Thursday, April 28, 2011

Want more proof?

I posted below about how race will affect the way the vicious crimes against Chrissy Lee Polis, the trans woman who was attacked in a Baltimore McDonald's last week, and I was right. Check out this disgusting comment from an LGBT blog that caters to a "progressive" audience operating out of San Francisco:

(Click Picture to enlarge)

Hmmmm...I was not aware that white neighborhoods were safe for everyone and black neighborhoods were safe for no one. I'm a little too bitter to comment further on this. Make your own conclusions in the comment section!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey Gaga...Maybe I was born this way...

I've been debating for a while whether or not to write this post. It's a bit personal and a wee bit triggering, but I feel like it's something really important to talk about.

I'm queer. <---- Not a surprise. However, I'm not actually certain I was born this way.

I don't mean to bring up overused stereotypes, but I often question how my sexual orientation may have differed if I wasn't a survivor. This is not to say that all survivors end up queer. If 25% of women and 11% of men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, clearly not all queer people are survivors and not all survivors are queer. But speaking from my own personal experience and realizations (as well as many a years of counseling and mentorship), I'm pretty comfortable talking about my status as a survivor and recognizing that is absolutely has played a role in my sexuality.

Now I know that "born this way" has been, and will continue to be an anthem for many generations of queer folk, but I ask you to consider the consequences of this single definition of how queerness occurs. Thanks to genetic testing and mapping, studies upon research upon experiments have been used to find the "gay gene." In some scientific spheres, gay is treated as a genetic mutation and an eventually curable disease.

I get why it's important to understand that queerness is not a choice, especially in terms of legal and human rights. But we have to recognize that queerness can be nature and/or nurture. And by nurture, I refer to life experiences, not teaching or brainwashing. Sexual violence is real, and I'm done pretending I was 'born this way," because I'm not sure I was.

But dear Gaga and all the little monsters out there...Maybe I was born this way, but maybe I wasn't...and that's ok too.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Sadness and Anger All Around

Please watch this (violence/transphobic trigger warning):

(The unidentified trans woman) Chrissy Lee Poliswas brutally assaulted by two McDonald's patrons in Maryland while the majority of the employees stood by and watched the violence take place. At one point, one of the employees even began to laugh at the scene.

I bring this video to your attention for two reasons.

1. It's fucked up. The two patrons who committed this violence should be arrested. McDonalds should be forced to implement a cultural sensitivity training/bystander intervention training for all of their store managers. This woman deserves justice and compensation for her medical bills.

2. Racism still affects how these stories are shared and analyzed especially in the queer community. Want evidence?:

This comment was on the popular blog Bilerico for a while after the story first broke. I know that online commentary is notoriously full of bigotry, but COME ON. This is a progressive queer blog, not youtube. Thankfully the comment was removed in time, but nevertheless I still had to read it, as I'm sure other people of color had to as well.

If this video had been of two white cis women attacking a white trans woman, everyone would have analyzed it as solely transphobic. No one's race would have been used as reasoning for the act of violence. And the label transphobia would not have been attributed to all white people.


Sign this petition AND call the phone number to the Maryland: Violent Crimes Division 410-887-6610

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Princess Boy

Five-year-old Dyson Kilodavis' preference of pink and princess dresses inspired his mom to write a book on tolerance. His family has supported his decision and his preference o f dresses and have learned to listen to their child and help him pursue his happiness. His mother and father were trying to force gender role norms on their child and it took for Dyson's older brother to tell his parents "Just let him be happy."

His mom wrote a book called My Princess Boy, inspired by her son and to open people's eyes to acceptance and understanding that children do what makes them happy. By forcing them to break these habits,we are pushing them into boxes they do not wish to be placed. We force them into these ideal images of what their role tells them to be and that is not the case. This experience has opened her eyes to listen to her children and she believe she has a responsibility to nurture her child's happiness. It makes Dyson happy to know that his family is supporting him and wants nothing but happiness for him. I'm happy to see such changes in the world occurring, but we are far from done with changing views.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bad-Ass Folk!: Jessica Yee

April's Bad Ass is" multiracial Indigenous hip-hop feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter!" Jessica Yee!

Jessica impacted me SO much at this year's CLPP conference. My comfort and knowledge were challenged, in a very good way, for the first time in a long time. Yee is the founder and current director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and has recently released Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism. I just ordered my copy, I hope you will too if you are able. If not, there are some great excepts available online! Everything Jessica presented at the conference was on point. Yee even put to words what I've never been able to.

