected to the outward expression of dominance in all its ways of being portrayed.

Inner strength is often overlooked. A masculine of center person with an enormous reserve of inner strength who is “holding it down” but who does not express an aggressive attitude or what we've come to label as “masculine” or “male” energy is sometimes seen as weaker or not compatible in the ever-perpetuated butch/femme dichotomy.

I think we need to re-examine maleness and masculinity in a way that doesn't carry the assumptions of what “masculine energy” looks like. Is it so far entrenched in our psyche or queer collective consciousness that we must tie masculine to stereotypical “maleness” and oppose it to stereotypical "femaleness" and femininity in this cyclical way that is neither definitive or serving to us?

There are different shades of masculinity, but only one of those shades or sides of the spectrum receives precedence: the butch, the AG, the aggressive, the dom, the macha. They are usually seen as more “legit”and also more desirable. This plays out similarly in transmasculine and transmen circles a lot of times.This outward display, the way a person “holds themselves” or projects a certain image of this particular brand of masculinity, and essentially the way they interact and participate in this world as this very specific portrayal of masculinity is often validated while other forms of masculinity are invalidated.

Masculine energy. Should this always be tied to white patriarchal notions? Let's define that...the colonizers had very specific ideas about the place of a man and woman and what the behaviors of a man and woman should look like. A woman was responsible for the private sphere (the home) and the man was responsible for interactions in the public sphere. The man had a whole list of traits and characteristics tied to what we think of today as "masculine" and "manly" while the woman took on the polar opposite of all these "manly-man traits." She was to be soft-spoken, demure, docile, loving, the caregiver, etc. This "balance" was stifling to women and in many ways against the ways gender roles played out in the pre-colonial societies of our ancestors. I won't "go in" on I've talked about this in a previous post.

Should the butch/femme dynamic always take its cues from this type of “balancing” of male and female roles and behaviors? Why does masculine and feminine have to look so static and replicate hetero relationships and a patriarchal model?

Are QPOC subversive in their relationships? Do we sometimes appear to be replicating this model but our relationships are more complementary like those relationships of our ancestors? I can't say I've seen much of this in the very visible relationships in some of our circles. But maybe the folks in these relationships aren't part of any "scenes". Maybe they've been alienated like us masculine folks who don't adhere to the assumptions of how we should act and be. I don't have the answer.

And if we are subversive- in our attempted subversion do queers, feminists, womanists, and radicals still accidentally recreate the ever so problematic patriarchy by unconsciously being committed to concepts of masculine and feminine being tied to these entrenched societal notions of male and female? 

At the end of the day, I guess I'm just confused about why strength looks like an aggressive male or female. Why is it tied to the traits of a "man"? Why is this "more desirable" in our communities a lot of times? And what is masculinity and femininity really if we take away these assumptions and the characteristics we're socialized to believe are male and female? What is masculine and feminine energy when not tied to perceptions of strength and roles we've been assigned? And why is this energy in people so polarized? Why is the polarization of this energy valued so much in this society? Is it because it makes it easier to know who should have power and who shouldn't? Seems to work pretty well in a male-dominated society. But with the Amazons, were the "less aggressive" women deemed weaker? Did they have less power? How does this work in matrilineal and matriarchal societies (that people swear don't exist...but I personally know of at least 2). 

So many questions. Plenty of time.

1male noun
a : a male person : a man or a boy
b : an individual that produces small usually motile gametes (as spermatozoa or spermatozoids) which fertilize the eggs of a female


of, relating to, or characteristic of the male sex 
of, relating to, or being the sex that produces gametes which fertilize the eggs of a female 
ok more science...

Origin of MALE 

Middle English, from Anglo-French masle, male, adjective & noun, from Latin masculus 
First Known Use: 14th century <<<<uh...


b : having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man <<??

Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a 


^^^What does that even meeean?^^^

Just some food for thought.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Not interested in sitting at your table OR No, thank you to your "table"

We've all heard of the table that's sitting and waiting for us people of color to join. It's had place mats and a glass of water, and maybe even a (culturally irrelevant) salad and appetizer waiting for us for some time some say. Those in lucrative positions and positions of power and privilege keep telling us that they want us to take a load off, break bread with them and let them know what's on our community's mind. They are all ears. We NEED to be at this table that they've created. This table with the nice linens of conveniently, already-made ideology, the polished silverware of entrenched models and old paradigms, the rolled napkins of  (pseudo-) peace talks and (our) compromise.

