Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Posts tagged ‘privilege’

Why We Can’t Have All of the Cookies

Today we’re talking about allyship.  Wait.  That’s not totally it—we’re actually talking about the easiest ways to be a huge tool.  This is in fact a list of horrifyingly common pitfalls to avoid.  TW: mentions sexual assault and misgendering

“Let Me Tell You What a Good Ally I Am!”

If a corner stone of your allyship involves trying to show off what a good ally you are, you’re doing it wrong.  Anything that vaguely resembles “I have a friend who is ___, therefore I’m super accepting” is a bad idea.  We do not deserve cookies and gold stars just for being decent human beings and not being overtly hateful.

  • My friend so-and-so, who’s Latina, says blah, blah, blah.
  • So-and-so’s brother Jason—well, she used to be Jason when she was a boy…now she’s Jackie…
  • My gay best friend and I…
  • I’ve known so-and-so since before zie had [insert medical history here].
  • Then she dropped out of school because no one would talk to her, and she came back in the fall for high school, all of her hair was cut off and she was totally weird, and now I guess she’s on crack.

Any of these sound familiar?  I know I’ve heard them.  Before speaking, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Would the person I’m speaking of want me to share this information?
  2. Does the person to whom I’m speaking need to know this?

If the answer to either is no, congratulations, this would be a great time to shut up.  Even if you think the people you’re speaking to and about will never meet, there’s still no excuse.  Stick to info that’s relevant to the conversation and that you know may be shared.

I’ve had conversations in which I’ve straight up said to people “Why are you telling me this?  This is absolutely none of my business.”  Usually, they were telling me these incredibly personal stories about people I’d never met (or could’ve met–they don’t know that) in an effort to show how diverse their friend group was, how many types of people they accepted, etc.  No.  Just stop.  You do not get the Non-Bigot of the Year award.  Instead, you get some serious stank eye for outing and/or tokenizing your friend, as well as a demerit for spreading about their personal business.

Throwing Your Privilege in Other People’s Faces

Privileged folks: we need to stop inserting our voices and opinions where they do not belong.  Like now already.  If there is a conversation taking place between members of marginalized group about oppression, you do not look extra sensitive by jumping in and adding your two cents.  In fact, you look like a huge douchebag.  Because, in that situation, you are.  Unless specifically asked, you do not need to add a white perspective, a cisgender perspective, a neuro-typical perspective.  Privileged perspectives are ubiquitous—I can guarantee no one has forgotten about them.  By (unwelcomely) entering a discussion about misogyny with “From a man’s perspective…” you are not enlightening anyone; you are silencing the group.  If you are asked to give an opinion, cool.  If not, stay quiet and listen to what it’s like not hearing your views presented front and center.

Why You Can’t Take Me Out in Public

This past weekend was Andersonville Midsommarfest, one of Chicago’s 598206 annual summer street fests.  For those of you who don’t know, Andersonville is a historically Swedish area that now has a reputation for being the queer women’s neighborhood.  When my friend and I were there on Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining, the temperature was above 90, the music was blasting, and the beer was flowing.  What did this mean?

Okay, what else?  It means a brigade of HRC volunteers were out collecting money and signatures to support their ceaseless campaign for same-sex marriage.  Now don’t get me wrong–I think marriage equality is an admirable goal.  As long as marriage is the key to gaining tax breaks, healthcare, immigration aid, easier adoption, etc, I absolutely think it should be equally accessible.  Marriage also means a great deal to many people, so yes, I support same-sex marriage.  That sounds lovely, but it’s not my top priority.

My issue with the HRC is that it claims to represent and fight for the needs of all LGBT (where’s the Q?)** individuals and families, yet it’s really a one-issue party.  Everything the HRC does or addresses miraculously gets tied to marriage equality.  I was a member for several years, but finally gave up after receiving an email informing me that a right-wing politician who was campaigning for a governorship had ties to a white supremacist group that had publicly called for the murders of queer folks and people of color.  This was a problem because if he won and if (hypothetically speaking) a marriage equality bill were to come to his desk, he might veto it.  Excuse you…WHAT?  No.  That’s a problem because the guy is part of a hate group that wants to kill peeps.  That’s not a marriage issue; that’s a HOLY SHIT WHITE SUPREMACY issue.

Besides that very extreme incident, I’d rather throw my (limited) money and (bountiful) support behind an organization that reps a full community of queer folks, not just white, class-privileged, gender-conforming ones.

So…I walked into Midsommarfest and was immediately stopped by an HRC rep.  (Side note: why they gotta have so many hotties working for them?  C’mon why can’t the hotties be more critical thinkers?)  (Reminder to self: okay, okay, people just have different values when it comes to their political organizing.  That’s fine I guess.  Boo.)  There was a petition for me to sign and oh I could donate too.  I quickly and politely, but firmly, explained why I quit the HRC and that if their values aligned more with mine–addressing hate crimes, safety in schools, youth homelessness, inclusive and accessible healthcare; fewer black tie dinners–then they should talk to me again.

