SICK SAD WORLD

Allies make sacrifices

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on June 16, 2010

People who are sympathetic to the plights of various minority groups are often called “allies”. But more often than not,  support from allies is silent or passive. When was the last time you saw a man demanding equal pay for women, or straight people speaking out against homophobic bigotry? The silence of privileged people who (deep down) believe in justice can be disheartening, or lead to the impression that only minorities care about their own rights.

So it was great to read about the stand taken by Reddit-user heterogay.

“Heterogay” is a straight cisgender man who was so disturbed by his family’s homophobia that he ‘came out of the closet’ to them as a gay man. He so strongly believed in gay rights that he couldn’t bear being a part of a family of bigots. He says his family have since disowned him, but he believes that if they don’t love him regardless of his sexuality then their separation is probably for the best.

“I’m a straight male. Very straight. I love women.

I also totally support gay rights – with all my heart. I can’t STAND bigotry and it really pisses me off that you don’t have equal rights.

I’m straight but if I have a son or daughter that’s gay I’ll be damned if they don’t have the same rights that I do….

My family however, is fairly homophobic.

They live on the east coast. I live in SF.

I’ve never let them say anything discriminatory in front of me without it being challenged and flat out calling them hateful bigots.

Anyway. Last week I flew back to spend some time with them… They’re my family after all and before this our relationship was good… I see them like 1x a year.

We’re having dinner and somehow the conversation turns to Obama and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Long story short, my brother in-law says that “fags shouldn’t be able to serve in the military” … and I lose it.

I stand up and say that it’s not right to discriminate against ANYONE regardless of sexuality, race, or religion.

… then it dawns on me… they don’t know that I’m NOT gay.

So I just come out of the closet.

I live in SF… I’m 35… I’m fit, fashionable, metrosexual even. I’ve NEVER been married. I’ve never even brought a girl home to meet Mom…

(though for the record I have plenty of girlfriends, ha).

They think I’m bluffing but once I stick to my guns (and they can see that I’m visually upset) it dawns on them that I’m homosexual.

My dad goes silent and just leaves the table. My sister calls me a jerk for coming out …my brother in law is pissed. My mother is crying.

At this point I decide I’m not going back. I’m going to be gay as far as they’re concerned for the rest of my life.

It was pretty heated… I left shortly after. My calls to the house aren’t answered. My sister says she’s ok with it but that I shouldn’t have come out of the closet….

In a way it hurts because I had a good relationship with my mother and father before this – however, I feel strongly that if they don’t love me regardless of my sexuality, then I don’t want them in my life.

So here I am…. one of you . I’m ostracized from my family. I’m out of the closet and kicked in the teeth.

This is harder than I thought.

Sacrificing privilege for a cause is always hard. A friend once remarked that people keep silent about issues that don’t directly concern them because of selfishness – why would you sacrifice comfort and perks for a seemingly never-ending struggle, even if you are an ‘ally’? It’s a good question: it seems like madness to forfeit privilege and join the losing team.

But I suppose each person has a different tolerance threshold for injustice. There’s only so much sugar-coated bullshit people can take before they wake up to the shit they are being fed. And what use is it coasting through a charmed life that is only made possible by the oppression of others?

Just like straight couples who refuse to get married and support an institution that discriminates against LGBTTQ people, heterogay refuses to protect an unjust system.

Is Chimbalanga a ‘gay man’? Getting it right

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010

A fantastic update on the Malawi couple story:

Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika announced on Saturday the pardon of the jailed gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years earlier this month.

The decision was made at a press briefing at the state house after Mutharika met with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.

“I’ve pardoned the two on humanitarian grounds but what they did is criminal and against our culture,” Mutharika told journalist.

HOWEVER, I have a problem with how this couple have been described by the news media.

Here are some clues on why we should rethink the “gay” label for this couple:

1. “[Tiwonge] Chimbalanga, 20 (on the right in the photo), who dresses as a woman, spoke defiantly of his love for the man he plans to marry.”

2. “Dressed in a blouse and describing himself as a woman, [Chimbalanga] said that they became engaged after “my darling, Steven, proposed love to me and we agreed to get married”. Unlike Mr Monjeza, he refused to accept that he had broken any law. “Which laws? I am a woman, I can do what a woman can do,” he said.”

Of course, the fact that Chimbalanga identifies as a woman and presents herself as a woman is FAR too complicated for cut-and-dry news reporting, and far too  “confusing” to accomodate with a different pronoun. Apart from the label “gay” being much easier to fit into tight headline spaces, a trans person may not have attracted as much sympathy and reporting in the Western media. As in the case of Caster Semenya, news about intersex, third-gender or trans people results in muddied and confused reporting, as these people don’t fit nicely into our neat little narratives.

