Pull List of Justice: September 2013

pulllistofjusticeRegular readers of my stuff will know that I am a comic book fanatic and have argued many times that comics have historically been at the forefront of social progress, often addressing issues that television and other mediums have been unable or unwilling to. Yes, they can also be problematic, but I contend that finding the right book with the right author can lead to a wealth of fantastic characters representing all sorts of diverse types of people and ideas.

So welcome to the beginning of what will hopefully be a monthly feature in which I describe the wonderful things that are happening in the comics I read that send a positive message in the social justice arena. I should point out that I can only really write about the comics I actually read, so if you have a book that you think would be great that I don’t cover, mention it in the comments. Otherwise, all comics and characters are the property of their respective companies and are being reproduced in part here under Fair Use guidelines.

Now, let’s jump right in.

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Thus begins my latest piece for Queereka. I hope that this will become a regular thing and get more people reading some of the amazing and socially progressive comics out there.

First US Administration to Actually Address Bi Issues

Bifurious Femininja

I want this to be a real manga (via)

I generally don’t like to make a big deal around token gestures. It’s one thing to talk about things and another to actually do something. But this does seem like an important step.

For the first time in history, a representative from the White House will be holding a roundtable discussion on bisexual issues, specifically how bisexuals are affected by public health problems, partner violence, and several other subjects that are usually discussed in the context of monosexuality. It will be hosted by White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan on September 23.

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Thus begins my latest contribution to Queereka. Go take a look to read the rest.

I Don’t Hate Old White Men: Why Diversity Works

Ok, we’ve done this topic to death, I know, but hear me out. I had An Experience that I want to share, it’s appropriate for the site, and for some reason they let me write about what I want. Hopefully I won’t get tedious enough for them to stop me. If they can…

How many of you are sick of the accusation that because you, quite accurately, point out that the atheist movement is dominated by Old White Men, that you are somehow anti-Old White Men? My experience with the queer community is similar, but somewhat more complicated. In this case, I have far too often seen (and heard complaints about), Old White Gay Men who find themselves no longer attractive on average to younger men (another can of worms, we’ll discuss attractiveness as status and age another time) will go into a space and dominate it, eventually driving others out. I found out last night that that happened to the support group I went to when I was first trying to come out.

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Thus begins my latest contribution to Queereka.com. Please feel free to visit Queereka for the full article.

Support Group Went Well

Have a work deadline that I have to focus on today, but I wanted to write a quick note that the bisexual support group I started had its first meeting on Friday and it went really well. We had a decent number of people for our first meeting, which worked. At least three of us wore hats, and you know how much I like hats. We started by discussing how opposite sex interests view bisexuality problematically (i.e. men see bisexual women as basically just a potential threesome, women view bisexual men with suspicion and potential disgust), and the conversation just spiraled from there in a good, do a barrel roll (which is not an Aileron roll) sort of way.

One thing that I am particularly happy about requires a bit of backstory. I started this group with my friend Queen Gene (nickname by request), who is gay but thought through  interactions with me that the community could benefit from a bisexuals group. When we had the organizational meeting with people about a month ago, we actually listed it as a “bisexual/bi-curious” group. Queen Gene was a little unsure about the second part of that, even leading up to the night before the meeting, because he was really afraid that that would encourage people to show up just to look for dates. We discussed it and decided to ask the group their thoughts.

That became unnecessary when we had a new person arrive who actually was there because they are unsure if they are bisexual or gay and showed up because the “bi-curious” bit was appended to the group name on the website! I don’t know if they came to any conclusions from an hour of group discussion, but at the very least that helped bring one person who needed support and guidance, so the name stays.

Had a bit of a clash with the AA people in the main room who apparently think they run the place. No, we won’t move out of the library into the empty room upstairs so you can have “breakout sessions.” You use the empty room upstairs. At the very least the guy backed off when I explained that Queen Gene had one leg amputated and climbing stairs is a bit of a challenge for him. Still, this is the room we were given, and I know your group is huge and has been here for a while, but things change, so learn to deal.

