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I’m a pretty extreme pacifist. Beyond not believing in violence as a general solution, I practice non-violence to the extent that I don’t plan to defend myself (beyond running away!) if I’m ever violently attacked. I’m on a slow but steady trajectory, as well, towards veganism for this reason.
But that said, I don’t advocate pacifism to others. Please, please punch Nazis. And if you are black or brown and your means of resistance is violent, then I fully support your right to use violence as a part of your resistance strategy. White people have systemically engaged in horrific and unconscionable violence against black and brown people for hundreds, and I assume thousands, of years. So any white person who suggests that black and brown folks must resist using non-violent means is frankly full of shit.
I think it’s important for white pacifists to acknowledge that we’re coming from a place of enormous privilege. Many of us have never actually been in a violent situation, or in a situation where our only means of resistance was violence. We don’t have any lived experience of structural oppression and violence of the kind that black, brown, and Native folks face on the regular. So while I still believe in pacifism as a philosophy, my belief has shifted from something universal to something situational and specific. I want to avoid, as an individual, perpetrating violence, while at the same time being aware that I will spend the rest of my life complicit in extreme structural violence and genocide. Pacifism doesn’t wipe my slate clean of that fact, and it’s a choice made in context.
Greetings. It’s time for a somewhat odd end-of-year post, but bear with me. As anyone sticking around here can tell, I’ve been struggling for years to update this blog regularly. I’ve considered writing about the process many times, because I think it’s important to talk about mental health and capacity in activist communities, but it’s also tough to put myself out there and be vulnerable about my own mental health. I wanted to speak up today, though, while I’m in a particularly introspective place with regard to my mental health, have a good support structure to back me up, and have been reading some really thought-provoking work that’s made me think about how we rate our own “issues” as serious, or not serious, “enough.”
The posts I’ll reference here have very little to do with one another, at first glance. One is about executive function, another about sex-negative feminism, and the third about strategizing when to “call in.” The common thread, though, is that all three got me thinking about things in my life that often seem too “mild” or trivial to focus on or use as justification for behavior. And this is a thread that’s been incredibly prevalent and challenging for me in my attempts to practice self-care.
I hope I learn as much in the next ten years as I did from 20 to now. Thinking about my own racism, ignorance, and transmisogyny ten years ago is a bit shocking, but it makes me hopeful for how much further growth might be available if I’m open to it.
I hope I keep the community and queer family that’s just beginning for ten years to come. This may sound idealistic, given the fact that I’m not now in touch with a single non-blood related person I knew at 20, but I have a healthy dose of faith as I move in with an amazing fellow transqueer with disabilities, form intentional community, and build relationships with my four partners as well as the metamours and greater poly family I hold dear.
I hope I have the maturity to speak my truth, acknowledge my mistakes, and live not from the achievements we measure in numbers but from the values of love, honesty, and generosity that we cannot measure.
In hobbit style, I’m wishing you all love and glad tidings on my birthday. Ten years led to a different name, a different gender, a different career path, and nearly a different city, but my gratitude for everyone who pushes me to grow and question every day remains constant.
One thing I’ve learned over the past year is the value of not only goal-setting, but keeping a goal list short and simple. I’ve trimmed down a lot in 2012–Gender Across Borders closed in the spring, and I’m stepping down as Managing Editor at Girl w/ Pen at the end of the year. I took a break from #transchat (which I’m back to coordinating in 2013!) and only did a few fall speaking gigs. This year, I want to focus on the following for this blog:
1. Consistency, including shorter posts rather than queuing ideas for months and months.
2. Journalism! I’m going to stick my toe in the waters here and indulge in one of my passions–research. When I can, I’ll bring you event coverage, interviews, and investigative reporting on topics of interest to a radically queer audience.
3. Finally, I’ll be starting a project that’s long been a future plan for this blog (I think I came up with the idea 2+ years ago.) The Radically Fabulous interview column will focus on fabulous people of all kinds, with an emphasis on their passion projects and topics that might not always come up in the media.
I look forward to bringing you new content in 2013 and hope to meet many of you soon! I’ll be at IvyQ and UNC Law school in February, as well as at CatalystCon in DC in March. If you’d like me to speak or teach a workshop on your campus or for your organization, I’m still booking for March-May 2013. You can find more details at my speaking page.
I know that sometimes my rallying against marriage as a defining issue for the LGBT movement makes me sound a little obsessive, or even like I’m against marriage. I’m not, not really, though I do have critiques of marriage as a legal institution. What really bothers me about same-sex marriage, though, isn’t about marriage itself but about how it operates as a proxy for queer rights. It bothers me that being pro-marriage equality in this day and age basically gives you a pass.
