Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pre-Pre-Holiday Valentine's Day Gift Supplies

Joe Crawford over at ArtLung captured a picture of his local supermarket's pre-Christmas Valentine's Day display. They have over forty shelves full of Valentine's day stuff and they aren't even finished marketing the Christmas items.

It's quite ridiculous now, isn't it?! I grew up in a household that did not celebrate ANY holidays; my parent's wedding anniversary was the only was the only event we celebrated besides the occasional school graduations when one of us passed on to the next set of grade levels (e.g. elementary school to junior high, junior high to high school) or baptism. Some people thought of us as deprived but, to the contrary, I think it made our gift-giving rituals more meaningful. Because it wasn't tied to any of the big commercialized events, there was no pressure to come up with big expensive gifts that some may not be able to easily afford. In my opinion, this is what Christmas and Valentine's day should be like, too.

Now that I do celebrate some holidays, it's sometimes hard for me to figure out what sort of expectations other people have for me during those periods. How much do people usually spend on birthday gifts? Who should I send holiday cards to? Are people supposed to wear red and green on Christmas day kinda like the no white shoes after labor day thing?

It's my BIRTHDAY!!!

Hurray me!! I'm 31 years old today! Not only that, I am officially six years into my chondrosarcoma diagnosis--a point that, for a long time, I never imagined myself reaching. Today I'm going to celebrate by LIVING because isn't life just wonderful all by itself?!!

Thank you to all of the folks who make my life one unending learning experience on the power of love and determination and what it means to be a part of a community that's far more real than it is virtual.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Video Killed the Radio Star Using a Harp

VanGoghGirl found this first and then The German and I saw it. We all agreed that it is full of awesomeness. Could YOU play a early eighties hit using a harp and a stand-up bass? Yeah, that's what I thought, so respect the game! These are the sort of kids that I'm sure I'd love to hang out with.

Keeping my Spirits up

The German is encouraging me not to give in to my depression. After I posted, I talked to him about my weight a little bit. He's distressed about it. I can tell. He thinks that maybe if I can lower some of my medication dosages, then my stomach problems might go away.

Even though I wasn't hungry, I asked him to make me a half a turkey sandwich to try and cheer him up. He made me a whole one instead. I ate it. ;)

I just turned on some Tom Jones to try and cheer myself up.

What's new pussycat? Woah, Woah

What's new pussycat? Woah, Woah

Pussycat, Pussycat

You're delicious

And if my wishes

Can all come true

I'll soon be kissing your sweet little pussycat lips!

Who can listen to those lines and not grin just a little bit?

Too Depressed To Write Because of my Weight

I got on the scale this week. You'd think that, with all of the holiday eating and increased all-day munching I've been doing, I'd have made some progress. I was smiling and eager before I got on the scale to see how much I weighed.

The scale read 115 lbs.

The German is worried. He's been buying all sorts of foods and supplements for me. He says I'm not taking good care of myself. He pointed out that all of my munchies are really great choices if a person was trying to lose weight; I don't eat fried foods and my all-time favorite snacks are Wheat Thins and rice cakes. Am I the only person who actually loves them?

I usually have a rice cake in the morning when I get up. That usually makes me full so I don't bother with more than that for breakfast. Sometimes I'll have a glass of whole milk to go with it. If I'm really hungry, I'll put some peanut butter on my rice cake and maybe a drizzle of honey too.

I just have a hard time making myself to eat when I'm not hungry and once I'm full, I stop eating. I was brought up that way. The German says that's a great way to be for most people and he wishes he could do it himself but he thinks that I need to eat more than what I think it takes to fill me up. He didn't buy me any rice cakes when he made groceries last week. I think he's trying to get me interested in other breakfast choices.

You know, if it were anyone else, I'd pitch a fit about them trying to change my eating habits. I know people I love who have partners that try to control them using food. One of my relatives had a husband who, when it was time for dessert, would break out the measuring cups and dole out exactly one serving-sized portion to her while everyone else, including him, ate as much as we wanted. I remember seeing him dump one half cup of ice cream in her bowl and I just wanted to push that bowl into his face.

Earlier this year, I got up to 153 lbs. I was so happy. I took lots of pictures of me with my little pooch hanging over my jeans. VanGoghGirl had fun squeezing my fleshy arms as if they were play-dough. I bought lots of bigger jeans and muscle shirts (my standard uniform) and even a new belt. Now I can't fit any of them. I put on one of my muscle shirts the other day and I couldn't get my nipples to stop showing on the sides.

