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Social Justice Activism

I read this article today and a lot of it really rang true to me (other than the second section): Kin Aesthetics – Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice.

Two bits that stuck out:

There is an underlying current of fear in my activist communities, and it is separate from the daily fear of police brutality, eviction, discrimination, and street harassment. It is the fear of appearing impure. Social death follows when being labeled a “bad” activist or simply “problematic” enough times. I’ve had countless hushed conversations with friends about this anxiety and how it has led us to refrain from participation in activist events, conversations, and spaces because we feel inadequately radical….  I self-police what I say in activist spaces. I stopped commenting on social media with questions or pushback on leftist opinions for fear of being called out. I am always ready to apologize for anything I do that a community member deems wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate—no questions asked. The amount of energy I spend demonstrating purity in order to stay in the good graces of a fast-moving activist community is enormous.

And…

Scrolling through my news feed sometimes feels Iike sliding into a pew to be blasted by a fragmented, frenzied sermon. I know that much of the media posted there means to discipline me to be a better activist and community member. But when dictates aren’t followed, a common procedure of punishment ensues. Punishments for saying/doing/believing the wrong thing include shaming, scolding, calling out, isolating, or eviscerating someone’s social standing. Discipline and punishment have been used for all of history to control and destroy people. Why is it being used in movements meant to liberate all of us? We all have made serious mistakes and hurt other people, intentionally or not. We get a chance to learn from them when those around us respond with kindness and patience. Where is our humility when examining the mistakes of others? Why do we position ourselves as morally superior to the lowly un-woke? Who of us came into the world fully awake?

I understand the desire to dismantle the systems that have held down anyone not white, straight, male, upper class, cisgender, etc. for a long time. That is my goal as well. And I understand that people are angry about being oppressed and I will never tell them that their anger is not justified, because, as student of political science and history, I damn well know it is more than justified.  Hell, there are a number of things in our society I am very angry about.

I am really tired of the ideal of the perfect “woke” social justice activist.  Someone who spends all day and all night participating in marches, protests, calling their congresspeople, and preaching the word to the “un-woke”.  Someone who puts all their time and energy into fighting for all social justice causes.  I remember commenting the other day to someone (…don’t remember exactly who…) that that term seems to exist exclusively to other people, to split the community apart, into the “woke” and “un-woke”.  Anything that rips us into smaller and smaller groups makes it less likely that we’ll be able to accomplish anything.  The whole “house divided” thing.
I am (in a minor way, becoming more major day by day) disabled and neurodivergent.  I learn in different ways than other people.  I take in information differently than other people.  I am particularly sensitive to being rejected from communities and friend groups.  I cannot participate in all the protests, marches, and rallies that people put together for both physical and mental health reasons.  I despise the quiet implication that I am not as good an activist because I am not a loud activist.  Or because I can’t really afford to take time off work (ya know, the work that pays for my insurance and medical bills, so I can stay sorta healthy and sane enough) to attend events during the work week.  I go to what I can, I participate where I can, I spread the word where I can – but I can’t go everywhere or say everything, and sometimes I’m just exhausted and can’t do much of anything.  And I don’t think I’m in the minority here, in the slightest.  Expecting perfection sets you up for failure.
Yes, please feel free to call me in if I’ve said or done something offensive to you.  Hell, I encourage it.  Not going to learn any other way.  But if you try to shame me because I’ve erred, tell me that I should or should not do something – I am not a child, you are not my parent, and if you try to tell me that I “should” do something, then I am not likely to react well.  Suggest it, make it a condition of participating, fine.  That makes it my choice what I do, whether I choose to participate.

I am exhausted of staying silent for fear of being seen as lesser-than.  Un-woker-than, one might say.

I am afraid of posting this.

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Pride Challenge: Day 19

Butch or Femme?

BS binary.

Personally, I identify as a tomboy femme – slightly femme of center, to the point where high femme/high butch and its accountremont is drag for me.  I occupy the middle and that’s fine by me.