You see, a lot of the folks I know don't want a seat at someone else's table. The very table that is built on assumptions that the marginalized must be taught, can't organize themselves, and need only buy into pre-made models. Na, no thanks.

We want our own table *and not the kiddie table, thanks.

Maybe some liberals and progressives have missed this in fighting for their own autonomy but yes...we'd like our own autonomy. Our own sovereignty (which Merriam-Webster defines as freedom of external control). We don't just want to be heard on the fringes of your agendas. We don't just want to be heard when something we say complements your agenda. We have had our own ideas on how things should be in our communities since the beginning of time...and it wasn't until our communities were disrupted that we started to have these huge disparities. Being pushed into survival mode, priorities were shifted...but not to the point that we'd like to give up control of what happens to us, our families and communities to outliers who don't know much about our values or needs.

Envisioning and creating a shift in paradigm

We need a completely new paradigm, not the old, musty models and mentality rooted in wayward assumptions and savior mentality. For those who aren't sure what savior mentality looks goes a little something like this...

"Why won't they just come to the table. They never show up. We're trying to help them but they don't want to be helped!"
"We just want to help you/your people/those people/the at-risk/minorities..."
"They just don't want/won't to do the work..."
"They just don't understand. We have to teach them all about how to...x,y,z"

Assumptions make an…

Here's a big issue: subconsciously some white activists and radicals operate under the same erroneous assumptions that our country was built on: that we’re not quite people. We're not whole and therefore to be infantalized. We’re folks to be taught the proper way to go about things: health, education, religion,etc. We need their help…but in the ways they want to give it.

If you want to us to make these important decisions that have major impact on our community within our community. Don't just expect us to come and get cozy in the seat at your table. Odds are we have a different perspective on how we want to go about food and economic justice. And no matter what anyone thinks, it's not our job to fill that seat at your table. You should  come sit at ours. And don't say there isn't one- you probably haven't looked hard enough what with all the projects that are being started assuming that there aren't others out there like yours. And yes, we know, it makes you feel all kinds of uncomfortable to sit at our table. But we've been feeling that way for decades at that rickety, folding chair at your table. That's why a lot of us refuse to join your dinner party anymore. Trust us, it's for the best. It's hard to sit at a table where racist, xenophobic, and patriarchal assumptions aren't checked. Microaggressions- you really feel those in the morning (and weeks and weeks) after those meetings.

Privilege, Privilege, Privilege

It's probably no news to many that organizing tactics are affected by class and race privilege. Radicals frequently talk about these but, in my experience,I've seen few really, truly addressing them. It's always easier to talk about things, right? Or maybe to turn the issue around and say that POC should give the solution to solving this problem (which unfortunately is tied to racist assumptions of what POC should be responsible for).

Tables are tokenizing

And few appreciate being tokenized. This looks like:

Deciding you need a black or brown person on you panel or board or in your collective to represent/speak for the black/brown community.
Making the black/brown person the go to person for questions about the black/brown community
Thinking that having the black/brown person say a few things in a few meetings throughout the year is enough to understand the black/brown community
Thinking that sending the black/brown person to meetings with other black/brown folks and having them report back is enough or is "keeping your ear to the ground"

So again...

Meet us at our table

Where we rarely have a token white person but usually respect our allies if they're willing to put in the work, check their assumptions, and acknowledge that "cultural competence" and "anti-racism" are not skills that can be mastered.

Meet us at our table where we make our own decisions and come up with our own solutions within our communities- because nobody knows what is best for our community but us.

And nobody knows our community needs like we do. Period. I don’t care what school you went to, what kind of degree you've received, what kind of organizing you’ve done in the states abroad, or what kind of theory you’ve read…the Community. Knows. Best. So come join us at our table where I can almost for certain say that we've been discussing issues of social justice since they were issues- even if we didn't have fancy labels for these issues. (This is a hint for you "food movement").

Join us...we'll share a pot of greens or some arroz con pollo or somethin' with you...
Yea, we'll make you a plate...

[to definitely be continued]

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why the world needs more QPOC/POC herbalists and healers

I'm a firm believer that those who live at the intersections have a deeper and better understanding of the wants/needs of a larger number of folks. As a queer person of color interested in traditional healing, I know that I'm walking this path with few others that look like me. I've seen the classrooms and websites. I know that POC aren't clamoring to get into a “profession” where there aren't any certifications and there aren't any guarantees that you'll even break even, let alone be balling out of control.

