Tag Archives: anti-oppression

Post the Eighty-Third or On Where I Stand

The following is a bit of reflexivity that I feel I needed to own up to on my blog. I think its important that I articulate my social location because it affects what I see and where I am coming from when I write. I’ll probably repost this in my about page, as well. Enjoy!

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I am a pansexual, Pagan, kinky, able-bodied, neuro-atypical trans woman of color. I am a first generation american. My mother emigrated here without documents from Colombia shortly before I was born and my father was born in Florida but raised in Puerto Rico. I was born into a working class family but have recently joined the middle class due to my mother’s employment at a bank. I suffer from major depressive disorder and I am a recovering alcoholic. I was born and raised in Boston.

I went to one of the best public high schools in Boston and got many scholarships to attend Northeastern.

I feel that I occupy a strange space within the classroom as well as in the world at large. I have been very, very fortunate. When I came out as trans, my mother did not kick me out of her home. I have a lot of educational privilege as well as class privilege. Thus, I have been able to escape much of the violence that my sisters are subjected too. I have never had to resort to survival sex work. I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve never been assaulted, although I have been frequently harassed. And I’ve had the time, energy and resources to pursue a college degree.

Because I have health insurance, given to me through my mother, I have been able to pay for the hormones for transition and have undergone some electrolysis. Three years into my transition, I read very well. The only ones, usually, who read me as trans are those who know what they are looking for; namely, other queers and trans people. Many of my sisters do not have that luxury.

I am also light skinned so while racism still affects me, I am treated much better than my sisters with dark skin.

My position as a queer, light skinned trans woman of color allows me to see the many ways that the various systems of power and oppression operate but my class and educational privilege allows me to mitigate the ways that they affect me. While I struggle against cissexism, racism, heterosexism etc, my middle class and educational privilege allows me some wiggle room. While it might be harder for me to get a job than a white man, I will still have the qualifications to apply. Because of my light skin and the fact that I talk “white”, folks with privileged identities are more likely to listen to me than they are to my sisters with darker skin and less access to education.

My experience is informed by my identity and my identity informs my experience. They are the two sides of the same coin. I cannot tease one out and say that one aspect of my identity as informed my experience the most. They are not separate strands of the same cord. Rather, I think that my identity and my experience are a multi-layered portrait. Its existence, and resultant beauty, comes from their unity. This is because I experience them all at the same time. The types of experiences that I have are, at times, a direct result of my identity. And my identity is a consequence of my experiences.

I think that my “purpose”, if you will, is to open the way for others like me to have their voices heard. I feel that because I’ve had the opportunity to study the work of feminist authors/philosophers/poets that have come before me, via my education, I am able to integrate their analyses into my cultural organizing. I want for other trans women of color to have a visible, articulated presence. I want to open the way for other girls like me to liberate ourselves and smash the systems that keep us oppressed. I want the radical theory, the radical vision for a new world to leave the academy and enter the hands of those who will use it to make this world a better place.

My job is not to educate or coddle white people, straight people, cisgender people. My job is not to convince would-be “allies” to “help” us. My job is not to be liked.

My job, as I see it, is to blaze a trail with poetry and art for a space for trans feminine people of color. My job is to work with other Q/TPoC and our comrades (whether straight or queer or PoC or white) to create a self-sustaining community that loves and affirms its own existence and struggles against all systems of oppression. My job is to hold people with privilege accountable. My job is to love myself and protect myself against those systems that would co-opt me, silence me and destroy me. My job is to surround myself by people who love me.

            My job is to struggle for the collective liberation of all people.


Post the Forty-Fifth or Experience v Opinion

There is a big difference between experience and opinion. When you experience something, you know it on a much deeper level then someone who read about it or was told about it second hand. The difference between reading about sex and experiencing sex is clear to almost anyone. When you experience an event, all of your senses are engaged and to forms a memory that is much more tangible and reliable then opinion or hearsay. Don’t get me wrong; opinion is all well and good. We certainly wouldn’t be able to have many conversations without opinion and conjecture. But if you are gonna do brain surgery, you need to have the experience of study and practice and not just an opinion about it.

Why is it, then, that white people think that their opinions on racism are more valid then the experience of a person of color? Or cisgender people thinking that they know better then trans*people as to what is and isn’t offensive?  I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that such-and-such isn’t offensive because they know better and why are you so sensitive? Can’t you just take a joke? And those people are usually ones with privileged identities who haven’t actually experienced that form of oppression but rather, they have an opinion about how that experience looks and feels like. They don’t actually know and they will never actually know.