I often feel as though when folks, specifically in the classroom or activist settings, say that they're "my ally in my struggles," it's total bullshit. It usually comes from a place of sympathy after reading about "people like me" in one of their sociology classes (I say "people like me" to represent a lot of different oppressed identities I carry: poor, inner-city, person of color, queer, genderqueer...etc.) When was the last time folks ventured into my neighborhood or even spoke to someone "like me" outside of the classroom or conference? I don't want you as an ally if you're afraid of where I come from. Yee brought up this idea of "consensual allyship" that really blew me away. Will definitely change the way I interact with well intentioned, misinformed folks. I personally wanted to say thank you, but I never got the chance to at CLPP. Read more about Jessica here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Say hello to Jess!

Hello everyone! My name is Jessica and I am a student, intersectional feminist, privilege caller-outer, and real language finicker. I am graduating in May with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Social Science (Women's/Gender Studies), and want to make a career out of learning to facilitate conversations around social justice issues. I am honored to be blogging here with the opportunity to work with such awesome people.

Feminism is the lens through which I try to understand the world around me, and my place in it as a complex human being. I make an effort to understand myself in different ways as both oppressed AND an oppressor; it was Paulo Freire who said that in the act of oppressing others we lose our own humanity. So while I am exploring my own and learning about others' identities, I do (frequently) stumble over my own privilege. I blog about the ways that different personal and social identities, and relationships between groups of people, are influenced by systems and dominant ideas of power. I love activism, and I love teaching and organizing and writing as a form of protest!! I am excited to be here.

"Feminism directly confronts the idea that one person or set of people [has] the right to impose definitions of reality on others." -Liz Stanley and Sue Wise

Sunday, April 10, 2011

#CLPP30 Disability Justice and Reproductive Justice

CLPP Recap: Disability justice and reproductive justice

This weekend was my first time experiencing the amazing and inspiring Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference at Hampshire College…and just in time for its THIRTIETH anniversary (commemorated by three large dance break-outs/parties in just two days). I’ve honestly been exposed to so much that my head is still spinning, and I will send out recaps from the workshops as I process all of the information over the next week.

Here is a recap of the Saturday workshop “Disability Justice and Reproductive Justice.” More than anything it painted a broad picture of Disability Justice (DJ)’s complex and rocky relationship with community health services and the medical profession. It showed how problematic it is to even define words like “disability,” let alone talk about it when there are so many misconceptions about what it is and how it interacts with other personal/individual and social/group identities.

Before the workshop even started, we all got a nice disclaimer about how everyone has the right to define mental illness and abnormality/atypicality for themselves. There is a wide spectrum of natural human emotions, along which we may try to identify a “norm” and then “outliers”…but there is so much variance it doesn’t even matter. Everyone will experience “disability” at some point in their life. The more that I collect life experience, the more I realize the “everyone-has-a-story” rule absolutely applies to disability, too. EVERYONE will experience (at least temporary) disability at some point in their life - you know, “unless they die first”.

Whether it’s something that’s widely accommodated, like needing eyeglasses, or something “invisible,” like chronic pain or a neurological disorder; everybody has or will have something. If we think about it that way, it completely flips the idea of providing “extra” or “abnormal” accommodations, and shows that accessibility should be the norm the way that people who need some form of accommodation are the norm. People who are not stereotypically abled ARE the de facto majority; and, I’ll bet, the numerical majority. People who are mostly temporarily abled have somehow falsely been accorded power and privilege that leads them to push everyone else to the margins.

Please see diagram below:

Do you see what changes here if we start perceiving everyone as having some form of disability?

Anyway, another big take-away was the idea of “making space for the body” – both literal and figurative. Physically, it can mean things like allowing room for wheelchairs to move between aisles of chairs in a classroom. This example particularly resonated with me because during my first year facilitating a group for first-year college students, we played an icebreaker where I set up a giant game of Twister on the linoleum floor. We used fun questions like “If you have an exotic pet, do XYZ,” and I thought it went over really well. Although no one opted out, I immediately realized afterwards how exclusionary it could easily have been.

I realized that because it was our first meeting, I hadn’t known whether any of the students would be using a wheelchair or have other accessibility issues. But now, I also wonder whether there might have been an invisible disability that no one spoke up about. For example, I have a friend who lives with very bad arthritis, and sometimes just climbing a staircase can be very painful – much less, I imagine, a game of Twister!