I searched through my underwear drawer to see if I still had any small panties because all my boy shorts won't stay on my ass anymore. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head when I put on the size 5 that I found and even they were loose.

I'm going to go take a nap. I just don't feel like being awake and thinking about all of this right now.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Could You People Hate Us Any More Than You Already Do?

Before you claim that I have no reason to believe that it isn't pity that non-disabled people feel for my brothers and sisters, make sure you take the time to explain this sort of hatefulness.

I really shouldn't have gone and read that article and the comments people left. I am crying and I know I shouldn't be. Everyone assumes that I'm immune to this sort of thing. I am, mostly. I mean, I've heard all sorts of ableist remarks in my lifetime, but what person with a disability hasn't? I can usually spit out of all sorts of sardonic responses when this stuff occurs. Everyone has something that you can use to shoot them down if they really get out of line. That's usually enough for interactions involving one person or a small group of people. However, I've never learned to be emotionally equipped to take the sort of hatred I just read without breaking down inside for a minute.

You know, people with disabilities really take a lot of shit off of people. We put up with the casual use of words like "retard", "nut job", "lunatic", "vegetable", every damned day. We generally don't go around blowing up any nursing homes prisons just because we know how inhumane they are even though some folks have no problem with this sort of "direct action". We put up with shitty housing, illegally inaccessible government buildings, and condescending store clerks every effing day. We are raped and told that it was our own fault. Yet, we still put up with that shit.

Many of us just don't have the energy to fight every instance of injustice that we personally experience. Taking on the entire ableist system is more than most of us are willing to do. But here's the thing: Why should we have to do it? Why aren't YOU people fixing yourselves? Why should we have to stop you from trying to eliminate us completely?

And please don't give me that bullshit about it all just being a big misunderstanding. It's not. You know it and I know it. You hate us. You REALLY hate us. You teach your children to hate us. You blame us for making you hate us. It doesn't matter what we do. You'll hate us anyway. It doesn't even matter if we're related to you, even if you're the ones that made us the way we are. You want us to die or, better yet, never be born at all.

And you know what? I get it. I'm not going to be able to change your minds. Okay, then. But do you have to be so vicious about it? I mean, at least the most of the racists and classists are usually willing to keep their resentment to themselves. But you? No, you couldn't be that considerate. You grow indignant any time we dare point out the mere fact that we are, ya' know, human too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Kitty Cutiness

Elves and cats. What more can you ask for?

via FauxRealTho

I Had to go and Ruin it

I spoke too soon about the insomnia. I guess I jinxed it because I couldn't get back to sleep after that bathroom incident even though I tried lying down and watching a dog show on Animal Planet and then Washington Journal on C-SPAN. Oh well, I guess that means I'll probably crash after this latest dose of Lortab and Neurontin kicks in.

Lortab=my best friend and my worst enemy all wrapped into one small blue pill courtesy of Big Pharma

While I'm awake and feeling up to it, I've decided to just post a few things that have been sitting in drafts.

Because We're So Much Stronger Than We Think

Lily Mathis was born as one of a set of triplets. She had no disabilities at the time.

At four months old, Lily developed bacterial meningitis which led to a cascade of problems that most people would think no one could live through, let alone an infant. However, Lily pulled through. Today, she has several disabilities but she has proved the doctors wrong in many ways. She has parents who are committed to caring for her and did not choose to dump her in an institution as some would have done. I think this plays a huge role in how much she has progressed in so short a time period. She has a CaringBridge page and a little 12 minute video that shows pictures of her from when she was hospitalized all the way through today.

I think the Creator led me to her story this morning. It was just what I needed to lift my spirits. Babies and cats--without them, life just wouldn't be the same!


Lily's CaringBridge Page

Black and Beautiful, All Ages, All Sizes, All Shades, All Women

I don't even know how I found this but I just loved it. The music is perfect too. I -heart- that song.

Oka-San, Please Pass me the Carving Knife

I've been really sick for the past couple of days. My GI-tract is plotting my demise. I'm quite sure of it now. I'm almost ready to commit seppuku just to get these damned intestines out of my body where it seems they'd prefer to be. I swear, I can't believe that I don't have hemorrhoids considering how much time I spend on the commode these days. I'm only going to be on this computer for a moment because my troubles are not yet over. I just had to get up and--surprise, surprise--use the bathroom.

On the bright side, being exhausted from not being able to keep any food down? up? means that I'm too tired for my insomnia to bother me.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crimes Caused By Faulty Immigration Policies

A Cuban immigrant named Eunice Lopez has been charged with nine counts of bigamy. What sort of hussy would get married 10 times without even divorcing the ones she'd already married? And do you want to know what's worse than this? She married them for money. Do you think you've heard enough? Well, there's still more to the story.The people she married weren't even citizens of the United States! Surely she deserved to be named and shamed by the media.

