Tag Archives: Oppression

Post the One Hundredth or On Radical Compassion

This is for the anon who asked what radical compassion means. For me, the common understanding of compassion is that we sympathize with those who are suffering and seek to ameliorate their suffering. Because of their suffering, they are deserving of our pity. We feel bad of them and so we do what we can to help. And while this is all well and good,  there is a very shallow understanding of the root of suffering or why people suffer. Put in another way, regular compassion just seeks to make someone feel better. It is a Pollyanna, “lets all just get along”, “you poor thing here is a cookie” response to suffering. It is individualistic and fails to see the bigger picture. It sees suffering as an unfortunate occurrence that exists in a vacuum that lacks context. Regular compassion is silent on why people suffer.

And those who experience suffering have access to this type of compassion only if they behave in appropriate ways. In other words, you only get compassion if you play nice and don’t make anyone uncomfortable.

Radical compassion, on the other hand, stands in solidarity with those who are suffering. It examines the interpersonal, systemic, institutional and structural reasons for suffering. It seeks to locate the individual sufferer within the greater social context. It understands that suffering is systemic and that those under more axises of oppression generally suffer more. Radical compassion seeks to challenge these causes of suffering and allows the sufferer the freedom to react and engage with their suffering in anyway that they see fit. In other words, those who are suffering are allowed to rage and scream and be angry and still receive compassion. Radical compassion does not pity the sufferer. Rather, it seeks to fight with the sufferer to end suffering.

Radical compassion seeks to end suffering on a systemic level. Regular compassion just seeks to help out the individual sufferer. And that is ok, as far as it goes. But I don’t think it goes far enough.

Another way to describe radical compassion is by saying that it is fiercely gentle. It has your back and understands where you are coming from and seek justice with you.

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Post the Forty-Ninth or Rage

I woke up this morning breathing fire

My hair writhing in the heat like snakes

My anger manifesting by the blazing hot inferno

My apoplectic rage expressing itself by the withering heat

The flames consuming both me and my target

The conflagration cocooning me

Caressing me with light, dancing kisses

I felt nothing

But it burned me all the same

And yet

My target was unharmed

Unconcerned

Uncaring

Unmoved

For how can my rage effect something that is

Everywhere

And

Nowhere

At once?


Post the Thirty-First or Heaviness

I always feel it most at night

When I’m with my lover

Our skin pressing against each other

I feel it there

The heaviness

The weight

In the safety of their arms

I feel the heaviness of

My colonization

The scars of oppression

surface

As I take off my armor

The rage and the pain

That I carry with me all day

I can finally put down

I can finally express

I can finally claim as my own.


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 Eighteenth or Dismantling Power Part II

In my previous post, I wrote about my experiences at Pride and how they were lessons in power. I mentioned that there was another intimate instance this week about power and it was at the Out Youth board meeting.

The board meeting was a badass example of community organizing. We flooded the meeting with our thoughts, our voices and our hearts. Young people and adults alike stood up bravely and spoke on behalf of the family as well as the organization. It was moving in many ways, not the least of which because I was social justice orgasming left and right.

At one point, people began to talk over each other and the board was attempting to take control of our meeting when Gabi raised her voice and passionately declared the types of strategies that everyone should be thinking about and basically calling them inept. She shouted down the board as well as the community members who were clamoring to be heard. It was an awe inspiring sight to see. It felt like Gabi was speaking with all our voices.

The board responded in turn by saying that they felt that they had been abused. Which is interesting to me because being abused seems to me to involve a lack of power. If you are abused you are generally disempowered and yet the board are very clearly empowered. They are the ones who wield all the legal power at Out Youth. Moreover, those community members who were there felt that Gabi’s action was appropriate and righteous.

But that’s the nature of power. If you have it, it allows you to ignore it. It allows you to not see it because by its very nature power is subtle.

Not only does the Board of Directors have legal power and privilege they also have adult power and privilege. So when they have the audacity to say that they feel abused I can’t help but react negatively. Not only because they can’t really be abused but also because they, and the institution they represent, have inflicted abuse on those without power for years by not listening and by making decisions that are not in the best interest of our community.

So the next time you are upset at a young person passionately voicing their feelings remember that we are all a product of the world we live in.


Post the Tenth or Every Morning

I wake up every morning with the Sound of Sirens

Blaring across town

Another murder

Another overdose

Another death

I wake up every morning wondering what fresh hell

The world will throw at me

Will it be losing the job because I was too brown

Or losing the lover because my body was wrong in their eyes

Or losing my identity to the maw of Society that says I’m not real

I wake up every morning wondering

Is today the day?

Is today the day that I die?

The day that some fuck gets it in their head that

I don’t deserve to live

Is today the day I’m murdered?