Otherwise, I’m very happy with the results and look forward to the next meeting. 1st and 3rd Fridays, 7:00pm at the Center if you’re in Orlando and interested.

Intersectionality Fails

The trick to social justice is that it is generally about supporting marginalized groups because they are marginalized. It addresses power and, more to the point, the consolidation and abuse of power by the groups that wield it in an effort to protect the benefits that come with their favor within society. Even groups like homophobic crusaders that are becoming less favored socially still maintain vast control of the workings of society, so they continue to be addressed as a powerful group, despite arguments to the contrary.

That’s why when I see things like this post from Chief Conversationalist Kristycat, I cannot help but facepalm to near unconsciousness.

For those who haven’t clicked the link (click the link), Kristycat talks about the unfortunate habit of radical feminists to be extremely trans*phobic and to use the language of the people who oppress them in an effort to oppress trans*women, invisibling them and denying their right to define themselves because of some absurd idea that transitioning is some invidious plot by men to take over the female identity, simultaneously reducing “womanhood” to strictly being about genitals.

And the frustrating thing is, pretty much all of feminism is that same message!  You define yourself.  Your identity is your own.  You have agency, you own yourself, no one else is allowed to tell you who you are.  You create your own identity.  You are more than the definitions other people want to put on you; you can reject them, you can insist that other people accept you on your own terms, as who YOU say you are, not as who they think you should be.  Feminists – radical feminists like UK Feminist over here – accept that fully when it comes to themselves.  But somehow the idea of extending that same right to someone else is foreign to them.  It’s rank hypocrisy.

I would like to go on a small digression at this juncture to, again, point out that “radical feminism” is a thing, a real thing, that is not synonymous with “feminism.” Again, please click the preceding link to get a more detailed explanation of the difference. But my point is that I am not appending a scary-sounding adjective to another word to mean “feminists I don’t like” so I can later say that I’m not against such-and-such thing, but just don’t like an extreme version of it. This is very little different than people who talk about “militant homosexuality,” which apparently means “gay people who would like to not live in the closet” or “militant atheism,” which means wearing t-shirts that advertise our non-belief (because, as everybody knows, many a South American government has been toppled by militants doing nothing more than wearing Che Guavara t-shirts. Also, Che Guavara was a monster, stop wearing those shirts).

So, we’ve established that there is at least some evidence that there are radical feminists who see their marginalization is bad, but the marginalization of trans*people to be totes ok. So when Phil Mason (Thunderf00t) talks about “radical feminism”, he’s clearly talking about the trans*phobia exhibited by actual radical feminists, right?

Hahahaha. No.

Thunderf00t is one of the people who considers “radical feminism” to mean something along the lines of “you’re talking about things I don’t want to talk about!” And, of course, he compares Atheism+ to Hitler and McCarthy, because that’s a clever and original argument!

Mason is virulently anti-feminist. Now, he will claim otherwise because he knows women and some of the women he knows don’t care when he bites their legs. Again, we see much of the same brand of meaningless tripe in this video as we do in screeds from privileged groups when they seek to oppress minority groups. He speaks a lot about how “extreme” feminism is, how against critical thinking it is (this is the atheist version of a fundamentalist saying that something is “against common sense”), and then talking about “divisiveness” and the ways that feminism in the atheist movement is separating people who otherwise agree and weakening our message.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: division is not always a bad thing, and I would rather be divided and standing on the side of justice than united in injustice. These types of arguments are used to try and reframe the debate in such a way that those who are calling for positive changes are instead attempting to tear down whatever institution that are trying to change. It reminds me of the first episode of All in the Family, where Mike arrives and gets into an argument with Archie over the Vietnam War. Archie accuses Mike of hating America, to which Mike explains that it’s because he loves America that he doesn’t want it to be involved in illegal and pointless conflicts.

To which Archie replies with meaningless slogans and drowns out Mike’s arguments by singing a patriotic song. Some things never change.

