Monday, July 12, 2010

With Comments Like These, Who Needs Flames?

Below are words from a someone commenting on a trans-related news item from a mainstream news provider in a netosphere that is not far, far away:

This is where I start to struggle. As a member of the "straight" community (and I really don't subscribe to the idea of us being different "communities", but I can't find a better word), events like "Gay Pride" and "Tranny of the Year" are just ways for the transgender "community" to scream out to the rest of us "Hey - look at us - we're different!". Surely this just builds barriers.

My point is that we should strive, as a society, for transgender people to blend in with the rest of society. I remember the story of an elderly relative of mine who decided that the time had come for her to sell her family home and to move into a purpose-built flat for her old age. Initially she was horrified when she discovered that the man who was buying her old house was black!. However, she found him to be very charming (her words), and after he moved in he invited her round for tea. She was taken aback even more when he introduced her to his male partner! It was a very quick education for a very conservative old lady and she now has two new friends.

Aaaaand, my response. Let's take it point by point:

As a member of the "straight" community...

Meaning you are not a member of the group of people you are about to talk about.

...and I really don't subscribe to the idea of us being different "communities", but I can't find a better word...

The idea of a queer community, and indeed the reality of it, was shaped by the forces of heteronormative society. You may not "subscribe" to the idea, but you can at least try to engage with the lived experience of the people who are most affected by it. like "Gay Pride" and "Tranny of the Year" are just ways for the transgender "community" to scream out to the rest of us "Hey - look at us - we're different!".

Neither the news article in question nor any other comment to it discussed any event called "Tranny of the Year". And given that "tranny" is a bigoted slur not likely to show up in any event run by the trans community, it's an interesting word choice you're using there. Also, Gay Pride is by no means merely a way for the trans community to say (or scream) anything, much less "we're different". You are reeking of preconceived notions here,and I don't like any of them.

My point is that we should strive, as a society, for transgender people to blend in with the rest of society.

And my point is that you don't get to dictate what other people do. You're not trans, you're not queer, you don't understand the notion of queer community or Pride - you are not the one whose voice is crucial here. And you do not understand that your voice is not crucial, specifically because the straight community you don't believe in, aka Heteronormative Society, aka the Dominant Majority, tells you that your voice IS the one that matters, that it always matters, on any subject, in any situation. Otherwise you might conceive the radical notion that the trans community's thoughts and wishes regarding their place in society should be listened to. Maybe even central to the discourse.

[Personal anecdote with no real bearing on the subject]

The apparent message here is that prejudice is overcome by being charming to elderly ladies. No comment, except to say that bothering to tell this story the way you did emphasizes both your unthinking assumption of privilege, and your lack of comprehension of the issues.

And now the big reveal. The story this comment was appended to was about Bill C-389, which would add gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Read over the comment with that in mind, and see if it doesn't add a bit of dimension to the attitudes on display.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Yes, There Is A @$*&# Rape Culture

I keep coming across incredibly depressing stories, each seeming to be the ultimate proof, if one was needed, that we are living in a rape culture (where "we" refers to everyone living everywhere with a local media, for starters). Then I encounter complete and utter $*^%@s who deny there is a rape culture, and I don't have any of the atrocities ready to hand. So I decided to make a post to put them in. And here it is.

Young girl raped, forced to apologize to whole church before being "disappeared" so her rapist wouldn't face justice. She came forward at age 28, which was the age at which she finally encountered the idea that being raped what not her fault. Her rapist was asked to apologize only for being unfaithful to his wife. Rapist also offered to beat her to cause an abortion. Extras in comments include the detail that she was forced to write a letter of apology to her rapist's wife, and victim-blaming and denial from Christian spokessubhumans.

The PROSECUTOR in a case where an intellectually disabled 10-year-old girl was gang-raped by 9 assailants fails to recognize that it was rape. This failed excuse for a human being dismissed a gang-rape as "childish experimentation", despite the fact that three of the rapists were adults, and all of them were rapists. He asked that none of the rapists serve "any periods of custody". The little girl had been previously sent into foster care after being gang-raped at age seven. The second attack happened when she was sent back to the same place where she had been raped before.

Woman is raped at gunpoint in front of her children in a Marriott hotel parking garage. Marriott responds by labeling her a negligent mother for being raped.

Swedish court decides sexual assault on sleeping girl is not a crime. Plus some extra goodies in the comments.

Several horrifying posts about football being prioritized over rape victims.

Three eye witnesses to a violent gang-rape still isn't enough to get a trial.

There will be more to follow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

HOT GAY WILDERNESS SEX! (or; Bigots are Silly)

This article is titled "Gay Families Can't Camp in Iowa?", but the title is a bit misleading. It may well be true that gay families can't BE camp in Iowa, but they can camp there. At issue is whether they can camp as a family.