I get it.
But, this is my path.

I was always coming up with remedies as a kid. Giving advice to family members. The little doctor that could. I went on to school to do pre-med and I became the little doctor that couldn't...or wouldn't. I just didn't understand why it had to be so grueling and was not willing to put myself through 6 more years of anxiety. When I went on to study health advocacy and was diagnosed with lupus...I began to understand why medical school wasn't for me. As “allopathic”/conventional medicine failed me, I turned to herbalism and homeopathy. I knew I needed a more holistic approach. The specialists weren't addressing the root of my problem. They were only concerned with suppressing symptoms. How does that sound right to anyone?

Through vegetarianism and trying to address symptoms for my chronic illness, I learned more about my body and maintaining balance through diet, supplements, exercise, etc. I became more and more interested in food as medicine. It seemed to me that the root of many people's illness is due to diet (not just our choices, but contaminated foods) and our environment. As I struggled to find what aggravated dis-ease in my own body, I began to see some commonalities in food allergies that I shared with other sufferers of autoimmune disorders. I experimented with raw food, gluten-free, dairy-free, low name it. I took more vitamin D and more B-12. I took multivitamins and pro-biotics. There was so much information out there and not too many people I could trust for answers. If I had known a brown or even queer herbalist at the beginning of this might have been easier.

Why a queer brown herbalist? Because studies show (and trust me, I've studied this extensively) that brown folks and queer folks do better at helping brown folks and queer folks. No, it doesn't eliminate all the discrimination and bias...but it does lessen it quite a bit.

You know, I get tired of folks talking like brown folks are new to herbalism. This knowledge was stolen from our people. Truth. Look at most of the pharmaceuticals, they use herbs as major components and add synthetic filler. (Ex: Willow bark in aspirin). Native Americans, Africans and other Indigenous folks had it on lock. Healers worked with plants and addressed you emotionally, spiritually and physically. The colonizers were the ones who decided to split mind, spirit and body. So now we've got to go to a psychiatrist, a preacher, AND a doctor.

Ahh me duele mi codo thinking about that.
In other words, it hurts to think about paying an arm and a leg for all these separate services.

The healers I know are versed in chinese medicine, medical astrology, herbalism, Ayurveda, the chakra system...all kinds of healing modalities. Not because they are interested in the next new age craze, but because they are invested in knowing as many ways as possible to heal and know that the ways overlap and intersect.

So maybe many of our People may not trust traditional medicine. We barely want to even go in to see a doctor, right? Well, while I think that herbalism and other kinds of medicine can be potentially for everyone, I understand why some people don't want to mess with it. Especially with the mistrust we have of the medical establishment due to some flagrant atrocities like sterilization, experiments like Tuskegee, etc. But, I think that may be even more reason for our community to turn to alternative healing practices.

I love that today more and more folks of color and QPOC are becoming doulas, acupuncturists, herbalists, etc. I'm optimistic that we are going to heal our community from the core. Barriers to positive physical health due to bias and discrimination need to be eradicated. In the meantime, for those of us who are called to do this healing work, let's get the education needed through programs, community skillshares, and elders. Why wait around for “anti-racist” doctors, allies, and the medical system to make changes when we can look to our own community for wellness (culturally relevant healing!).

That said... I am fundraising for a community herbalist program. I want to be a co-creator of this vision for a queer and POC community that is physically, spiritually and emotionally well. I have some ideas for how I want to use the knowledge attained from the herbalist program. I want to:

  • provide a blog detailing my journey as an herbalist
  • create a quarterly zine sharing knowledge learned, dedicated to health and food justice
  • Organize a collective of holistic healers whose focus will be to provide culturally appropriate, affordable care to people of color, the queer community, and low/no-income folks
  • Organize a holistic health event free to the public designed to provide information on different healing modalities and promoting healthy, culturally appropriate diets.

You can read more about the vision here:

I hope that you'll join me in being a co-visionary and spread the word about the need for more Q/POC holistic healers in our communities.