The thing that most people fail to realize is that their opinions carry less weight than the experience that someone has. More often then not people who have opinions not based in experience are just wrong. This is because they just don’t know what they are talking about. And when they insist that they do, or they insist that their opinions exist on the same level as those with experience, they are perpetrating those systems of power and oppression that started the discussion to begin with. It’s a vicious cycle where the perpetrator can deny the existence of not only the crime but also of its consequences. And the perpetrator can do this because they already have the institutional power to do it.

Moreover, the mark of a good ally is that they are willing to admit that they don’t know. They admit that they will never truly know and that they can never truly understand what it means to go through that. But that doesn’t stop them from advocating for justice and working along side those effected by oppression. That doesn’t stop them from acting strategically to end white heteropatriarchy and capitalism. The mark of an ally is someone who does what they can to mitigate their privilege.

However, the fight for liberation will not be won with allies and it certainly won’t be won with opinions. It is only through experience that we can learn how to most effectively dismantle those systems of power and oppression. Hard earned experience is the teacher we need to fight back. The reason for this is because experience is real. It is tangible and you can hold on to it. Opinions are none of these things. And it is experience that gives birth to radical theory and action. And when radical thought is grounded in experience, it is the most insightful and most effective. The fight for liberation will only be won by those who suffer from oppression and even then only with radical action and radical thought.

So if experience is vital to know how to fight oppression, then what class of people generally experiences the worst forms of oppression? In other words, which class of people knows the most about fighting oppression? And what do we mean by oppression anyhow?

I would argue that any definition of oppression has to be grounded in the material experience of the oppressed. It is not enough to have theoretical ideas of how oppression and power manifest. It is not enough to have theoretical ideas of who experiences oppression and who has power. It needs to be real. And it needs to be situated within its own context. For example, I can’t count how many times a white gay man has cited their gayness as being the reason why they are so oppressed. And while it is true that their gayness makes them susceptible to certain forms of oppression, the fact remains that they are still white men. Moreover, for the most part, being gay doesn’t show on the surface and so they can skate by with just being perceived as white men. The oppression that they “feel” isn’t real.

With that being said, what does oppression look like? I would argue that someone who experiences oppression is someone who has markedly less access to resources then other people. By resources I mean not only money, jobs and education but also social capital, access to public space and access to a safe living environment. This includes an environment that is free from pollution, toxins, and violence (both violence directed at the person and violence in general). This lack of access is rooted in white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism but it can manifest in ways great and small. From not being hired because of skin color to white people coming up and touching your hair without consent to being bashed for being perceived as the “wrong” gender. Obviously, gay white men do not fit this bill.

I would argue that the class of people that experience the worst aspects of oppression are transwomen of color. If you are fat, disabled and/or poor, even worse. Transwomen of color literally get the shit end of every stick. Transwomen of color often have very few opportunities to get a decent education or even find a job. They are often kicked out of their homes and forced to do sex work to support themselves. On top of that, they often killed by their johns for their trouble. Transwomen of color are assaulted and killed more often then their cisgender and white peers. And even if they survive their assault, the police and healthcare professionals often ignore or write-off the attack. Often times, the police themselves are the perpetrators of anti-trans violence and they act with no reprisals. Whether its through anti-sex worker policing or racial profiling, transwomen of color are often arrested or assaulted by the police for doing nothing but trying to feed themselves. What’s more is that if they aren’t physically assaulted, they are verbally harassed. They are denied their identity from almost every class of person. Whether its the Christian right or so called radical second-wave feminists, the existence of transwomen of color is erased time and again. What’s worse is that if someone doesn’t kill them, the stress of living such a life will. I know of no transwomen of color who have reached old age.

Why is this? Why do transwomen of color experience such devastating forms of oppression? Because they exist at the deepest intersections of white capitalist heteropatriarchy . They are effected by racism, classism, sexism, cissexism, xenophobia, heterosexism, and if you are an immigrant, imperialism.

At this point you might say something like, “Ok Morgan. Transwomen of color have it bad. I see that. But what does that have to do with experience and knowing how to fight oppression?”