I first heard about this story when I was going through videos on Yahoo News. The officials were also nice enough to point out that they now know that she's actually been married a total of 23 times. I'm glad they pointed this out because the public at large really does need to know how often people decide to tie the knot and who they choose to marry.

You know, if they fixed immigration policies in this country, this sort of thing wouldn't happen. I know people who are desperate to stay in this country. People get married for all sorts of reasons but, for some reason, getting married to help someone stay in the country is a crime.

I understand that bigamy is a crime and we can go back and forth about whether that should even be the case, but what about if Lopez had only married one guy at a time, after legally divorcing the husband she was with before? Why should it be a crime for one person to marry someone in exchange for money?

When Catharine Zeta Jones married Michael Douglas it was rumored that their pre-nup stipulated that she would receive 3.2 million dollars for every year that they remained married. Now, tell me, if that's allowable under the law, why is it illegal for someone to marry someone if the main reason for doing so is to secure citizenship? Why is government in the business of deciding whose reasons for marrying should be valid?

"Don't Tase me, Bro!!"

Today I read that "Don't tase me, bro!" has been named the most memorable quote of the year in Yale's Book of Quotations. Coincidentally, I also found the following video on Ampersand's blog.


AOL News Presents€¦ Where Are They Now?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If You Smoke, You Might Want To See This

I totally respect each individual's right to do as they please with their own body. I'm not the sort of person who believes in walking around telling people that they need to stop smoking. I don't particularly care for it when I'm forced to be around someone who is smoking because it aggravates my asthma.

However, I believe that it's good to be informed. This video shows a nice experiment that someone did using four hundred cigarettes (2 cartons). Check it out.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Congress Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Lisa (and Michelle) point out some information that has left me feeling embarrassed, once again. Someone forgot to tell the rest of us but apparently all is right with the world and Congress has resolved every single burning issue facing Americans today. We know this to be true because, instead of sitting on their asses and twiddling their thumbs, our hard-at-work public officials have been busy passing H. Res. 847. Also known as "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith". Yes folks, that's actually the name of a Congressional resolution.

Oh sweet Jesu, has it really come to this?

The Fight For Affordable Housing in New Orleans Continues

"This Is My Home" is a documentary about the fight for public housing in New Orleans. Most of the city's public housing withstood the hurricane with little or no damage, yet thousands of families are still shut out of their homes and remain displaced across the country. "This Is My Home" is a tribute to the perseverance of the displaced residents of New Orleans, and it is a call to action for the public, politicians, and all justice-minded people to support their right to return home.





Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Kids Are NOT Being Held Hostage by Any Disability!

Oh my God! I am furious. You know, I feel really guilty about the fact that I sometimes don't keep up with what's going on in the world but then there are times like this when I wish I had no idea how evil the people on this planet really can be. I know I'm late in the game but, just in case you are too, have you heard about the NYU Child Study Center's new ad campaign? Well, here's a picture of one of the signs they've been hanging up:

We are in possession of your son. We are making him squirm and fidget until he is a detriment to himself and those around him. Ignore this and your kid will pay

We have your son. We are destroying his ability for social interaction and driving him into a life of complete isolation. It's up to you now. Asperger's Syndrome
My daughter has ADD, so that makes her "a detriment to those around" her? That's just fucking evil! My kid has always been the one who sticks up for other kids because she knows what it's like to be different. She won't even let me kill roaches in front of her. My kid has been tested and deemed both gifted and talented in several areas. And she isn't doing so well in school because we've doped her up or made her see a bunch of psychiatrists. We let her try medication and she didn't like the way it made it harder for her to express her creativity. We took her to see a psychiatrist but she couldn't think of a single thing she felt like she needed or wanted to talk about with her so we stopped going. In other words, she's perfectly fine just the way she is. She's not possessed by anything. What is this? The middle ages? Maybe The German and I should hire a priest and get him to perform an exorcism since, according to this ad, she's obviously "possessed".

My "son" has Asperger Syndrome. He is the coolest boy you could ever have the privilege of interacting with. He also attends the same school as VanGoghGirl and he's very popular with his classmates. I am so very glad that the two of them have classes together because he has been there every step of the way to make sure that none of the jerky little boys--who actually DO have problems engaging in appropriate social interactions--are able to harass her. Complete isolation? Come on! That's just bullshit! Do these NYU jerks really not know any one with Asperger's Syndrome?