To look at?  Suits.  Anyone in suits.  I love looking at folks in fancy dresses, but…mmmmm…suits.

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Pride Challenge: Day 18

Something about the LGBTQ community you don’t understand or have a question about.

Why the white, cisgender, gay men insist on hogging Pride events.  You had your turn in the spotlight, how about you let go of that, just a little, and let other queer community members step forward?

I know this is changing, but not quickly enough.

To a certain extent, I understand how this came to be.  For these folks, there was only one axis on which they weren’t in the position of privilege – sexual orientation.  These days, sexual orientation matters less if you have the other privileges – at least: race, gender alignment, and sex.  Your sexual orientation matters less to society as a whole if you are not politically active in regards to it, especially if you conform to gender expectations regarding expression and presentation.  These gay men got more power as the stigma around gayness decreased, so they ended up saying screw you to anyone who wasn’t them, and formed modern Pride celebrations in their image.

This is some of what activism has bought the queer community – the ability to fly under the radar if you don’t raise a fuss.  Which is bullshit.  Pride started out as a riot – making a fuss, making ourselves known, putting ourselves in people’s faces so that they can recognize that we are people who are as deserving of equality, de jure and de facto, as anyone else, even if we don’t/can’t conform.  Lacking that, why are we accepting flying under the radar as a second option?

Maybe we aren’t.  I think the trans* community has been slowly picking up the mantle that has been slipping from the fingers of the white, cisgender, gay men, and making it our own, sewing our own colors onto it.

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Gender Conversation

I had a lovely conversation with Moss while we were out on a date last night regarding gender, which as a fluid thing for me, can be a bit complicated to talk about, partially because it changes on each given day (roughly), our language lacks words to describe it some days, and some days I just don’t know.

He wanted to know more about my relationship with my gender and seemed to be in the place I often am – where do I start with the questions?

But the question that struck me was “why?”.  Probably because “why?” is always my favorite question and is, I’ve found in most cases, the hardest question to answer – possibly because it involves digging into motivations that aren’t always clear.  I love it because it digs in to what makes people tick, which has always been fascinating to me, both from a physiological and psychological perspective.

I digress.

I identify as non-binary trans because it fits right, like “queer” fits right.  I am bisexual and I am genderfluid – these identify facts about me.  Non-binary and queer, in a way, demonstrate my attitude about my identity: I don’t care what people think about them, I am who I am, and anyone who doesn’t like it, can just go hush themselves.  The trans part is difficult for me – I have just recently embraced that part of the non-binary thing – I don’t identify as the gender I was assigned at birth, that’s a basic definition of trans.  Sometime my gender does round or slide to one or the other – more often to female than male, by quite a long shot – but much more often it just hangs nebulously in the middle.  I also do occasionally experience bouts of gender dysphoria – more often when I am depressed and/or restricted in my presentation options.

But why?  I’ve never felt comfortable in boxes.  It took me a long time to learn to color within the lines.  I was a major tomboy growing up.  I was never the good hostess that my mother wanted me to be.  Grace has been a learned skill for me – it’s not an inherent thing, either physically or socially.  I spent most of my time growing up in the outdoors, wandering around, or in my room with a book.  Exploring comes naturally and easily to me, even if the unpredictability can occasionally set off my anxiety.  I am ok with being the weird kid who never quite fit in, but was close enough to normal that I was never shunned.

As an adult I learned to become comfortable with the more feminine aspects of my personality and style that I had rejected early on, for a number of reasons: 

  • Feminine clothing is not often designed for comfort or practicality (dresses with pockets are a major win for me – I wish I could afford more of them),
  • Foundation makes the patchy bits of my skin which are normally pretty unnoticeable super obvious (just don’t wear foundation, you can wear whatever makeup you like), 
  • Femininity is often read as weakness (I still struggle with this one), 
  • Long hair gets in my face and that drives me mad (so cut it)
  • Breasts get in the way – I did not like having them at all until midway through high school (having properly fitting bras and clothing that either accentuates or hides them based on my gender presentation feels is super helpful)
  • Femininity is often read as submissiveness (meeting strong, no-nonsense femmes has really helped with this)

So, here I am.  A genderfluid (non-binary) tomboy femme.  It fits comfortably enough to not be restrictive, but gives me a few labels that help me figure out my place in this world and in the queer community.