And I would reply that it has everything to do with fighting oppression. If we want to effectively tackle all those systems of power that keep us oppressed then we need to keep the concerns of transwomen of color central to all of our organizing, whether it is queer organizing or otherwise. Moreover, since the experience of transwomen of color is framed by such desperate oppression, they will intuitively grasp what needs to be done to make the world better. Being on the bottom, or near the bottom, they can look up and see the dirty, fucked up underbelly of society. They can see where and when to strike to topple that monstrous beast.

If we are to make this world truly equitable, then the needs of the lowest need to be prioritized.


Post the Forty-Forth or On the True Nature of Racism

The other day, I got into a huge Facebook fight about the nature of racism. (As a side note, this shit seems to happen to me ALL the time. Although I must admit that I have a hard time letting things slide). To the white commenters, racism is individual. It is one person, regardless of color, hating another. One person in particular was complaining about being discriminated against because he was white. And oh those mean brown people, how could they do that? How could they be so mean? Don’t you know who I am?

I was struck, not the first time, the difficulty of talking about racism with white people. Especially white people who don’t recognize their privilege. I often get very frustrated, angry and hurt. Frustrated because they don’t understand where I am coming from, angry because it’s just another manifestation of racism and hurt because it reminds me how fucked the world is. Moreover, it seems that I have these conversations with people I consider friends and it hurts me to be so invalidated and ignored. Most of all, however, it hurts because they are often implying that I’m the racist for calling them out on the white privilege and that is the king of ironies.

The other thing that struck me was that there was a part of me that wanted to agree with them. There was a small voice in my head that said, “What if they are right? What if I’m the racist one?” I quickly called someone to talk about the experience and was brought back to myself in short order. It reemphasized for me, however, the importance of being surrounded by a strong community. For like the sea beating upon the shore, if I don’t have some sort of insulating and protecting factor, I will be washed away like so much flotsam. The medium of racism that all people of color exist in is caustic to our being and personhood and if we hang out in it unprotected by community, our identities, our-selves, are quickly washed of any definition. We become a round, indistinct blobs that have no purchase and no personality. And the result of that is a soul crushing alienation from our-selves. At least, that is my experience.

So, for the record, racism is a system of oppression (that is given power by white supremacy) that privileges people of European/white decent over Third World people/people of color/brown people. It is the marriage of prejudice and power. It is a complex system that manifests in ways as audacious as apartheid to as subtle as everyday interactions. Racism is the reason why the poverty rate for Black and Latin@s is more then half then that of their white counterparts. Racism is the reason why Black people make up 39.4% of the total prison population and yet make up only 12.6% of the total population in the United States. Racism is the reason why young people of color go to college less then their white counterparts.

But more then that, racism is the reason why people of color experience a deep alienation from themselves. Racism is the reason why we feel disaffected, dissatisfied and depressed. There is a reason why Black and Latin@ have elevated rates of depression over their white peers.  Racism is why we have the soul consuming anger that we constantly have to surpress because otherwise we get ostracized at best or jailed at worst. Racism is a daily reality for people of color. It is inescapable.

The other point I want to make is that racism can only go one way. This is because people of color don’t have the institutional power oppress white people. People of color can’t be racist because they don’t have the power to do so. Can they be prejudiced? Absolutely! But even then the context is different. When I say that I am tired of dealing with white people, I’m not saying that they are inferior to me or that I hate them or that I want to commit genocide on their people. What I am saying is that after centuries of being hated, called inferior etc, I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. And anyone who thinks that that is unreasonable needs to go take a long walk off a short pier. If we lived in a post-racist society then I would totally be in the wrong. If those power differentials didn’t exist, then I would need to revise my position.

But that is the thing; we DO NOT live in a post racist society.

Racism is still real, today. Ask anyone at the Rez if genocide is being committed. Ask anyone who as lived in low income communities for generations if colonization still isn’t happening today (read: gentrification). Ask anyone stopped by the police if Jim Crow is still alive. Ask any families separated by ICE if racism is still real.

So before you go complaining about how you are oppressed as a white person, remember that you will never have to worry about the things mentioned above. And you might not like it seeing all this. This might be painful. It’s hard to look in the mirror and see someone who is implicated in the death of generations of people. But trust me, it is better then the alternative.


Post the Forty-Second or On Pretty Privilege

How many times have you interacted with a person and they did something annoying but you let them off the hook because you thought they were cute? Or smiled and put that little extra nutmeg in someone’s latte because you thought they would notice and it would get them to talk to you? Or open the door for some hot young thing to check out their ass? Or took that flyer because the canvaser was hot?