I'm in serious need of some antacids now. I can't write anything more about this. Please, go and read some more level-headed folks' comments about this stuff.

Miss Crip Chick
The Gimp Parade
Charlottesville Prejudice Watch

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why I Conceptualize Myself as a Person With Disabilities

Yesterday, I was reading the writings of a certain someone who really needs to create a blog so that more people can have the opportunity to hear what she has to say. *cough*Salspua*cough* Anyway, she she was talking about how we each form our self-concept and how that concept of self works to reinforce what we want to believe about the world. We were discussing it in the context of rape but it made me think about myself as a person with disabilities (PWD).

Over the years I've had the chance to see a lot of the assumptions that people make about how cancer should be seen. We're supposed to be fighting it, trying to overcome it, and, whenever possible, putting it behind us. People--some, not all--seem to think that the best, most emotionally healthy thing to do is just try and forget that we have cancer. If you have to take medicine every day, then you should just hurry up and take it and then pretend like it didn't happen. If you have to have your breast cut off, then you hurry up and get plastic surgery so that you can look "normal" again as quick as possible. Cancer is supposed to be so horrible that it just can't be considered "normal".

Talking about my cancer all of the time gets interpreted as some sort of psychiatric issue that needs to be fixed. Why do we have to pathologize everything in this culture? Any deviation from the culturally-approved standard must be eliminated. Some people are just so threatened by those who think differently.

I can understand why someone might feel threatened in certain situations. If I'm standing over someone with a bat in my hand and it ain't baseball season, I don't think it's unreasonable for someone to wonder if I might be about to hit them. However, if I'm a person who has cancer, I don't think that I should just not talk about it because some folks are uncomfortable when I do it.

So, you know, I've become pretty assertive about it over the years. I don't WANT to blend in and I know it's partly because society tries to force PWD to blend in or stay out of sight. I know that I often have the luxury of being able to fit in with the non-disabled people but many PWD don't even have that option. Identifying myself as disabled even when I don't have to (e.g. situations where no one would look at me and assume that I have any disabilities) is my way of showing solidarity with those who can't choose to blend-in. It's also my way of showing that I consider my cancer to be a part of who I am, just like having brown hair, a pointy nose, and small tits are also parts of who I am.

But what if I didn't have cancer or lupus or asthma? How would I conceptualize myself? My disabilities have been a part of my life for such a long time that I'm not sure who I'd be if I wasn't a PWD, so I guess I have a lot invested in that being a part of how I choose to present myself to the world. If all my disabilities disappeared tomorrow, my place in society would change. Would I still feel like I am a member of disability culture? I mean, maybe I could still be a part of it, but would I still feel like I am a member of it?

That culture is important to me. It's just as important to me as my ethnic cultural ties and the bond that I have with other women. And if I were no longer a member of disability culture then I'd miss out on so many things that matter to me: the camaraderie, the support, the humor, the advice.

How would I have made it through without all of that? I can't even imagine it. The thought of having to do so is just too scary. Perhaps I'm so afraid of having to do all of this without the support of my disability culture that the incessant identifying of myself as a PWD is an attempt to remain firmly within it. Maybe if I didn't say it so much, other PWD would see me as one of those who don't want to be a member of our culture. That impression would definitely change the sort of interactions that they had with me, I think, and it would definitely change the type of support that they felt free to express.

I mean, I know folks who have just as many body issues as I do but they still don't want to be considered a PWD. I'm not going to make a "I'm feeding my tumor" kind of joke at a dinner table unless I'm with folks who have chosen to be a part of disability culture. I'm just not. It's not out of shame. It's because I don't want to make things any harder for folks who may have a disability but are still trying to decide whether they are comfortable with it or whether they see it as something that's significant in their life. I don't want to say something that may remind them that they are disabled if they are dead set on forgetting that they (often? sometimes?) feel disabled by society.

But when I'm among my folks, I can make my cancer jokes and they'll definitely be laughed at. I suspect it has nothing to do with the content or delivery of the joke; it's a laugh that signifies support and belonging*. And that's something that one doesn't necessarily experience outside of that context. I'm not saying that disability culture is always perfect but those who choose to be a part of it can make the conscious decision to provide each other with the nurturing that we've made it clear that we're open to receiving.

My feeling is that I'm not going to wait for someone to designate support zones for PWD. I'm going to create them myself. I want anywhere I am to be a place where another person with a non-conforming body knows they can receive support for who they are without being forced to pretend their disability doesn't exist.