While its wonderful that this couple’s right to love has sparked sympathy around the world and attracted UN intervention, the framing of this story as a “gay” issue is simplistic and incorrect, as one half of the couple does not identify as a gay man. Chimbalanga seems quite clear on the fact that she is a woman, but this has not been made clear/has been rendered unimportant in these stories.

In the same way gay male and lesbian issues are often lumped together in a big rainbow file, the failure to acknowledge how Chimbalanga views herself shows a refusal by the media to think outside of binary heterosexual/homosexual constructs. Chimbalanga has been blatantly misgendered.

I don’t know if Malawi has a “third gender” (the way India, Samoa and Thailand do that is radically different to Western ideas of transgender), but either way it is absolutely incorrect  to use the label “gay man”. In the same way, if the story was about a man’s relationship with a fa’afafine, I wonder, would the Western media report it as a “gay” story although homosexuals and fa’afafine are completely distinct? I guess so.

Just another fun example of how reporting eliminates identities and how Western media reduces the complexities of gender to black-and-white binary categories.


Recognise the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia

Posted in The Good Word by Nancy on May 25, 2010

Dr Omi Osun Joni L Jones has many wise things to say in her speech on ‘6 rules for allies’. By ‘allies’ she refers to people who are sympathetic to those affected by racism/sexism/classism/homophobia/ableism/transphobia and other kinds of oppression.

The video is worth watching but I will sum up some key points that stood out to me.

1. Being  ‘liberal’ is not enough

‘The liberal position is the hegemonic force of the academy . . . which means racism, sexism, homophobia . . . and a commitment to class structures cannot be undone in the academy.”

“The liberal position says that those of us with legitimate observations about injustice are really exaggerating, paranoid, and unwilling to see how we are creating the problem we expose.”

2. Speak up, name it and say it

“If you are male, YOU be the one to tell your department chair that the women’s salaries in your department must be brought line with those of the men. If you are white, YOU be the one to advocate for the qualified grad student of color applicant over the qualified white grad student applicant.”

3. Recognize the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia

“It is institutional and structural. Learn to walk in a room and count the people of color . . . Allies know that racism, sexism, and homophobia are real and NEVER tell people, ‘You could be wrong, you know’. Such a statement presumes that you have greater insights than those with lived experience inside of multiple oppressions.

4. Welcome getting called out

“When called out about your racism, sexism or homophobia, don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t cry, and don’t silently think “she’s crazy” and vow never to interact with her again . . . We are all plagued by racism, sexism, and homophobia. Be grateful that someone took the time to expose yours.”

All too often, calling out an injustice can seem more offensive than the injustice itself – it is easy for the privileged to brush off legitimate concerns.

From the transcript, I see Dr Jones also read a 1951 poem by Beah Richards. It is still as relevant today.

They said, the white supremacists said,

that you were better than me

that your fair brow should never know the sweat of slavery.

They lied.

White womanhood too is enslaved.

The difference is degree.

And what wrongs you, murders me.

And eventually marks your grave

So we share a mutual death at the hand of tyranny.

He, the white supremacist, fixed your minds with poisonous

thought—

‘white skin is supreme.’

Set your minds on my slavery

the better to endure your own.

Cuddled down in your pink slavery

and thought somehow my wasted blood

confirmed your superiority.

Because your necklace was of gold

You did not notice that it throttled speech.

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10 common myths about trans men

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 19, 2010
  1. All FTM’s come from the lesbian community, and after transition are heterosexual (that is, attracted to women).
  2. Transsexualism/transgenderism can be “cured” by psychotherapy. Transsexual men are really just lesbians.
  3. FTM’s did not exist until after World War II, with the advent of hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery.
  4. Female-to-males are far rarer than male-to-female transsexuals.
  5. Trans men seek to live as and be recognized as male in order to obtain male privilege and economic advantages.
  6. All trans men exhibit stereotypically male behavior and want to be as macho as possible.
  7. Taking testosterone makes female-to-male transsexuals much more aggressive and angry than they were before taking hormones.
  8. All FTMs want genital reconstruction as the driving force of their transition (not necessarily the social aspects that go along with masculinity).
  9. Historically, all women only chose to live as men to pursue careers that were otherwise unavailable to them, to seek economic opportunities, or to justify lesbian relationships.
  10. Trans men are really just butch lesbians who change.

Source is here

Note: I have changed the original spelling of ‘transmen’ to ‘trans men’ as many (but not all) trans feminists find the spelling without the space offensive.

Also check out Trans 101.

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