So, we have radical feminists arguing against trans* rights, we have an atheist arguing against women’s rights. That’s it, right?

Nope. We now have a lesbian arguing that acronyms that include people other than gay men and lesbians waters down the QUILTBAG message and tries to determine who can be in the “Gay Club”.

In this case, the person is Ciara Mc Grattan writing for the Irish publication GCN (Gay Community News).

I propose it’s time to simplify and perhaps employ a modicum of moderation to the unwieldy beast of LGBTLMFAO initials. Do you sleep with people of the same sex? Welcome to Gay Club. In a relationship with someone of the same-sex? Welcome to Gay Club. Trans and exclusively attracted to people of your gender? Welcome to Gay Club. Attracted to both sexes? Good for you, but unless you’re with someone of the same-sex, you aren’t part of Gay Club.

On one hand, at least this acknowledges that trans* people are the gender that they identify as, but it also eliminates them from the queer umbrella, saying that the “T” was just “tacked on”. And bisexuals? Well, unless you’re actively dating somebody of the same-sex, sorry, you’re basically straight. In much the same way as the religious right, it reduces bisexuality to a function of outward expression rather than an inborn trait.

So, I’ve rambled on quite a bit now, but what point am I trying to make? The point that I’m trying to make is that I am always disappointed by failures at intersectionality. It astounds me when a group that is or has been traditionally marginalized then turns on other marginalized groups, often accusing them of trying to piggyback on their work.

The instant classic “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or It Will Be Bullshit!” addresses this idea pretty nicely through example.

And I am screaming this because I want to convince you, I want to get it through you that this is not a choice or an abstract concept or an intellectual exercise. I am not screaming because well, you know, I just discovered intersectionality and OMG SO COOL GUYS. YOU NEED TO READ THIS. No. My feminism NEEDS to be intersectional because as a South American, as a Latina, as someone who knows certain parts of the Global South intimately by virtue of being a Southerner, as an immigrant living in Europe, as a woman, I am in the middle of what I like to call the “shit puff pastry”. The shit puff pastry is every layer of fuck that goes on above me, below me, by my sides, all around me. And in this metaphorical puff pastry with multiple layers of excrement, I am the dulce de leche that is supposed to make it palatable so that someone else, more specifically the kyriarchy, can eat me.

I should also point out that this doesn’t mean that you have to have ALL THE FEELS for every subject. There are a lot of forms of oppression that I simply don’t discuss that often here, even when they matter to me. For example, I sincerely would like to see more acceptance of kinky individuals in the mainstream, and the word is the first of my self-description in the About section of this blog, but the fact of the matter is that even having been part of that culture for several years, I don’t feel qualified to examine that, any more than I feel qualified to talk about child soldiers.

Blogs and activists tend to find their focus, and that’s ok. As passionate as I am about highlighting the dangers of belief in demons, prayer healing, and evil witchcraft, Leo Igwe is much better at it than I am, and can more accurately portray those problems. I think that the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverful movements are terrible things that encourage cult-like behavior, but Libby Anne is much better at talking about that than I ever will be.

The thing is, while you’ll hear mostly about atheism, LGBT issues, and feminism here (and comic books and rock/folk music), there is a complete lack of denigration for the plight of those other groups. You don’t see me saying that people who complain about the Christian Patriarchy tendency to homeschool so they can control their children’s education are overreacting because the kids can always read the truth on the internet. I’m not making twenty minute videos saying kids abandoned by their parents for “casting spells” are just “professional victims.” And you don’t see me saying that kinky people can’t be feminists.

If it is wrong for the powerful to oppress the marginalized, then it has to be equally wrong to ally, explicitly or implicitly, with the powerful to perpetuate that. To fight it? Absolutely! But purchasing rights for yourself at the cost of rights for others does nothing but further entrench the status quo. We can, and should, all sit at the table without having to eat one another.

Anna Paquin Doesn’t Answer to You

Anna Paquin is married, which, thanks to watching Almost Famous over and over again for several months, breaks my heart. Anna Paquin has also lately been asked quite frequently about how she can be married to a man and still be bisexual.