I remember when I first got diagnosed with lupus. I searched all over the place for information about how to deal with it. I wanted to talk to other people who were familiar with it but I didn't know any besides my doctor. I remember how happy I was to find the forums on the old Lupus Foundation site. A lot of people there didn't even talk about their lupus, just random stuff about what was going on in their lives. One woman didn't have lupus but her beloved cat did. That was okay too, because it was a place where a person could talk about it all day long, every single day if they wanted to and not have to deal with someone trying to tell them that they should shut up about it or talk about something else.

These days, there are more places to turn to if you have lupus. However, try having chondrosarcoma and see what happens. See how easy it is to find support groups for that! In all likelihood you won't be able to find even one person in your city with it. Hell, you may not be able to even find another person in the same state! Given that dearth of support, I think it's pretty important for me to talk about it in the hopes that someone who may be looking for it will find it. Seeing myself as a PWD motivates me to keep at it even when people complain. It makes that lack of information an important issue to me because, as a PWD, it's important for me, too.

Perhaps the way I conceptualize myself as a person with disabilities also has to do with the fact that, I can't escape the constant physical reality of those disabilities. Even if I wanted to, the pain, the medication regimen, the flare-ups, would make having disabilities something that I can't ignore. But I can choose to embrace them. And given the fact that I there are so many things (about having disabilities) that I didn't choose, maybe I talk about it all of the time in order to feel more in control of my life.

I don't know. These are just some thoughts I've had about why I see myself as a person with disabilities and how it affects my interactions with others.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
*The annual Celebration of Life that I attend is held in a big Catholic cathedral. It's so solemn that it's the sort of place where you whisper even without being told that you need to. Hundreds of people attend it. At the event three years ago, one of the speakers was a woman who had rectal cancer. She joked about a supportive phone call she'd received after her surgery. Her friend called her up and asked her "So, how's your asshole doing?" and she replied "Oh, he's fine. He's just sitting her next to me, reading a book" as she looked at her husband.

The entire audience laughed at her joke and her pluckiness for repeating it from the front podium of the cathedral. Even the priest smiled.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nasty Little Hobbitses

I have a cold, a really big one at that. I suppose I should have known it might happen. Schools are regular breeding grounds for disease. I did go to that Christmas parade and I could have picked it up from there but I'm thinking that the kids are the more likely source.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Getting Active

This week I really pushed myself. On Wednesday morning I went down to the courthouse with The German. We're in the mediation process with his case against his employer's worker's compensation agency (from his head injury two years ago). That took almost three hours. I was nervous before we left that, after I filled my medicine case, I forgot to put it in my purse, so I was in real pain mid-way into the session. I was about to call my cousin to come and pick me up but I changed my mind. After waiting for this date for over a year, there was no way I was going to miss it. Unfortunately, not much was resolved.

Thursday I volunteered at VanGoghGirl's school. The librarian was looking for parents to come and help out during the book fair. I had a great time. My daughter had all of her friends stop by to meet me and we had some very nice conversations. I just love all of her friends. They're great kids. They're all really hip, little emo girls with the black nail polish on their fingers and safety pins on their clothes. And the brains on these girls would blow your mind! I felt as if I was talking to people my own age.

I slept all of Friday. I woke up for an hour and combed VanGoghGirl's hair for school and I spent two more hours at her library book fair before coming home and sleeping until 10p.m. I got up and had dinner and then went right back to sleep. I haven't slept that well in months.

Today we went to my mother-in-law's house and then the four of us went to a Christmas parade. The parade sorta sucked but we had a good time anyway. We had turkey and cheese po-boys (french bread sandwiches) and cokes as the floats went by. VanGoghGirl got some good throws. Overall, it was a nice day but my legs are killing me now and I had to come home and take a bunch of pain medication but I'm really proud of how much I pushed myself even though I'm flaring up. I'll probably be sore all of next week but it was great seeing how happy VanGoghGirl was to have me up and about with her for a change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Still Flaring Up

I slept all the way through the afternoon and into the evening. Of course, my insomnia had kept me up all of last night so I didn't even get to sleep until 11a.m. today. I'm in the middle of a lupus flare-up and it's making me miserable. To top it off, I went outside today (more on that later) and came back home with a terrible headache that's still slamming me right now. Bleh!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Big Women are my Weakness



This is a picture from the wonderfully talented Jared Hindman over at Head Injury Theater. You can check out his site by clicking on the picture. I tried to find the link to the page where this picture came from a few months ago but I don't remember anymore. As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it. After reading Salspua's comments on my last post and DarkDaughta's post, I knew I had to share it here.