I found my friend and we continued walking through the fest.  While giving her a brief rundown of what had just happened, we were stopped by another HRC rep.  Another petition.

Me: When the HRC gives a shit about trans* people and people of color, come talk to me.  [Walking away]

HRC volunteer: [Calling after me] We’re getting there!

Me: [Calling back] Very slowly!

Me in my head: “We’re getting there?”  What does he think this is, 1970?

My friend, Elizabeth: I love you.

Later in the afternoon, we saw him again.

HRC volunteer: Can I talk to–oh, I saw you earlier.

Me: Yeah, you probably don’t wanna talk to me again.

HRC: I actually don’t know that much about the HRC.  I’m a straight guy and I’ve just been volunteering for the last two years.

Me in my head: Thank you for clarifying your straightness.  I might have misread you as a sneaky gay.  The horror!

HRC: I’ve been hearing some criticism of the HRC–now some of that has been directed at our last president–some people have said we’re elitist and not in touch with “the common man”…

Me: You hear correctly.  [Mini “marriage and rich white people aren’t the only issues” spiel]

HRC: Well, what I’m talking about today isn’t marriage.  It’s about employment.  Have you heard of ENDA?

Me in my head: I probably know more about ENDA than you do.

Me: Mmmhmm.

HRC: Ya know, there’s actually more state-by-state discrimination against transgender people than against gays and lesbians.

Me in my head:  

He assured me that there were some trans* people working for the HRC– “I learned that there aren’t just men and women, there are people in between and all kinds of other ways”–and that he in fact knew a couple.  He proceeded to tell me about his girlfriend’s friend’s birth name, her current name, and her medical history.

Me in my head: Please stop talking.  I’m happy for you and I genuinely would like to talk with you about what you’re hearing about non-binary genders and how different people experience their transitions, but right now you’re outing your acquaintance.  I’m sure she’s beautiful and yes, I’m she sure rocks that dress, but I DON’T NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS.  This is not my business and you are outing her in your effort to demonstrate your own trans* friendliness.

The conversation kinda ended there, as he needed to get back to talking to people who wouldn’t problematize every word and might even donate some cash.  Before we parted, he reiterated his hope that things at the HRC would get better (ie more inclusive) with time and that their new president, Chad Griffin, might push for that.  We shall see…

In other news, I got to catch up with the lovely Elizabeth and share one of these:

Oh and I won a beer glass (I would) and a bottle of water (really?) at the Proud to Run tent.  Good times.

**In this case, LGBT has been interpreted as big G, small L, tiny B, no T.  Forget radical queer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.

BREAKING NEWS: Queer Ladies Love Maddow

Autostraddle recently released its annual line-up of the 100 “Hottest Queerest Women in All the Land.”  For those of you who don’t spend your time fawning over queer culture websites (who are you?!), Autostraddle is a popular site for “news, entertainment, opinion, and girl-on-girl culture.”  What does this actually mean?  It means all the women (and others) of the queer (and other) persuasions just freaked out about how much we all loooooooooooove Tegan and Sara and OHMYGODRACHELMADDOOOOOOW!!

As usual, this year’s list is full of myriad talented, accomplished, and very attractive individuals.  But flipping through the pages, it’s impossible not to notice that most of them look pretty similar.  There is certainly some diversity of gender presentations–I’m always happy to see that–but the vast majority of these women are white.  Moreover, they’re predominantly young, slim, and white.  I counted fewer than 20 women of color on the list, as well as the cast of The Peculiar Kind, grouped together as #64.  None of them are in the top 10.

How do I know the exact number of women of color on this list?  I don’t.  It’s obviously not possible to decipher a person’s racial and/or ethnic identities just by looking at them or their name, but it’s apparent that the list is dominated by light skinned women, most of whom are repping similar sizes and body types.  So really, what this list tells me is that Autostraddle has rounded up yet another group of people who embody queerness as something that belongs primarily to young-ish, thin-ish, white people.  This misrepresentation happens all over the place.  Queerness is generally marginalized in mainstream everything (shocking to hear, I know), but as long as the few queer individuals that do appear show only a sliver of the queer community (the white, cisgender, and usually class-privileged sliver), then we’re continuing to divide and marginalize within our supposed community.  And that shit needs to stop.

EDIT: Apparently some clarification is needed.  The problem is not a lack of out LGBTQ people of color.  The problem in this case is that there’s a wide array of women of color who are routinely overlooked in favor of white women, who get the bulk of the recognition and publicity.  We cannot pretend it’s some sort of accident that hot people lists–and other images of which bodies our society/media consider beautiful–are overwhelmingly white, unless they’re specifically categorized as POC.  The same goes for ability, body type, size, and cis/trans* status.  This shit is old and needs to be changed like now already.

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