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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 21

Political LGBT issue that is closest to you or affects you most. 

This used to be domestic partnerships/marriage, but with that being the law of the land now, things have changed.

One big LGBT issue is the growing prevalence of so-called “bathroom bills”.  Bills that make it law that you basically must show your birth certificate at the door of the bathroom to be able to use it.  Which is all sorts of problematic.

In no particular order:

1. Gender is not a binary.

2. Carrying around your birth certificate all the time is ridiculous and it massively increases your risk of identity theft if your wallet/purse/bag is stolen, as birth certificates have social security numbers on them.

3. It’s prurient.  Why the fuck does anyone want to know what my bits look like?  It’s perverted to tie bathroom access to what your bits look like or what is on your birth certificate.

4.  What about intersex people or other folks whose genitals somehow don’t match the sex listed on their birth certificate, even if they are cisgender?

5.  Why does it matter what bathroom anyone uses?  As long as you keep your hands and eyes to yourself, it should not matter where you go to pee.  For pete’s sake people.

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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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Pride Challenge: Day 16

A picture from your first LGBT relationship or of your first LGBT crush

This particular “relationship” ended poorly, but I am not up for outing them in a public forum, by posting a picture.  They don’t have any importance in my life anymore, but I still respect that desire for privacy.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the picture.

There are three of us – for about a year we did an amazing number of social things together.  This picture is me, her, and him.  I am decked out in my typical university attire – jeans and a pullover hoodie (I assume I’m wearing a t-shirt underneath, given the time of year and what I typically did).  We are coming back from some event on campus at night – the flash lights up all our faces, but the background is dark.  I think she and are starting to split at about this point in time – we never quite had the chemistry, but this was my first dip into that pool, so it’s worth something.

This picture still comes up for me occasionally in my Facebook pictures – I look at it, sigh at what happened after that, and pass on.

My first serious girl crush was also during college (I say serious, because I had a fancy for a moment for a gal in high school, but couldn’t quite admit that I  was bi yet) – she was the same year as I was, super smart, and involved with one of the student politics clubs on campus – I want to say environmentalism, socialism, or atheists.  Or maybe a combination of the three over the years.  I had a crush on her for all of my college years and I don’t even know if she was queer – I know she participated in some events through the school’s LGBTQ center, but so did a lot of straight people.  Oddly enough, given my tastes since, my first girl crush was not very femme.  She had dark brown straight hair and pale skin and I admired her dedication to her social justice work.

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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.