Ruben Esq.
has some lovely drawings of heavy-set women. I'm a bit uneasy about the objectification of women that might be going on here but I think it's minimal. Mostly it is an homage to lovely, fleshy women. It's "Not Safe For Work" unless you work at a place where erotica is understood and acceptable. ;)

P.S. Salspua, your shape sounds heavenly to me!

"Skinny"

I'm envious. My cousin down the street had a baby a few months ago and she's trying to lose the weight that she gained during her pregnancy. Meanwhile, every time I look at her I wish that I could switch places with her. If there is one thing my body knows how to do it's losing weight. However, if I was her size then I'd at least have a couple of months with a sexy, curvy body before my GI-tract whittled it all away again.

I did good this month. I've only lost a couple of pounds. I think some of the suggestions I've received here (Thanks Daisy!) are helping. I was hoping to have gained some weight by this month's weigh-in but after having lots of stomach issues last week, I was pretty sure that the scale wouldn't show any increase this time around.

This topic is very significant to me. I have more weight issues than people seem to understand. Because I've almost always been skinny, I have had many incidents where people felt free to make fat jokes around me. It's like, because I'm thin, they expect for me to be repulsed by people who are not. As a matter of fact it's just the opposite. One of the best compliments I ever remember receiving in college (pre-dating The German, of course) was when a boy I was crushing on saw me after the summer break and said, "Wow, you've put on some weight since the last time I saw you! Those jeans are looking really good on you!" I must have smiled for weeks after that. I had only gained about five pounds or so and I didn't think anyone would notice but he did. Maybe it meant a lot to me because he had Krohn's disease which means he struggled with weight gain too.

My mother said that she knew I was going to marry a heavy-set person ever since I was a little kid. The first boy who knocked on my parent's front door for me was Robert Johnson, a boy who was both short and clinging to his baby fat. To my horror, my family instantly labeled Robert my "boyfriend" and began referring to him as that for a long time afterwards.

Robert was just the first. When I was a girl, I had some skinny sweethearts but the majority of the people I crushed on would almost certainly qualify as overweight, obese or morbidly obese according to those ridiculous weight-range charts you find in doctor's offices.

The idea of having all this luxurious flesh to hold and caress and pore over is just so sensual to me. Maybe it has something to do with how I wish I looked. I really don't care.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mikhail Bakunin on Educational Disparity

Nullifidian (Oolon Colluphid) is featuring his first guest blogger on "Beware! Anarchist!". It's a speech given by Mikhail Bakunin regarding educational disparity and his words are as relevant today as it was when it was originally written (1869).

Of course the person with access to the most education will be able to enjoy more of the "freedoms" that, theoretically, we all have. I especially like the points he made about the petite bourgeoisie. Even among those of us who have been able to attend universities, there is a hierarchy of education.

I've gone to both state and elite private universities. The differences between the two were astonishing. However, I had the same amount of intellectual ability at both schools. I was able to participate in all sorts of programs that put "deserving" minorities (e.g. women, people of color, people with disabilities) in universities that they would not otherwise be able to attend.

On the surface it seems quite benevolent, doesn't it? However, there is a bigger picture to be considered. Don't these programs serve to placate the petite bourgeoisie and keep them/us separated from the proletariat? As long as the system holds out carrots and makes them available to a select few, then we have a lot of motivation to to abandon the working class. Doesn't it make us feel like it really is a merit-based system? I mean, just look at how it was able to recognize how deserving we are!

While I'm busy eating from the trough because it could all be snatched away from me tomorrow, how in the world can I be expected to stop munching and start complaining about all the folks who didn't get to eat? And, anyway, why should I bite the hand that feeds me?

I keep thinking about a little saying that we used a lot when I was in my twenties. "Get in where you fit in!" Now the question is, "Where do I fit in?"

Sunday, December 02, 2007

De-Centering Whiteness as a Proposed Solution to Stagnant Feminism

Black Power fist superimposed over the symbol of Venus
Yesterday I shared Helen Zia's amazing quote in a woman's group. In response, one (white) woman made a few claims.

THE ASSERTION: black women don't put women first. Instead, race always trumps gender. The feminist movement is mostly white because blacks have chosen not to join it and we need to join it in order for womankind to accomplish its goals.


I know some people take a hard-line stance when it comes to "teaching" others and I understand it. I really do. God knows I don't want to spend my entire life only getting to have Womanism 101 conversations with people. Sure, people in marginalized populations don't have any responsibility to educate people who aren't really putting forth much of an effort to educate themselves. It's kinda like, "Pick up a book already!", right? Still, that argument never really satisfied me because my experience has been that, like it or not, some people just aren't going to "pick up a book" and if you don't answer their questions, then they'll probably just walk around pleasantly and defiantly ignorant.