Reflecting on invisible/visible disability, as well as creating accessible spaces as part of a norm that necessitates inclusion, really resonated with me. Figuratively, “making space for the body” can mean creating spaces for conversations and dialogue about the body and accessibility; which I hope is starting here. I’m going to add another post where I will speak to more of my own experiences with disability and identity and justice. In the meantime, check out some of these resources:

Leaving Evidence
A blog by panelist Mia Mingus, "a queer disabled woman of color korean adoptee working, creating and loving towards wholeness and connection, love and liberation."

The Freedom Center
A huge resource for learning about disability, justice, and empowerment. Also the home of Madness Radio!
Panelists Dana Grace Keller and Caty Simons’ organization.

Matters of Justice
A fellow blogspot blog by panelist Martina Robinson.

**Crossposted at Starts With Me and the CLPP 30th Anniversary Blog.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#CLPP30 Toys and Spots

This session was amazing! If you ever get the chance to stop into a sex positive sex toy shop like Babeland or Good Vibrations: Do it!!!!

Speaker Yana who writes for Curve and a bunch of other publications was engaging and personable. While I'm pretty familiar with toy maintenance and sex ed, I did learn something new. So you may or may not know that male and female sexual organs start off exactly the same, and later develop differently. For example, the testes mirror the ovaries or the clitoris mirrors the penis.

The new thing I learned was that the prostate (in male-bodied folk) is similar to the g-spot in vaginas. So when we talk about orgasms and spots, we can talk about g-spots, c-spots (clits), and p-spots (prostates). Don't stress yourself out if you've never had a g-spot or p-spot orgasm. You're not abnormal or broken. Many folks dont climax this way. Orgasm is a personal exploration and can mean different sensations, vibration, and or penetration for different folks. Yana also pointed us to a local shop called Oh My in Northampton. Let's just say I put my lessons to good use.

Awesome session.

Hampshire Liveblog: Toys & Spots

  • What did we learn in sex ed? Not much for a lot of us... very little about contraception, safe sex, non-hetero sex, etc.
  • Where did you learn about pleasure? Experience, experimenting, work, friends, Google, Wikipedia, HBO, friends...
The point: we don't really learn about pleasure in sex ed or schools, we've learned by observing & experimenting. As a result we're often missing information and lacking a place to fill in those gaps.

Just a warning, this may not be safe for work (unless you work somewhere cool!) so be aware before you click.

Friday, April 8, 2011

#CLPP30 Colonized Spaces, Criminalized Bodies

Lived experiences are so powerful.
The session started out a little rough. I think when there are traditional academic moderators introducing a panel of real-life academics, power and privilege always become evident. After a some what long-winded introduction by a professor, Theresa Martinez blew me away. She started by apologizing for her 9th grade education and her nerves. But she then went on to say some of the most profound words I have ever heard about prison, prostitution, sterlization, addiction, systematic abuse, and how institutional classism and racism negate choice. She ended her section of the panel with showing the audience her parole release papers. 26 years of parole. Who needs a doctorate degree to change the world?
Next was Pooja Gehi, a member of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in NYC. Although I was familiar with the problematic issues with hate crime legislation, I think a lot of folks in the room were shocked. The fact that hate crime laws actually work to give more resources to police who then terrorize poor communities of color. Specifically, transwomen face over policing and brutality just for "walking while trans." For more info about this, check out the new Queers for Economic Justice Project: "The New Queer Agenda" edited by Lisa Duggan! You can also google the case of "The New Jersey Four" which actually used hate crime laws to charge Black lesbian women with a more serious offense against a heterosexual man. (IE they were lesbians so they must hate men)
And finally, JESSICA YEE! She was amazing. Self described as a "Two-Spirit Indigenous hip-hop feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter," she began her section by asking the room whose land we were on. Three people in the entire room of over a hundred people knew. "How dare we talk about colonization if we don't even know who's land we're on!" I've got to be honest, after this exchange happened...I stopped taking notes and focused intensely on her wealth of knowledge. One really powerful point she made about the ridiculously high rates of death and disappearences of native women in Canada and The United States. She then goes on to rightfully critique orgs like NOW that simply feature or tolerate a First Nations speaker here or there when they feel like it.  "If 18,000 white women went missing, don't you think feminists would be up in arms?"
She then went on to share jaw-dropping stats about the high rates of sexual abuse, childhood molestation, and depression of native women.  Look her up. Read her work. She just released a new book that really calls out the privileged, white, academic, feminist bullshit we've all been told to use as the main means of educating ourselves and new generations of feminists.
Fuck that. Real-life academics. Lived realities. Study that!
Favorite quotes:
"Outside of the Nation to this systematic fuckery...sorry but English is the tool of the colonizers, and it won't get any help from me"
- Yee
"We can't say that we're all in solidarity because we're all oppressed in the same way....cause we're not"
"Education can't come at the cost of our own communities crumbling because we're too tired."
"I don't want to have to scare you into caring."
"We need consensual allyship. Some communities aren't ready for your imposed partnership. Have you ever even been on a res? How can you be my ally if you don't know who I am?"
"I need you just as much as you need me. What are 'we' going to do!"
"This privileged professor asked "how did this happen to you?" And I was like "are you kidding me?" But then I realized he really didn't know. I mean I suffered from reproductive oppression from when I was 10 years-old, but privileged educators have never seen what we seen or been through what we been through. WE have to educate the higher ups too."