Maybe you've even felt called to become one. Let's create this new Reality and be Whole again, individually and as a community.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Decolonizing Gender in Our QPOC/POC Community- Reclaiming Oldways Starting with Concepts of Gender

Well, well. It's been quite some time. I've been on the grind working on submitting plays, applications to programs, finishing a novel and anthology, “organizing” in the community for food justice, food sovereignty, economic and health justice, among many, many other things. I've got a lot to talk about but today I feel drawn to talk about queer people of color and views on gender.

I came across some posts a few weeks ago about the way that certain masculine of center folks want to be addressed by male pronouns or to their children as dad or to their friends as bro/brother. There seemed to be consensus on this particular thread that this wasn't ok and that these “MOC's” were “trying” to be something they weren't or that they needed to “try” harder if they couldn't pass with others. Lots of policing around gender expression happens in the queer community. I used to think that because we were queer or identified as LGBT that we had this innate ability to be more understanding about variance in our community. But, this was and continues to be a detrimental assumption. After all, what is the queer community but a microcosm of society with all (and maybe even more of) the same ailments of the community at large (of course with some variation and nuances). Sometimes queer people of color can be the least forgiving. Not all the time, but sometimes. Especially when it comes to gender. Perhaps if we knew a little bit more about how our conception of gender came about and our true history, we'd let go of rigid western european views and embrace a more comprehensive view of ourselves, as our ancestors did.

First, let's get on the same page. This is from good old Wiki and good enough for our purposes, I guess:

A gender role is a set of social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship. There are differences of opinion as to which observed differences in behavior and personality between genders are entirely due to innate personality of the person and which are due to cultural or social factors, and are therefore the product of socialization, or to what extent gender differences are due to biological and physiological differences.Gender roles differ according to cultural-historical context, and while most cultures express two genders, some express more. (Androgyny, for example, has been proposed as a third gender. Other societies have been claimed to have more than five genders,and some non-Western societies have three genders –man, woman and third gender.)Gender expression refers to the external manifestation of one's gender identity, through "masculine," "feminine," or gender-variant or gender neutral behavior, clothing, hairstyles, or body characteristics.

Our (Hir)story

The way our community views gender today is not rooted in our (read: POC) traditions. During colonization our traditions were repressed and during slavery, western patriarchal notions reigned supreme. Men were supposed to keep their women in line. Men were to have power over women in all spheres. Especially the “public spheres.” Westerners believe whatever gender is predominant in/controls the public sphere (i.e. business and trade, etc.) has the most power. Many have pointed out that this isn't true when applied to pre-colonial African society. Though anthropologists argue that power and authority are vested in, or come from, who controls the public domain, in African society women are involved in both the public and private domain. In pre-colonial Africa women had a role in business as well as were revered in the home. Their voice in decision-making for their communities was extremely important. Though we see remnants of this today, it seems that our society is caught up with certain types of power being “masculine” or “feminine.” Masculine power trumping feminine of course.

Our ancestors, before and during slavery, functioned with the complementarity of gender roles, meaning they "shared power" while complementing one another's  roles.

Combining in such a way as to enhance or emphasize each others qualities.

Though there was hierarchy in male and female roles in both the public and private sphere and some hierarchy between the sexes in some aspects of African life, it wasn't the same as the uneven balance of power in relationships between males and females in western society. We've got to abandon the colonizer's mentality and focus more on the significance of the complementary roles that our ancestors had. (This is not only true for Africa but also true in Mexico, Central and South America- and most colonized lands).

Women had the dopest roles of all as healers. In some parts of Africa, women were seen as more intuitive and closer to nature and nature is extremely important in African cosmology and spirituality. You see, Nature is respected not only because of its association with the Supreme but also because of its relevance to humankind. Imagine that! So, the fact that a woman is thought to be more attuned to nature points to her significance to the tribe as a powerful mediator and channel of the Supreme Being in a healing capacity.

So, for our ancestors, the relationships between males and females was different. Gender expression and roles were completely different. Not rigid and suffocating. Our ancestors weren't invested in the same kinds of ways that westerners/ the colonizers are in gender determining your role. There were societies in which women took on “male roles” and “maleness,” becoming “male” for certain social or spiritual reasons. There were certain Native American societies where men lived as women and women as men. Two-spirited. And this was honored and respected. People weren't expected to be polarized on either side of the spectrum for the sake of defining roles and knowing what pronouns to use.