However, the problem is, when women of color do take the time to try and educate white women, the white women just aren't willing to try and see outside of their whiteness. Women of color don't ever stop working to find common ground with white people. It's something we're forced to do just to survive in this society so when white feminists (and their organizations) try to arrange sessions where they claim that their desire is to see what's holding WOC back from joining "the" (i.e. their) movement, it's really asking the WOC to do more than the whites are being asked to do. White privilege means being able to choose when you'll seek common ground with POC. When whites show that they don't really understand what they are asking WOC to participate in, these sessions become time wasters for us. Is it any wonder that WOC are often not very enthusiastic about the idea of wasting their time with the same people over and over again?

When white feminists propose "women first" doctrines it is often racist even if they didn't intend for it to be that way.Advocating this idea means that they aren't really trying to understand our view at all because it fails to take into consideration that putting "women first" is an option that white women can afford to do because they don't have to pay the severe price that WOC would have to expend. Being white means you can ignore race. You don't have to care about the racist implications of asking someone to put aside the aspects of their identity that are less important to white people. For us, dealing with racism is a matter of survival. For whites it is not.

It's also very self-serving when white feminists tell WOC that we should put "women first". White feminists are part of the oppressor class that makes dealing with race a matter of survival so putting "women first" really means you're telling us that we should bend over and smile while they repeatedly kick us in the ass, so this is not a benign request/suggestion. It certainly isn't keeping the dialogue going because there is no reciprocity there.

Also the "women first" idea is racist because it defines whiteness as the default state of womankind. Giving issues of race just as much "air time" as the usual pet issues of white women (e.g. abortion, homophobia, pay equity) is perceived as wanting race to "trump working for women" as if anti-racist activism isn't as much of a women's issue as those matters.

I think it's also relevant to point out how this subject tends to get framed. It's further evidence of the racism (e.g. white-centeredness) present in white feminism. Whites can ignore the specifics and attempt to frame the arguments in terms of what's of interest to them. As a result, when Asian women like Zia or Native American women like Lee Maracle share their their specific experiences in this society, white feminists just lumped them all together as if the distinctions don't ever matter. Lee Maracle expounded on this when she said,
"That the white women of North America are racist and that they define the movement in accordance with their own narrow perspective should not surprise us. White people define everything in terms of their own people, and then very magnanimously open the door to a select number of others."


The fact that white feminists can't de-center their whiteness, while insisting that women of color should put race aside, means that we've had to go on without them. It's not true that we have to reach some sort of consensus in order to get anything accomplished. When women of color stop using their energies to try and lead white feminists by the hand, they have more time to devote to improving the lives of women in very real ways.

In reality, we are the majority--women of color. White feminists need us to accomplish their goals. I often hear white feminists talk about how our rights are being rolled back and how stagnant the feminist movement has become. However, it doesn't seem to occur to them that what they seem to be witnessing might be related to their rampant racism. Meanwhile, I see the opposite sentiments being expressed by womanists. We are accomplishing more and more as the years pass by. Some white feminists have noticed and made the decision to get on board and womanism welcomes them but de-centering whiteness is an essential pre-requisite.

Monty Python: International Philosophy

I've always been a huge Kantian fangirl, so the results of this match did not sit well with me, of course. Nevertheless, I present this small clip via A Spork in the Drawer





Helen Zia on "What is Feminism?"

I have been doing a lot of thinking today. On A Womyn's Ecdysis, there is a post that features an excerpt of an interview with Helen Zia. I left a comment asking about where I could find the rest of the interview because after reading this one part, I am dying to hear what else Zia had to say.

The question that Zia was answering here was, "What is feminism?"

"Feminism is not a racist ideology. If someone claims to be a feminist but exhibits exclusionary behavior and is reluctant to change--we all have prejudices, so I'm not holding feminists to a higher level--I expect them to change. What I say to women of color and other young feminists or womanists is this: there is no Women's Movement, capital W, capital M. There are women's movements, plural.

And those movements are alive and well in communities of color. Many of the strongest voices in our communities of color are women. We carry our communities on our backs. With or without the label, we're there. To say that women of color are not interested in equality for women is just not true.

But many women of color have had negative experiences with individual, white, so-called feminists or with organizations and institutions within a feminist framework. I've had negative experiences. But we accomplish much more together than separately. I don't throw out the notion of feminism because of the negatives. We all have to work on these negatives. We cannot sum up a movement based on individual experiences."