Families at Iowa state parks get to pitch an extra tent or so on their site without incurring an extra fee. For the kids, of course. I went camping as a kid with my father and sort-of-stepmother, and my sister and I got a tent to ourselves. Which was the way all of us liked it. And the powers that control these things with regards to Iowa state parks want to allow all families this little concession to their familyhood. Which means they have to work around the language of their policy, which mentions "husband and wife" instead of "spouses". So given that same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources wants to update the wording to something more reality-based, more 21st-century. Great. But hold! Iowa State Senator Merlin Bartz is not happy about this one bit!

Bartz is a noted opponent of same-sex marriage, by which I of course mean that he's a homophobe. And he is currently in a froth about campgrounds treating all families equally. And admitting that legal marriages are legal. Which makes some sense, since he first tried to stop same-sex marriages from becoming legal, then tried to stop them from being performed, and having failed at both attempts, is with astonishing perseverance now trying to get people to pretend that the legalized marriages don't exist. Memo to Bartz: Google the phrase "Quit while you're ahead". But if you give the matter a modicum of thought, he's not making any sense.

A family that has to pay more to put up extra tents is basically being encouraged not to put up extra tents. (Didja hear about the gay dads who went camping? They pitched two tents!) Let's think on this one. A same-sex couple is being encouraged to have their children in the same tent with them. How does this sound good to people who think gays are icky?

Perhaps the forced co-sleeping is to prevent immorality. Allowed their own tent, gay and lesbian couples will doubtless engage in HOT GAY WILDERNESS SEX! This should be prevented; therefore, let us force proximity to their adenoidal pre-teen, bed-wetting toddler, or Mr Bun, the three-foot furry creature their six-year-old can't sleep without. That'll fix them!

And it will. Because parents don't tend to get sexual when their kids are right there with them. Most parents, anyway. My mother felt fine about having sex with her boyfriend in the same room with her two young daughters, but I don't think she represents the majority. And may I mention here that I felt anything but fine about that situation? Please don't fuck in front of your kids. It makes them feel icky. Back to my point, though: same-sex couples don't do it next to their kids for the same reason opposite-sex couples don't. Because they care about not screwing their kids up. A fact Bartz comes perilously close to admitting. Because if same-sex couples really consist of depraved perverts, it would be better to let them erect (hee hee) a tent city rather than expose innocent children to HOT GAY WILDERNESS SEX! Won't someone please THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

Bartz is not thinking of the children. Bartz doesn't even seem to be thinking of their parents. Bartz's thought processes, as far as I can determine, are as follows: Privilege GOOD. Gays BAD. Letting gays have privilege BAD. That's a large portion of homophobia in a nutshell, right there.

If Mr Bartz objects to camping gay families, then I encourage him to take a firm stand and not camp where gay families camp. Or where any families camp. Because frankly, I wouldn't want him around my children, and I don't think he's a great guy to have around anybody's children. No matter how many tents are involved.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happiness Cat

I did a course of group therapy for women who had survived incest. The sessions were two and a half hours every week, with homework in between,for sixteen weeks. It was an intense experience, and when the time came for us to finish, our therapists held a graduation party for us with all sorts of surprises.

One of our activities was a give-away game in which a structured process was used for us all to receive gifts, and then have opportunities to trade with others if desired. [It didn't occur to me at the time, but looking back on the game now, I see it as a lesson in consent and autonomy]. I ended up with a bright yellow ceramic cat-shaped coin bank, painted with daisies and a very happy smile. The bank is one of a large number made for Dollarama (big dollar store chain), but because of the way I received it, it is very special to me and I cherish it. It's a very cheerful object, and I named it Happiness Cat.

Happiness Cat's true role was launched by a friend who, seeing my new acquisition, added a penny from her pocket so that Cat would have something inside. I saw the penny as a contribution to my happiness, from a friend, which seemed appropriate. And so the rule for Happiness Cat was born: contributions to my happiness are accepted from friends, but can also be made by me, with money that I have found on the ground, or in unexpected places, as a twist on the the "lucky penny" ritual. In fact, almost all of Happiness Cat's contents came this way. I am not generally good at keeping up daily rituals, but I have been gathering coins for Happiness Cat for three years now.

I did an inventory of Happiness Cat's contents for this post. Happiness Cat currently contains 59 pennies, 6 dimes, 3 nickels, 2 quarters, the outer ring from a twoonie and a foam happy face. There is no intended goal for the money. Just a happy cat with a bellyful of luck, and an aura of friends, resource and support.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Losing The Maypole

As I write, Beltane has just passed by an hour. This is how I started one of my religion's most important holidays:

At half past noon I woke up a bit, and struggled to wake up the rest of the way. It can take a while for me to get from the part where I open my eyes to being able to place myself in space and time, move deliberately, and form speech. Coherent speech takes longer. I often babble wordlessly. My wife manages to understand much of this by listening to the tone, and by paying attention to my body language. Also by using telepathy, or so she claims.