What you were doing then and in so many infinitesimal interactions is something that I think isn’t talked about enough. I think that it’s called pretty privilege. Those that are deemed attractive by society are often given an easier time. Whether through forbearance of punishment for bad behavior or through getting a job over someone else, pretty privilege is a big deal!

The other thing that I think is interesting to note is how much correlation pretty privilege has with white privilege, cisgender privilege and class privilege. This is because those classes of people all adhere most closely to the general societal standard of beauty. Who do you see that are models, actors and superstars? Mostly white, cisgender, rich people. To be sure, there are many POC who are those things but they are a drop in the bucket and, more often then not, those POC are prized for their “exotic” look. It is just another manifestation of tokenization. Moreover, they are the exception that proves the rule.

I think one of the most radical things we can do, as oppressed peoples, is reclaim our bodies as our own and reject those normative standards of beauty. We need to see our bodies, our lives, as beautiful. We need to not only be ok with our bodies but also celebrate them for their difference, their gorgeousness. We need to look in the mirror and be able to masturbate to our own image. We need to see our wild, natural hair and our thick thighs and see them as the epitome of splendor. We need to be able to dance in the street and shout that we are fucking hot!

Is this easy? Hell no! We need to deprogram decades and decades of messages that tells us that we are ugly, worthless and unworthy of love. This is hard work! And it is only done with the gentleness of a community of people that love and affirm us. Because otherwise, the constant batter of hatred that we face in everyday life will convince us that we are ugly, worthless and unworthy of love. We need to have the place to come home to to heal and recover and remember who we are.

And if no one has told you yet today; You are absolutely beautiful.

PS I’m so sorry for the lack of posting lately!! I’ve been working on a semi-big piece and I’ve also moved back to Boston and started school. There is just a lot of craziness right now! But I promise to start posting more regularly!


Post the Thirty Ninth or On the Importance of Labels

Labels are the way that we communicate with other people about ourselves. They save us time and processing power when we are telling others of our experience. Its much easier to say that I’m queer then it is to explain all of the things that are involved in that word. Labels are the maps that we can show others so that they can see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. But, like a map, the label does not fully convey the essence of the person. It gives a general outline but if one is going to truly see and know what is there, one needs to be on the ground exploring. And I feel that folks forget that labels are just tools or maps to be wielded and that our actions don’t need to always “reflect” those labels. The terrain doesn’t need to match the map exactly and in fact such a project is impossible. Not only do labels act as maps but they also act as boundary markers. When I assert that I’m queer, I am making space for my experience and narrative. I am rejecting the normative narrative of heterosexism and say that I am not that. I am defining myself in relationship with what I am not.

Moreover, labels are empowering. This is because by owning that part of your self, you come to a greater understanding of who you are as a person and you are able to love yourself on a much deeper level. By seeing that part of yourself for what it is, and embracing it, you are rejecting the normative and oppressive ways of being that need your complicit thoughtlessness to continue. By being thoughtful, you are better able to reclaim your power and take action against those systems of oppression.

The other interesting aspect about labels is that many of them aren’t chosen by us. They are placed on us by how society perceives us. For example, the fact that I have brown skin makes it so that people perceive me as a person of color. Regardless if I identify with that label or not, that is still a label placed on me and that is apparent by the way that people and society treat me. Another example is being trans*. Nine times out of ten, I can pass as a cis woman. It is only when I out myself as trans* that folks treat me in a different way because of the way that they perceive me.

It really frustrates me, then, to hear folks say things like “I hate labels. I’m just me.” More often then not, these people are white, straight, upper-middle class, cisgender etc. They usually hold many privileged identities and labels. And they reason they can just “be themselves” is because the labels and identities that they hold are the societal norm. They have never had to think about their identites and labels because they don’t need to define themselves against the norm. There is no need to delineate that space because society has already given them that space. Moreover, it is very invalidating to people with oppressed identities because it says to them, “I can just be me. Why can’t you just be you?” And the fact of the matter is, I can’t just be “me” because of the history of oppression that surrounds and defines my existence as a human being. The me that I am is informed and created out of that oppression.