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Pride Challenge: Day 15

Your favorite LGBT quote

Image Source
This one really struck me the first time I saw it.  To me, identifying as queer is important because of the reclaimed aspect of the word – you used this word against the LGBTIA community for so long, now we’re taking it back.  There is power in our language and this quote really goes there for me.

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Pride Challenge: Day 9

What do you think about LGBT Pride? Is it helpful or hurtful? Encouraged or unnecessary?

I think it is fabulous.  The focus is in the process of changing though, to be more inclusive of everyone who isn’t a white cisgender gay man, and I like the direction that is heading.  Pride organizers need to remember though, that any sort of shaming of non-monosexual and non-binary people at Pride events is unacceptable – just because we don’t conform to your queer narrative does not mean that this is not our holiday too.  Please remember us in your events!  

Also, for the love of all that is holy and unholy – do not forget that Pride happens because of a group of non-white transwomen who had the gall to stand up to the establishment for their right to exist without harassment (and worse)!

I have been going to my local Pride parade for the last, I think, 7 or 8 years now.  Ever since I started going I haven’t missed one.  It is one of the few events where nothing else gets scheduled – that Sunday is sacred.  Last year was the first time I marched in the parade (loads of fun), with our local leather contingent (I’m adjacent to that scene, but it still didn’t feel quite right).  This year I’m going to be marching with our local bisexual women’s network (they are all gender/no gender inclusive), which feels a lot better to me – I do think I’m going to try to rep the non-binary angle for that.

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Pride Challenge: Day 8

What do you think the closet or being closeted means to you?

The closet was a safe place at one point in time, where I could be while I was still figuring out who I was and how that could fit in to my family as that person.  Fitting into society as a whole hasn’t really ever been a part of it – I’ve always been strange enough that I was never quite going to fit in to any social group or pass as a “normal” person for longer than about 6-8 hours at a time (and even that probably doesn’t hold up under much scrutiny).

I have tended to only come out of the closet when there was a compelling reason to do so, or I just couldn’t hold it to myself any longer.  However, coming out as a concept has become much more complicated for me over time – I prefer to be out, for sure, but the idea of the necesssity of making a big deal out of it has been starting to strike me as weird.  I mean, being bi, poly, non-binary – these are normal things and I should be able to talk about them in ordinary conversation without it being a big deal.  

They say coming out reduces the stigma around marginalized groups, but I think that it doesn’t have to be a big deal to do it.  Heck, think of a world where it isn’t a big deal for someone to off-handedly mention their same sex partner when talking about vacation plans (even when they’ve never talked about them before) or mention that they prefer they/them or xie/xir pronouns without someone picking on their grammar.  Imagine a world where this is a normal ordinary thing for people to do.  I like that world, so I do what I can to create that world, by trying to talk about my sexuality, gender identity, and relationship styles without implying that they should be anything but normal and ordinary.
Granted, as much as I like the idea of that world, I grew up in this one, where these things aren’t normal or ordinary.  So, sometimes having a foot in the closet is necessary to maintain economic security or safety.  And sometimes my ideals don’t match my situation and I am a hypocrite – I am slowly introducing my parents to the idea of non-cisgender gender identity, so I can talk about my situation comfortably eventually and know that they have the whole context in which to judge it.  I am sharing my experiences with my partners on Facebook and slowly widening what I am comfortable sharing about any of my relationships and the group of people I am comfortable sharing it with.  I am hoping that I can bypass coming out as an event to my extended family by just presenting my life as it is to my family on Facebook.