Twilight Sparkle head desking

It’s a lot like that.

The thing is, kids, your sexuality is not a function of who you’re with. Paquin handles this with aplomb.

“Some people find it odd that you can identify with a sexual orientation that is not straight and yet be married to someone of the opposite sex. They’re like, ‘Obviously it’s not real if you’re married to a dude’. That’s not my problem. I’m like, ‘Okay, if that’s how you feel, there’s nothing I can do about it’. I’m just living my life,” Paquin said.

The problem with this is that it feeds into the stereotypes that surround bisexuals. In both the gay and straight community, it’s often assumed that we’re really faking it. We’re afraid of coming out as gay or are trying to attract opposite-sex partners by implying we’d be up for threesomes. It comes from the idea that sexuality is a “behavior”, not an orientation. And then, of course if a bisexual person has more than one partner, they’re “greedy” and cannot be trusted in a relationship. We can’t win.

Listen, being in a same sex or opposite sex relationship doesn’t determine your sexuality. Who you’re attracted to does. Anthony Rapp dedicated his biography to the man he loves… and is still bi, not gay. Billie Joe Armstrong has moved from the “bisexual” to a wishy washy “I don’t do labels” kind of thing, but still identifies as queer despite almost 20 years of monogamous marriage with two children.

Good on Paquin for giving a polite “fuck off” about this.

Don’t Mess With My Dad (or “Why I Take It Personally”)

One of the ways that human beings justify being cruel to one another is through dehumanization tactics. We recoil from actual harm, we don’t want it on our conscience, but we get around that by making the Other that we’re fighting into a broad stereotype, an amalgamation of all those things we most hate and fear, ascribing to them the worst traits that we can possibly come up with. It gives us license to do what we would very much like to do without having to feel guilty about it. It gives us justification.

Much of our literature and media is based on this very idea. One of the main plot arcs of To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, is the gradual humanization of Boo Radley from creepy recluse to trusted protector. This is hardly an uncommon trope, and it can be applied to texts as diverse as Enemy Mine and 48 Hours.

And while it is an interesting trope, it is also a way that we oppress specific people. Among the most prominent are racist caricatures of black people, often in “coon” or “brute” styles, but there are certainly more. Much of that persists to this day.

Similarly, much of the opposition to LGBT inclusion and rights has been based on this dehumanization, associating queer people with pedophiles, disease carriers, and suggesting they are somehow more violent. You should have seen the sites that I refuse to link to, both not to give them the link juice and because I wouldn’t do that to you, my handful of faithful readers.

To get a good example of how stereotypes can have subtle effects, take a look at this lawsuit by a gay couple in New Jersey who’s engagement photos were used by an anti-gay group in Colorado to defeat two Republican lawmakers who weren’t sufficiently pure on hating the gays. If you’ll notice, nothing about the pictures nor what is written on the political advertisements suggest that this couple was married, or engaged, or that the politicians in question were pushing for marriage. All they say is that two men kissing is not in accord with “family values” and suggesting that it will somehow be more common in Colorado. The scary message that got two GOP reps primaried out of their jobs was nothing other than “gay people exist, and you might have to look at them.” Remind me again how most Republicans are not homophobic?

This is why all of the wishy-washy “Oh, it’s just about protecting marriage” people are full of shit. This couple became the embodiment of every stereotype of the gay community, every fear about children’s safety and “innocence”, every description of AIDS, every mad fever dream about hedonistic, drug fueled lives trying to drag down the morality of entire towns.

But even more insidious than the stereotypes regarding the gay community is not one about us, it’s about our parents. The quacks who promote “reparative therapy” and other such filth often suggest that being queer is a result of poor parenting, that the same sex parent is distant and doesn’t provide enough love and connection, so us queer folks seek out that love in others of the same sex. Seriously, see how Richard Cohen, a big name in the conversion therapy movement, tries to cuddle away the gay. Or you can watch the pretend news station’s pretend doctor pretend that lesbian parents turn little boys into transwomen. Here’s the execrable Tony Perkins suggesting that his kids could never be gay because he raised them right. I’d say that you can’t make this stuff up, but clearly, you can.