Not only that but saying that “I’m just me” reinforces the false idea of individualism. Put in another way, it says that we all exist in alone in a vacuum and that we don’t effect one another. It insists that there are no greater systems of power at work in our lives. It says that we are the sole mover in our lives and that our success or failure relies only on how hard we work. It also downplays the individual’s role in upholding and perpetrating systems of power and oppression. But that isn’t the case, is it? The fact of the matter is, there are systems of power and oppression at work that make being successful easier or more difficult depending on the kind of body that you possess. The world is much more complicated then just individuals moving through the world. Society takes and forms us and we have more agency in this world if we are white, rich, male, straight, cisgender etc. Individualism, and by extension the denials of labels, fails to see that.

Saying that you “Just want to be me” is one of the biggest sign of privilege and lack of awareness as to how the world works. It speaks to an absence of recognition of one’s relation to the world. And it’s just plain ignorant.


Post the Thirty-Eighth or Essentials

There are two things

An activists needs

In spades

Intelligence

and

Compassion

Intelligence

To perceive and understand

The vast and complex systems of power

And oppression

To see and comprehend that

Monstrous dark machine

Whose gears grind you to dust

And set that dust to work

Intelligence

To detect and know

That this machine is

Subtle and invisible

Compassion

To see all that great monstrosity

And still have the strength

The wisdom

To love the world anyway

Compassion

To stolidly stand up

To that machine

And say

No

I want a better world


Post the Thirty-Seventh or On the Nature of Protests

Protests, by their very nature, are violent. From the words being chanted, to the speeches being given, to the emotion of the crowd (think to the last protest you were at, did you feel angry or passionate?), to the very gathering of the people, protests are violent. Regardless of whether or not they partake in physical violence, protests are still violent. This is because their raison d’être is to destroy whatever it is that is being protested, and in turn create something better in its place. This is an inherently violent act.

But just because it is a violent act does not necessarily mean that it is a bad one. Destruction of old systems and ways of being is necessary for new forms of being to take their place. Just as the forest needs to burn in order for new life to grow, so too do the old ideas need to burn so that new ones can take their place.

Not only are they violent because they seek destruction but also because they are so radical and subversive. The systems of power in place are constantly telling us to keep our heads down, to not rock the boat, to accept the status quo as it is. But in protesting it, in protesting capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy, we are reclaiming our power and that is a violent act.

It really frustrates me, then, to see people talk about and glorify Gandhi and Dr. King as if they were these non-violent saints who “fought” for their cause through peace and serenity. That they had this mystical power to win their struggle by turning the other cheek. When, in fact, the Indian Independence movement had many more players then just Gandhi, many of them who used strategies that involved physical violence. Gandhi did not win independence alone and he certainly was moved by anger and passion, just as any activist is. Dr. King was another proponent of non-violent resistance and again, he was not the only player in the Civil Rights movement. Moreover, the Civil Rights movement failed on many counts, not the least of which is that racism still exists.

These two people are remembered by Americans mostly because they are the ones written in the history text books. It is the victors who write the history and the reason that they are in them is because they were not threatening enough to the status quo. One doesn’t read about Malcolm X, who did much to advance the Civil Rights movement, because he was a true threat to the powers that be.

Now, I’m not saying that we should be going around fighting willy-nilly. It is important to be strategic. Resorting to physical violence without resources or momentum is suicide. However, there comes a time when physical violence is the strategic key to victory. Moreover, the powers that be will not, and does not, hesitate to retaliate with violence if they feel that their control is being challenged. This is apparent from the police crackdowns on the Occupy movement and the policing of black and brown, especially male, bodies. In the words of Fredrick Douglass;

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Why, then, would we hesitate in using the most effective strategy to achieve equity?

Let me repeat again; violence is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Like any tool, its goodness is determined by the will of the wielder. If we are using violent resistance to create a truly equitable world, then it is not a bad thing because it is working to end centuries of colonialism, genocide and injustice. If using physical violence is the most effective way to achieve our collective liberation, then we have the moral obligation to do it. Not only to end the suffering the oppressed but also to make right what was their original wrong.

This is all very scary to most people, I know it was for me. And these aren’t things that can’t be done today or even tomorrow. However, we all need to be ready to do what must be done when the time comes.


Post the Thirty-Third or On the Importance of QPOC Space

This world is not safe for most of us. For most of us, we are constantly being harassed, assaulted and otherwise harmed, either overtly or covertly. This world is constantly attacking us; through messages from the media, through small, seemingly harmless words. Through physical murder and rape. Through the continued colonization of Third World people, both here in Ameríca and abroad.