If you look at the literature there are some societies with 3 genders, 5 genders, and more. They aren't restricted to this male-female binary which determines almost every aspect of western life. What you're going to wear. Maybe even where you can work or what position you can have. Or how much money you'll make. What bathroom to use, etc,etc. Basically- how much power you're allowed to have and how you should be treated. For better or for worse.

What a shame that people get so stuck on gender presentation and expression that they can't relate with another person. These days it's grounds for isolating people. It's grounds for aggression and injuring or killing others.

Gender Variance and Healing

Two-spirited, gender non-conforming people have a long past as healers. Dig and you'll find this out. (I'd start with Leslie Feinberg's Transgender Warriors- if you've got others, let me know.)
Being between genders- neither male or female or maybe being both, was thought to be a gift in the past, and still is considered sacred in some societies today.

In many shamanic traditions, there was the idea that combining the characteristics of both sexes and both genders could connect one to a transcendent spiritual realm. Two-spirited folks were messengers of the Creator, visionaries, dream interpreters, keepers and teachers of spiritual principles, and medicine people. They were called on to do burials, bless unions and births and perform other ceremonies. Because they embodied both Mother Earth and Father Sky and held both a masculine and feminine heart within their souls (two spirits), they were perceived as having twice the power. They were thought to be more able to be fair and to be able to see into the hearts of males and females. Since they inhabited both masculine and feminine in one body they were thought to be able to “see” with both the eyes of men and women. This made them mediators and bridges. They were also seen as mediators between two worlds- that of Spirit and the human world, as well as between partners, tribe, and nation. In older world religions, the gods and goddesses in-between genders were viewed as whole-gendered and therefore balanced.

In fact, the suppression of our gender expression can be seen as a barrier to our wholeness. Some say that two-spirited people/gender non-conforming folks are an “affirmation of humanity's pre-gendered unity”. We're the representatives of this previous form of solidarity and wholeness that was present before the split of humans into men and women. Put that in your pipe and smoke it genderphobic colonizers.

Decolonizing our Minds

We have got to continue to decolonize our minds. Forget everything we've been taught and search for the oldways. We have got to reclaim our traditions because the “education” we are getting now is not serving us. In order to survive- no, thrive- we've got to begin to care about the constant poisoning of our knowledge-base and the severance of ties to our traditions.

In Amerika, the multicultural melting pot, we are stuck on differences. Some search for commonalities. I'd like us who consider ourselves “radical” or visionary to move past this and connect to the spirits of others and see their humanity. What's truly radical is seeing that we all want happiness and that we all want to avoid suffering. The Dalai Lama once talked about how this was how he was able to relate to so many people from so many walks of life. It's not radical to point out the differences in ideologies, others faults, and why we're better/more educated/more radical than others.

What's radical is holding people within your community accountable for their transphobia, misogyny (internalized and externalized), misandry, xenophobia, racism, fat phobia, etc. Check folks. Call them out. Challenge people. Why is a transwoman funny? Why is someone who has taken estrogen or testosterone or who had had surgery more trans or more legitimate and taken more seriously than a person who hasn't? Why is it taboo for two masculine of center folks to be together? Why is it okay for homophobia to exist within trans circles? Why is it ok for transphobia to exist within the queer community? Why is it ok for a gay male to be a misogynist and why is the patriarchy recreated within the LGBT community? Why do we mostly hear from white trans folks? If trans people of color are the most marginalized and the folks being murdered at a higher rate (an astronomical rate), why is there little discussion and only support one day out of the year?

An elder transwoman on a recent trans panel discussion I was on demonstrated something profound. She took out a Tibetan singing bowl, held it tight with one hand and attempted to strike it to make it sound. There was an ugly clank. She tried again. Same. She let go of the bell and struck it and a it made a beautiful sound that continued to resonate for some time. She said that in society when people deny us our expression we are denied our authenticity and are like that bell that only clanks and isn't given the opportunity to sing. When society allows us to express our true selves and be who we are, we are able to truly sing like when she released the bell and struck it.

What are you saying, Toi?

Simply put: The policing of gender (and other identities), especially in the QPOC community, must STOP. We've got to decolonize our minds. De-assimilate. We need to know our (hir)story and reclaim the oldways. We've got to understand that our ideas on gender are limited and that they are a detriment to our community and the community at large. And we've got to hold others accountable. Including ourselves.

Afro-Genderqueer Street Philosophactivist out...