This is not new, but the reason I’m writing this is that I just read this post by anonymous blogger Registered Runaway, guest posted on Rachel Held Evans’s blog. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but the rough outline is that he describes how wonderful his father is, how accepting he was when RR came out, how supportive he’s always been…and how this amazing dad was in tears and suffered extended anguish because he was pointed to a video that re-enforced religious doctrines about homosexuality suggesting that his son was broken and it was his fault.

I’ve made it a point whenever some pastor or politician calls for imprisonment, deportation, or the wholesale slaughter of LGBT people to take it personally, because it doesn’t allow the people saying these things to dehumanize me. When they talk about a large, anonymous swath of the population, they are talking about me, not some faceless, hypothetical bisexual. It’s me they want imprisoned, it’s me they want deported. It’s me they’re calling a pedophile and a terrorist. It’s me they want to kill.

And it’s my father that they’re discussing when they talk about how absentee fathers create queer sons. They don’t know me or my father, yet they feel entirely comfortable talking about us and our relationship. Not some speculative dad and his theoretical kid, my dad and I.

My dad is one of the best dads I could have asked for. When I brought a girl home once, she expressed her surprise that when he greeted me, it was with a peck on the lips. Guys don’t do that. Families don’t do that. I’ve never known anything else.

I can talk for hours about the time we spent watching every episode of Babylon 5, marathoning Firefly during a hurricane, or dissecting why Deep Space Nine and Enterprise are our favorite Star Treks. He started my interest in politics, and I remember how his eyes lit up when I took International Relations in my freshman year of high school because it meant I would watch the news with him every night and we would discuss it. He has never been too busy for me, and relishes every moment we spend together, even when it’s just being a human pell for me to practice my point control when I visit (it’s not necessary, but he wants to feel like he’s helping me become a better fencer).

My father, a quiet farm boy from Wisconsin, has never withheld his love or affection from me. I couldn’t ask for a better person to have raised me (along with my mom, who is awesome in entirely different ways), so the suggestion that he somehow broke me is more infuriating by a factor of I-can’t-even-count-that-high than even the suggestion that I’m broken.

These sorts of lies are vile in unimaginable ways. They are spiteful in the scattershot fashion in which they hit everybody even remotely close to their target. I hope my father never has to hear somebody tell him that he is responsible for my being queer. Other than it being a false premise that it’s something that blame should be assigned for, it’s also an evil attempt to guilt parents into trying to repress their children’s natural sexuality by appealing to their instinct to protect their children and the horror that accompanies the idea that not only had they failed, they were the cause of the harm.

I love my father deeply and have never doubted his love for me, not even when I was struggling with coming out. I can’t wait to see him again and show him some of the cooler stuff he can do with his new phone (he’s figured out a lot of it, but it’s his first Android device). We’ll share a glass of brandy, geek out over Google Sky Map, and probably watch a new show together. Then, the day I leave he’ll wake me up so we can get gas for my car, and he’ll pay to fill up my tank for the trip home while we talk about why whatever classic rock song is on the radio is so awesome.

So yes, when somebody suggests that bad fathers make queer sons, I take it personally, because I’m a queer son, and my father was and continues to be spectacular. I won’t let them get away with making broad statements and pretending it’s about imaginary people, that they’re not hurting real human beings. I refuse to pretend that they are not trying to kindly say my father failed somehow. That is what they’re doing, and the benefit of the doubt has long been spent.

And if you’re queer, they’re talking about your mother or father, too.

My dad has never raised his hand against anyone that I know of, but I also know he can take care of himself. It doesn’t matter. If you go after my dad, you go through me first. And make no mistake, I consider anyone who says that queer boys are created by absentee fathers to be going after my dad, and I will not stand for it.