#CLPP30 Road trip!

Blogger Arlene (who will be submitting her first post this weekend) and I are on our way to Hampshire College for the CLPP conference! Bloggers Jill, Jess, and Robin will be there too! Road mixes in hand! Goodbye NJ, hello MA!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Live Blogging...for reals this time!

I know I was supposed to live blog at creating change, but I was way too drained. This will be third year at this conference, and I CAN NOT WAIT! The energy. The learning. The challenges. I'm beyond ready. Follow the hashtag #CLPP30 for live updates!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Health Inqueery

The Institute of Medicine released a study of LGBT persons across the United States on March 31st. This study is significant because most LGBT health projects, until now, were organized an executed within the gay community itself. The study came to the ultimate conclusion that more research is needed to accurately assess the health of LGBT Americans.

Here are some of the findings:
  • There are tremendous gaps in practitioner knowledge and training of the health needs of LGBT people, as well as an overall lack of education regarding the health needs and concerns within the American LGBT Community.
  • LGBT Americans have poor access to health insurance
  • High rates of mental health problems, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts/attempts and depression
  • Increased risk of contracting STI's including, of course, HIV
  • Lesbians and bisexual women may be at an increased risk for breast cancer, higher rates of obesity and greater rates of smoking and alcohol consumption then heterosexual women
  • Overall, the LGBT community smokes more than the heterosexual community
  • Some studies have indicated that long term use of hormone therapy may increase risk of cancer, although the report also noted that more research is required
  • Older LGBTs are less likely to have access to medical care for the elderly and are less likely to live with partners into old age than their heterosexual counterparts
  • In American society at large, men typically show more of an interest in sex than women. This pattern occurs within the LGBT community as well
However, more important than a laundry list of health findings and statistics is the underlying cause of those findings: the social pressure of living as a sexual minority. The study notes this truth, but also acknowledges that more research must be conducted to attain a more nuanced understanding of the effects of mainstream society on LGBT people.

Of course their are significant holes in this study. In fact, the study itself acknowledges that. The report recommends that researchers collect more data on gender identity and sexual orientation as well as recommending that researchers include LGBT people in their studies. Also it noted that more needs to be done to account for differences among race, geographical location and socioeconomic status with the LGBT Community

The fact that the study exists is a step in the right direction. Now comes the hard part: qualifying the data and convincing more LGBT people to participate in future health studies (ultimately the success of future studies will boil down to the degree of LGBT participation). Yet overall, the publish of such a report is a victory for equality.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Music for the queer black soul...

I have been told all of my life that communities of color, specifically the black community, are far more homophobic than "American" (used far too often interchangeably with white) communities. Now, I know and hopefully you know, that this is total bullshit. As a person who identifies as Jamaican, I know exactly where these attitudes come from.

And while homophobia, heterosexism, and anti-queer violence may be more socially accepted in some areas or communities, NO culture is free of these experiences. The issue should not be who is more homophobic, because then folks who think their communities are far superior will become complacent with heterosexism. No one is at that level. Not to mention that there are queer people of color! To write any one country, ethnicity, cultural group, or even city block off as being homophobic and hence unsafe to interact with, the larger queer community is being fractured. For example, I'm not going to sacrifice my Jamaican identity or my love for hip hop music just because I'm queer. Instead, I want to name and dissect the heterosexism and misogyny in the communities I come from so that we can have the tools to change things for the next generation.

This is why I love this video:

POWERFUL (despite the use of alternative lifestyle)

When B.E.T. premiered this video, they edited out any scenes of the two men kissing. The small amount of media coverage this story got called B.E.T. and the black community (because there's just one big one you know) too homophobic to run the video as is. Yet not in one story did writers ask why MTV or VH1 hasn't aired the video at all. Just something to think about.

What are your thoughts?