More and more, I’ve been hearing explanations of LGBT rights that only talk about marriage. LGBT equality is getting boiled down to this one issue not only in terms of dollars and non-profit organization priorities but in terms of perception. There is a sense that being an ally simply means accepting same-sex marriage, and that gay people who work towards marriage equality are also doing their part for the community as a whole.
Marriage is a comfortable issue for many people. Not only does it lend itself to assimilation and “we’re just like you” politics, but it’s an easy thing to support without questioning structural inequality. Straight people who won’t get married until their state passes marriage equality legislation are hailed as incredibly brave heroes without having to do the uncomfortable work of questioning systems that are patriarchal, oppressive, imperialist, racist, and homophobic/transphobic especially at the level of inequality for poor queers of color.
What happens when same-sex marriage is legal in all or most states? Not only does the LGBT movement as a whole lose momentum and money, making it impossible to fight the remaining battles in the same way, but a perception of equality will take hold. The argument that marriage leads to other rights, that seeing gay people who are married and have kids will lead straight people to support LGBT equality in other areas, presumes a very white middle-class worldview. Gay married couples may indeed become normalized, but that doesn’t automatically lead to an end to discrimination against poor queers, to fewer incidents of police violence against trans people, to acceptance of queers of color or disabled queers, to recognition of the unique challenges undocumented queers face.
I suspect that such a victory in the area of marriage equality will highlight a divide many of us already experience. It’s not so much LGBT people on one side of the line and straights on the other. It’s folks who subscribe to a particular family model, who believe in the fallacy of the American dream, who find American democracy as a whole unproblematic, who are uncomfortable with the prison-industrial complex but don’t come up against it much in everyday life, staring back at us from that privileged side of the line.* The rest of us will then be fighting for structural change, for an end to anti-trans violence that doesn’t depend on a deeply racist incarceration model, for economic justice, with little money and little support. In other words, not much is going to change.
An issue like marriage equality gives folks a convenient measure by which to declare a movement “done.” Just as many white people in this country genuinely believe that racism is mostly over, just as many conservative women don’t see sexism, when we have marriage a lot of folks are going to go home. Some of those queers for whom marriage was the main barrier will be absorbed into those folks and see no reason to support ongoing queer causes. The very term “marriage equality” encourages us to see marriage as a general human rights issue, not a queer issue. And while there is a value in reminding people that rights are really about humanity, humanity used in this way tends to default to the majority. Human rights turn into rights for white people, for straight people, for cis people, for men. The specificity of queer struggle fades into the background, and I don’t want that to happen.
Thankfully, there are a lot of individuals and organizations that are doing great work on less popular issues, often with little funding. I’m starting to think more and more about how we emerge from the marriage obsession and capitalize on the resources we do have, to build a sustainable movement. If you have ideas, please leave a comment or share your thoughts via social media. I’d love to get more discussion going on this.
*I don’t mean to imply that I, or others on this side of the line I describe, don’t have privilege. Personally I have a HELL of a lot of racial and economic privilege. But in a big picture sense, I am seeing this split in the movement despite individuals’ situations.
Here’s the deal, folks. I so want the Gender-Independent Kids Books project to succeed that I am offering a custom post to any reader who donates $35 or more in the next five days to the project at the Kickstarter link above. To celebrate my birthday, make a donation and not only will you get a signed coloring book and audiobook of either Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy or Backwards Day, but if you let me know in a comment here that you donated, I will write a post on any topic for you within the scope of this blog (gender, sexuality, queer, law, human rights, race, class, and similar topics). If you donate $100 or more you’ll get the above, two signed books, a limited edition t-shirt, and an 8 x 10 photo print of a book page, plus I will either do a five-post series OR an online radio show episode OR a vlog (in ASL or English) on your topic of choice.
Please spread the word! If the project gets $3,500 more they’re going to do an ASL-accessible video storybook version of Backwards Day! This will allow D/deaf/HoH kids all over the world who have internet access to learn about gender in a trans-friendly way, and that’s a big deal to me. Thanks for supporting this project and please share widely!
If you’re following me on RSS, I am so sorry about the spew of posts this morning! They’re all old, and some don’t even reflect my views anymore. Oops. Shouldn’t happen again.
I had hoped that in this transition period between school and employment, I could be fabulously productive, academically speaking, and apply to all sorts of conferences and submit lots of things for publication. In reality, lying flat on my back after moving is a lot of fun. I’m bummed that I can’t submit an essay to the New Directions in Feminism and Human Rights issue of the International Journal of Feminist Politics (I think that’s the journal name, don’t quote me) but it’s due Saturday and I’m going to be in NC. I thought I could manage 8000 words on human rights approaches to homosexuality in the developing world but alas, no cigar. If you have an idea you can crank out by this weekend, or something 8000 words or less already written, you should submit! They’re looking for a really broad range of perspectives and I think it’ll be an amazing issue. Also coming up, deadline for Emory’s gender violence conference (proposals due, not full papers).