Moreover, we are constantly carrying the baggage that that history of oppression, colonization and subjugation gives us. And we always have our armor in place. Armor that chafes and restricts us from growth. Armor that keeps us from making a true connection with other people, people like us. But it is an armor that is absolutely necessary. For without it, we are defenseless against those everyday assaults. We are naked before the sword of oppression. And we are torn to ribbons. There are many draw backs to that armor, and it isn’t a perfect defense, but it at least keeps us safe, keeps us from losing our minds in this world that hates us.

And most of us don’t even know we have it until the opportunity to take it off presents itself to us.

We’ve had this armor on for so long, since our earliest childhood days, that it becomes normal. The armor becomes a seamless part of our being. How could it not, when it has always been there? Perhaps we feel its tightness when we get close to someone, feel the armor scrape against someone else’s but its so commonplace and so subtle that we dismiss it. We fail to realize the way we restrict ourselves.

In my case, it wasn’t until I entered a space that held only Queer People of Color that I finally realized the heaviness of the armor. It was only when I was surrounded solely by people who have experienced the same type of oppression that I had experience, who had baggage and armor similar to mine, that I realized how much SHIT I carried around with me everyday.

And in that space, I was finally able to put it down. I was able to let go of the armor and the baggage and allow myself to be vulnerable. It was in that space that I was able to grow and expand in ways that I never thought would be possible.

This is why QPOC only space is so important. Because it allows a healing that is not possible when white, straight, cisgender people are present. This is because even if they are the staunchest of allies, even if they are the most amazing of anti-racists, the history oppression and colonization that they hold in their skin, a history that cannot be erased or forgotten, is made apparent in many, many subconscious and subtle ways. Because we have been socialized since birth to place white people first, whether it be the first helpings of a meal or the most space in a conversation, we do not even know that we are doing it (and at times neither do they). And this subconscious knee-jerk reaction makes it impossible to put down the armor and baggage and allow for growth and expansion.

Now, I know what you are going to say. You are going to say, “Morgan! You are being a reverse racist! White is a color too!” And to that I would respond that reverse racism is impossible. It is impossible because racism is a system that involves institutional power. That power is held by white people. I can’t be racist against white people because I don’t have the systemic power to be racist. The other reason for the exlusion of white people, other than the ones already mentioned, is because every space that one walks into is a white space. This is because white is the societal default for people, spaces, things. When I say person, the image that pops into your head automatically is a white man (specifically heterosexual and cisgender). So it is with spaces. When I say “we all got together at my place”, the hypothetical “we all” is primarily, or all, white.

For that reason, it is important to state that it is a POC space. We need to carve out that space for ourselves because it is not given to us. We need to delineate those boundaries because no one else will do it for us. Not only that but any space given to us by white people is not a claiming of safe space. It is a segregation and ghettoization. It is relegating us to the back of the bus. When we claim that space for ourselves, by ourselves we creating a thorny island within the greater, mainstream, white context.

And if we are going to do the work that needs to be done to transform this world into the truly equitable world it needs to be, then we need these safe spaces. We need them to recharge, to facilitate self-care and healing. We need these spaces to regroup and come together as family so that we can be effective and transformative in our work.

We need these spaces to live and thrive.


Post the Twenty-Ninth or On Why You Need to Mind Your Business

I have a profile on OkCupid, which is a free dating website. For not having to pay for it, its pretty good. Their matching system is decent and there are a lot of hot queers who use it. I’ve been on a number of dates from that site and, while none of those dates developed into something more, neither were they horrible. All in all, I’ve had a good experience with the site.

However.

Once or twice a month or so, I will get a message from someone asking me something like, “So, were you born a man or a woman?” or “You should probably change your gender to male so that there isn’t any confusion.” or “For a woman with a penis, you are really pretty!” Despite the fact that I clearly state in my profile to NOT message me with foolishness like that. I don’t know if its because they don’t read past the part where I say I’m a big ole’ tranny or if its because as cisgender people, they feel entitled to ask/tell me whatever they want in regards to my gender because I am so freakish and unnatural.

Over and over again I get random strangers asking me, after I come out to them, if I am going to get “the surgery” or “how far along I am” or “are those breasts real”. But that isn’t the only instance where people ask me about “myself”. I can’t tell you how many times someone who, having found out that my family is from South America, has asked me to say something in Spanish. As if I were some parrot who learned a new trick. As if because I’m brown or because I can speak another language, I need to perform that “trick” on command for some white English speaking asshat. Or my favorite, “Oh, you speak Spanish? I’ve never heard you speak it.” Yeah, because you don’t speak Spanish and what reason would I have to speak it with you? Just because I’m brown or speak another language doesn’t mean that I go around speaking Spanish at people who don’t understand it. Just like white English speaking folk don’t go around speaking gibberish at people, there is no point because there is no communication. Moreover, its this feeling of entitlement that white English speaking folks have to demand that folks like me “perform” for them.