And every morning I get up

Put on my make up

And face this fucked up world that hates me

That owes me nothing

And I. Demand. Everything

And I will not be denied

I dream of the day when waking up

Is the easiest thing I have to do


Post the Ninth or On Social Justice and God

I am a social justice activist. I live and breathe social justice. It is my lifeblood. It is probably the biggest part of my identity. I live for the days that I get to open eyes and raise awareness about the true nature of world we live in and its stark realities. I live for the days that I get to teach people how to fight oppression and achieve a more equitable world. And I live for the days when others teach me. When we get together and share knowledge and strategize on how to make the world a better place. I live for those days when I find out that your liberation is bound up with mine and that we must fight together to make a difference.

I’m a social justice activist because it is work that needs to be done. It is often times overwhelming, exhausting and thankless. It is easy to get discouraged because its hard to see any immediate results. Not only that but dealing with the backlash. Few people enjoy being faced with their privilege and how they were bred into a system that kills. Few people like facing the truth. But I feel it needs to be done because if nothing changes, nothing changes. If I don’t do it, who will?

At the same time, I am a very spiritual person. I have felt and seen things that, for me, can only be miracles. From getting sober to escaping a queer bashing by making myself “unnoticeable” to money manifesting from nowhere, I have come to believe that there are powers greater than me and that said powers have my back. And whether this is ultimately a delusion or not is unimportant because its real to me. Moreover, spirituality as taught me that I am powerless over so many things and the only thing I have power over are my own actions. It has taught me that the only way to effect change in my community and in my world is to act and act in the right ways, whatever right means in each context.

These two sides of my identity are constantly at war. The spiritual side of me is constantly trying to reassure me that the powers that be will take care of me. That my needs will be met and that I will be safe. That I will lead a successful, happy life with wonderful friends and a partner (or two) at my side. And to turn over those things of which I am powerless to control. And yet the social justice side of me understands the harsh reality of the body that I have and the oppressions that it subjects me too. It knows that my body is a battleground for almost all of society’s baggage. The fact of the matter is, transwomen of color frequently get the shit end of every stick. Whether it be because I’m brown or because I defy what society says a person with a penis should act and look like or both, I have a harder time finding places to live, places to work and people who love and support me for who I am.

And I wonder that if this greater power really had my best interests at heart, wouldn’t she have put me in a white straight man’s body? Or better yet, would she not create a world where people were equal regardless of the bodies they possess? Why give us this fucked up world where people, thanks to systems of power and oppression, live fruitless lives and die ignoble deaths?

These are questions that I am constantly grappling with myself. And the answers that I have come up with are not always happy.

I can come to the conclusion that, despite my experience, there are no powers above or below that help us and guide us. That we are utterly alone and that our problems must be solved with our own solutions. Nothing and no one else will help. Another conclusion that I can come to is that while a creatrix might have gotten things going in the beginning, she is no longer involved now and that is why things have gone to shit. Still another conclusion is that the reason why our world is fucked up is so that we can learn to be better human beings. Its like a huge cosmic game that is being played so that we can advance as spiritual beings. The final conclusion, and the most attractive by far, is that greater powers exist but they have a limited sphere of influence. They can only effect this world in subtle ways and sometimes, or oftentimes, that is not enough. And because of their limited influence, shit like greed and oppression are allowed to occur.

All the conclusions have draw backs. The first and second one are devoid of hope, which is so important. The third conclusion is also problematic because if greater power could create a world in which we must learn and grow why not just make all of us automatically as spiritually advanced as we can be and avoid the suffering? Is there something intrinsic in suffering that makes it so that we learn? But again, if she has all this power why make it so that it is painful? Why not make it so that learning comes from joy? Moreover, what does that say about people who have easy lives? That they are spiritually advanced enough that they don’t need to struggle as much as those with hard lives? That seems to me to be erroneous.

Lets look at the final conclusion once again. If the greater powers can only influence us in those subtle, coincidental ways are those than enough to keep us afloat? Or perhaps because we are oppressed we are given greater access to those subtle powers? That since we are oppressed we have a better ability to move and shift those subtle energies? And how are we to trust these things when not only does mainstream culture invalidate it but also when they are so intangible?

I would argue that yes, the greater powers that be might not be all powerful but they can and do help us. That we as oppressed people must trust, more than those who aren’t, that there are powers out there who want what’s best for us even if they can’t always get it. My experience has shown this. And we must believe if only because it gives us, it gives me, hope. And hope is vital. It is critical. It is so fucking important. The battle is already lost when hope has already fled. Even if its an opiate, its an opiate that has kept me alive through times when I thought I would never survive.

But just because there might be greater powers out there helping us out doesn’t mean that we get to rest on our laurels and not fight. Just because they have our back doesn’t mean that they are gonna fight our battles for us. Social justice is the work of the people and the people must work it.

None of these conclusions are airtight nor are they all positive but its the best that I’ve come up with so far. But I suppose uncertainty shall always be a part of life.

The only thing I know for certain is that I’m here to leave this world better than I found it.