At some point during the night, I had thrust my lower leg over the edge of the bed. That added a wrenched knee to the usual back, neck and shoulder pain that grips me in the morning. The knee clinched a decision I needed to make. I will not travel two hours from my home this weekend. I will not attend a Beltane ritual, or even an important meeting. I can't sit at a table, in a chair, for hours. I can't ride in a car for two hours without arriving at the destination in something like my awakening state; disoriented, sleepy, unable to speak, moving slowly and clumsily.

Today contained a lot of napping, a lot of medications. This is nothing new. But today is Beltane. I have led both private and public Beltane rituals. I have joined in at many more, including one which set a world record for largest number of people to dance a Maypole (albeit by being the first one to establish the record category). I love a good ritual. I love Beltane. And what I love most about Beltane is the Maypole dance.

The usual Maypole dance is about the simplest dance going. Nobody should be able to mess it up. Somebody always does. It never matters. But today I thought about the simple activity I love, and realized I can't. I can't duck under and hold over. I can't step in a circle. I don't know if you can bring a cane into a Maypole dance. A wheelchair? The mind boggles.

I can't jump the fire, either. Beltane is, more than any other Sabbat, about bodies and what they can do. Maybe that's why the main rites are so physical. There is no requirement to do them, of course. Everyone celebrates in their own way, and it's also true that someone needs to tend the fire, drum the beat, ward the circle or whatever else is required. I am not unable to participate in a ritual, much less to live my faith. But this loss cuts deeper than most. I want to hold a bright satin ribbon and weave in and out, chanting and jostling and smiling. I want the sacred things somehow not to be touched, not to have to be modified and worked around and foregone like mundane life. I do not want to lose the Maypole.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Little Mermaid

Shiloh Pepin was born August 4, 1999 in Kennebunkport, Maine. She had an extremely rare condition called sirenomelia, which meant that her legs were fused together, creating what looked like a mermaid's tail, hence the name. The condition is life-threatening, and almost always fatal, due to complications from missing organs and system failure. Shiloh died on October 23, 2009, aged ten, of severe pneumonia complicated by kidney failure. Her life is one of the longest known for someone with this condition, and the longest by far to be lived without leg-separation surgery. Shiloh lived her whole life with her "tail" intact.

Beyond these facts, I can add that Shiloh was a strong-willed, buoyant, outgoing child with a firmly positive self-image. I watched her online in the first of three TLC documentaries made about her. The first was made to document her condition as the world's only living mermaid. The two others were made because Shiloh herself charmed viewers as thoroughly as she did everyone who knew her. I won't rhapsodize about Shiloh, because I'm wary of the cultural narrative that casts disabled children as living angels or the like, but she was a lovely girl, and when I learned shortly after watching the documentary that she had died, I was very saddened. I found that she had a Facebook page, and I visited it, and read the announcement of her death.

Among the first condolence messages was one that struck a discordant note with me. I visited her page again, and couldn't find the original, but I found a number of others in the same spirit. Here's a sampling:

"You are walking & dancing now."
" can walk now on both of you beautiful legs"
"R.I.P. you can walk and run now."
" can run, jump and play like any 10 yr old should."

In the documentary I watched about her, and the clip from her Oprah appearance which I also watched, Shiloh had a very matter-of-fact attitude towards her different body. Her assertions included "Some people have two legs and I don't", "God made me this way" and, most memorably, "I'm a mermaid!", said at considerable volume. She enjoyed herself the way she was, and one of the reasons that she never had her legs separated was because she didn't want to.

I don't doubt that the people who wrote the above statements meant well, but their words are founded in the belief that any person who is different must necessarily wish to change this. In Shiloh's case, the evidence does not suggest that at all. Sirenomelia caused Shiloh a great deal of pain and trouble, forced her to undergo many onerous medical procedures, and ultimately caused her death, but the simple fact of not having two legs was not the problem. Certainly it wasn't an aspect of things that seemed to bother Shiloh herself, and if the body she was in wasn't her ideal for herself, there is still no reason to presume that two legs were part of her ideal either. She was ten - personally I'm visualizing a fantasy-style mermaid tail with sparkles in aquamarine (her favourite colour).

Normal is not necessarily the ideal. Normal is not the only wish of the different among us. Differences can be beautiful, can be treasured, can be so much a part of an individual that they would never dream of altering to suit the norm. Yes, even the ones you find disturbing or tragic or simply inconvenient. Even the ones that cause you to turn away in pity or disgust, whispering "I could never live like that". Even those. Whether we are labeled mermaid or monster, what many people want most dearly is simply to be themselves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

So what's an angashore, anyway?

Angashore is a Gaelic word. It can describe a weak, sickly or disabled person, with the implication that such a person is not good for much. Or it can mean an unlucky person, someone to be pitied either because they fit the first definition or through some other bad luck. And it is sometimes used to mean a lazy, idle or mischievous person. Or it is applied to a chronic complainer.

I am disabled, chronically ill and an abuse survivor. And mischievous as all heck, and prone to complaining about anything that bothers me. Oh, and I'm Highland Gaelic by descent. And I'm not dead yet. So welcome, from the Spirited Angashore.