Notice a trend here?

Good, because it’s a trend we all need to be aware of. Don’t get me wrong; if we are friends and we’ve gotten to know each other and you are curious about my experience, then by all means ask. However, we need to be constantly checking ourselves to make sure that we aren’t putting folks with oppressed identities and backgrounds on the spot and forcing them to “educate” us. We need to make sure that oppressed folks aren’t doing it horizontally either. If we are going to foster safe spaces and supportive communities, we need to make sure that we are responsible for educating ourselves about other folks. Because by asking strangers to “educate” us about their oppressed experience, we are focusing on that experience alone and we are reducing their personhood to that experience. We don’t see their hopes and their fears and their dreams. We don’t see what makes them fundamentally human. All we see is the baggage that our oppressive society has heaped on them. Not only that, but we are forcing them to relive that whole experience again for us. And when we force folks with oppressed identities to “educate” us, we are claiming their experience as ours. We are recolonizing and objectifying them, on top of the colonization and objectification that they have already experienced. This is the most infinitesimal and yet most profound way that we oppress each other.

So before you ask that question, Google it.


Post the Twenty-Sixth or A Call to Action for OccupyAustin

I have gone down to Occupy Austin several times and what I have seen is truly dismaying. I saw a whole lot of white folks holding drumming circles (problematic), doing yoga, talking about meditation, worrying about hurt feelings and cooperating with the police. I saw a lot of white, cisgender, men leading and facilitating. I saw a whole lot of standing around, a whole lot of disorganization and a whole lot of complacency.

You know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see a whole lot of people of color. I did not see a whole lot of visibly trans and queer folk. I didn’t see a lot of people who are disabled. I did not see a whole of critical analysis and discourse and I did not see a whole lot of action. What I saw was a bunch of white folks, hanging around and socializing.

This is unacceptable.

Don’t get me wrong; I like meditation and yoga and other forms of self-care, but if we are going to build up a movement that creates lasting social change then we need to be checking our own shit. We need to be examining our privilege and make sure that we have equitable representation of folks that hold different identities. And this means more than just inviting them. This means that we are building a culture of inclusion and radical celebration. It means that we are making room for people of color. We are making room for queer and trans people. We are making room for women and mothers and poor people. It means that we are making room for oppressed people. Equitable representation means that we are examining the effects of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. It means the we examine the actions that we take and makes sure that we are not unconsciously perpetuating those systems of power and oppression. This examination must also include our language.

For example, the language around the very name of the movement. Occupy. We need to examine how this word and the language that surrounds it is oppressive language. This is because this land is already being occupied. This land has been occupied since the first colonizers landed 500 years ago. We need to be examining colonialism and our participation in the continued colonization of this land and the Third World. Moreover, we need to realize that indigenous folk and other folks of color have been trying to decolonize their land and their bodies from white supremacy since the beginning of European Imperialism. We need to realize that they are still fighting this. We need to realize that economic growth in the US usually means the suffering and exploitation of the Third World. We need to realize that the US is still pursuing global empire by getting the Third World to be economically dependent on the US. And its going to take more than issuing a solidarity statement to understand and change these things.

We also need to examine our relationship with the police. The police are NOT allies to oppressed people. They work to defend the status quo and defend those in power. The police has a long and bloody history of brutalizing people of color, queer and trans people, people in poverty etc. They do not exist to defend your “first amendement rights” because once you start getting out of line, they beat you down and arrest you. Any movement that seeks to upset the status quo by bringing true equitable power back into the hands of the oppressed will find no friend in the police.

And not only must we be doing direct action, like protests and bank bombs, but we also need to be establishing sustainable communities. We need to be banding together to support one another, whether that be through skill shares or through popular education or even better permaculture. We need to supporting our activism by having active, vibrant, sustainable communities so that we not only have sustainable leadership but so that we also continue to have momentum and not burn out.

We have an opportunity here to help usher in a new era of social change and social justice. We have a chance to make this world a better place for everyone. Now is the moment in which the 99% can be truly and equitably represented. In this moment we can change the course of history.

Don’t fuck it up.