Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Posts tagged ‘race’

National Lesbian Handbook Updated

Attention, everyone!  Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has released an amendment to the ubiquitous National Lesbian Handbook concerning the dress code for queer women.  What’s that you say–you’ve never heard of the rules for lesbian appearance?  How did you skip that class?  I’m talking about the core of ‘merican culture here!

Lt. Gov. Carroll is facing scrutiny after a former staff member announced that she’d walked in on Carroll and Beatriz Ramos (an aide) in a “compromising position” in Carroll’s office.  According to Carroll, “Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

Lesbian women, take note: you are absolutely not allowed to look like the above photo.  Just so you know.

Several big issues:

1. What does “relationships like that” mean anyway?  Is she talking about extramarital affairs or same-sex ones?  Bueller?

2. Carroll has interpreted this as an attack on her entire family, stating, “My husband doesn’t want to hear that.  He knows the type of woman I am…my kids know the type of woman I am.”  Her phrasing creates a gulf between two distinct types of women, clearly ostracizing the ones who might engage in any same-sex romance or sex.

3. In refuting these rumors, Carroll insinuated something–but what?–about her staff member’s relationship status: “[she is] the one that’s been single for a long time.”  Did Carroll really just throw the queer spotlight on her colleague just because that woman isn’t married?  Like…for real?

4. Beyond gender policing, what are the real implications of Carroll’s remarks about black women and lesbianism?

  • Images of LGBTQ+ history and culture have often misrepresented these communities as primarily (or even exclusively) white.  Here again, Carroll implies that black women must be straight.  [Edited]
  • Queer women are routinely stereotyped as androgynous or masculine in our gender presentations.  No femininity here, right??  Furthermore, we can occupy only three jobs: security guard, police officer, and gym teacher.  Duh.  Everyone knows that.
  • At the intersection of these assumptions, black femme lesbians (and other queer women) are not only rendered invisible, Lt. Gov. Carroll says they simply don’t exist.
  • By holding herself up as the standard of acceptable (heterosexual) womanhood, Carroll is using femininity as a tool to alienate masculine-of-center women while simultaneously erasing feminine queer women.  Seriously?  I just can’t…

In response to Carroll’s bullshit homophobic and femmephobic comments, HuffPo gathered photos of queer women, all tweeted with the hashtag #ThisIsWhatALesbianLooksLike.  I think this was an awesome response and some lovely ladies sent in fierce and touching captions with their photos.  Check out the full article and slide show here.  Shout out to my fabulous femme friend Jessica, who’s classing it up as #76.

I would also like to call y’all’s attention to this article because it has the best title.  Like ever.  Not to mention, some excellent FB comment screenshots.

The moral of the story: check yourself before you spew ignorant fuckery like this, especially if you happen to be laughing through your remarks like they’re no big deal (see video accompanying HuffPo article).  Now hold on a sec while I sit back, relax, and wait for Lt. Gov. Carroll to put her foot further into her mouth as she tries to make her way out of this mess.

All quotes are from HuffPo.

Edit: Nadine Smith, founder and executive director of Equality Florida, has also written a terrific response.  Check it out.

What is “female”? Womanhood, Racism, and the Olympic Games

The sports world has been abuzz recently over the case of Caster Semenya, a South African runner and 2012 Olympic hopeful.  Dubbed by some “the fastest woman in the world,” she’s now under investigation for not actually being a woman.  (Everyone’s bullshit detectors should’ve just perked up.)  These two articles break down the case against her.  Essentially, other runners and Olympic officials have accused her of having androgen levels in the “male range” (whatever that means–nobody seems eager to give a precise definition), which according to their logic, give her an unfair advantage over other female competitors.

Some clarifications and a couple huge issues:

1. Androgens are not just “male sex hormones.”  They’re found in all bodies, regardless of assigned sex.  Androgen levels are generally lower in FAAB bodies than MAAB* ones, but there’s variation from person to person.  Besides, Olympians are exceptional athletes, so what makes anyone think that the standards used for us mere mortals would apply?

2. Sex =/= gender.  We divide sports by sex, not gender, so everybody who’s saying that Semenya’s gender is being scientifically investigated needs to step off.  She says she’s a woman, so we’re going with that.

3. From my friend Leila, the BAMF ultimate frisbee player:

“Hormone levels are more indicative of one’s sex than one’s gender identity…A more feminine-presenting woman could have higher testosterone levels than a more masculine-presenting woman, yet is more likely to be left alone in the sports world since she might not fall prey to the traditional argument that sports turn women into butch lesbians.”

Yep, pretty much.  I don’t see the Olympic officials calling for mass testing of all athletes’ hormones in this particular way.  The International Olympic Committee’s new ruling speaks of “the investigated athlete” and describes the formal procedure of “Request[ing] a Female Hyperandrogenism Investiagtion.”  It seems as though other athletes and IOC medical officials can request the investigation of a specific athlete; otherwise no additional testing will take place.  This means only a few athletes will be singled out in this way.  Alienation, much?

4. Let us not ignore the fact that Semenya is a black South African and that North American/European standards of beauty (which have been pushed all over the world) are Eurocentric.  (That is not my controversial opinion; that is a fact.)   When standards of womanhood and femininity are defined by white women, according to phenotypically white features, women of color are the ones scrutinized for not being “womanly” enough.

5. More from the IOC: “women ruled ineligible to compete may opt to medically lower their androgen levels.”  Great.

Semenya may have high levels of androgens, but for the IOC to single her out for testing, state that she must medically interfere with her hormones if she doesn’t pass said testing, and (at the last minute–the Olympics start at the end of this month) threaten not to let her compete is more than unfair.

* FAAB: female assigned at birth; MAAB: male assigned at birth.  Not taking into account trans* people who may have taken hormones. The inclusion and categorization of trans* athletes is a whole other conversation that needs to be had.

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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