I'm going to turn off comments on this post in the hopes that you'll comment on A Womyn's Ecdysis instead, since this really isn't anything I came up with. I just had to share it with folks here too.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day

Woman facing away from the camera
Thanks to Kevin, I didn't miss this entirely. I guess that's what happens when you've spent the entire week sleeping. You lose track of everything going on in the world. Anyway, I just want to do my part and so should you. Yeah, I really don't like the idea of telling adults what they should and shouldn't do with their lives but this is one issue where I'll make an exception. Everyone has a responsibility to do something to show where they stand on this issue. And everyone can do something. Can I go and march in front of the White House? No. However, I can call my congresspeople and let them know that I think more of our taxes need to be used to fund research for HIV/AIDS and I think that our country should show more leadership in the global fight against this pandemic. Can you do that too?

HIV/AIDS is a disability that currently affects 33.2 million people worldwide. No, that's not really correct. 33.2 million people have HIV/AIDS. However, all of these people have families, loved ones, co-workers, neighbors. They are affected by the disease as well. In fact, it affects us all and it's bound to do so even more in the future. If you don't know anyone with HIV/AIDS, then the odds are that you eventually will. So, when one of your loved ones is diagnosed, do you think you'll be able to look them in the face and say that you've been doing all you can to make it so that people can get the treatment they need? Or will you wait a bit longer before you speak up about this even though every day you remained silent correlates to the number of deaths associated with this disease?

Pledge to do something. Do it today. You should.

The Basics of Net Neutrality

via Vegankid

Poop as a Political Statement

Yesterday, my adorable little tabby Layla (think Nermal) decided that she was unhappy about something or other. Since she lacks the opposable thumbs necessary to write us a nasty letter informing us of what we did, she decided to go over to her litter box, stand directly in front of it and take the world's biggest, stinkiest poop. After that she politely scampered away under my bed out of reach.

Maybe I should try to sneak her into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I think our President might benefit from a few well-placed angry kitties in his life right now.

More Funny Cancer Cartoons (Again)

Very ill cancer patients envying healthy-looking cancer patient

I found a new cancer blog today: Mom's Cancer Blog.

*neener neener nah nahh to you Miss Crip Chick and all you other non-cancer PWD*

It's written by a cartoonist (Brian Fies) whose mother developed lung cancer. Since it's about cancer, it's amazing already but Fies adds an extra layer of humor with his art. The cartoon above was found on his blog but it was actually created by another cartoonist with cancer, Miriam Engelberg.

When I saw that it mentioned bone cancer, I almost bowled over. IT'S THE FIRST ONE I'VE EVER SEEN. It reminds me of the last time I was in the hospital infusion room getting pumped full of IV fluid. There was a woman there getting her monthly dose of Boniva. She was happily chatting away about how she had to schedule this appointment early in the day because her partner and her were going on vacation that afternoon.

Is it wrong that I just wanted to take the tube out of my arm and wrap it around her happy little neck?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

'Tis the Season for Hearty Laughs

Okay, this is a shameless plug for my kid but she wrote the most absolutely HILARIOUS post today. It's one sentence long but I've been giggling and going back to see it several times since she posted it. It's a warning for all you folks living in the snowier parts of the world.

Animals "R" Us: Part One

Marti's post about some dog meat spam she received (please excuse the pun) evoked some feelings I have about those who eat meat but then look down on people whose cuisine includes "cute and cuddly" animals (e.g. dogs, cats, horses, rabbits)


If I'm hungry and it's not poisonous, it's fair game. I'm from Louisiana. My paternal grandfather's family was poor. When they had no money for food, he and his siblings would go out and hunt snakes to eat so that their family wouldn't have to go hungry. I care about animals a lot. I don't think we should just kill them for the fun of it because I think that would be disrespectful (according to my spiritual/world view). However, for food? Look, we're all a part of the food chain. There's no opting out--not even if you're cute and cuddly.

Cat and Crow Love Story

The heart wants what the heart wants.

Stereotyping From the Inside Out

On Transadvocate, Marti Abernathy discusses the Worst YouTube Video Ever.

As a cisgendered person, I'm coming at this from a position of privilege so I'm not in any position to tell someone whether they should find this utterly offensive. When I went to the YouTube site I saw that the creators of the video have posted a few comments

"Explanation:

We are happy that Chris is visible as a genderqueer ass in our media, and we're certain she holds similar views on people's transphobia. We are also somewhat educated members of the queer community who despise the medical and psychiatric fields' current view on transgender, which is that it is a disorder. This is a parody of those doctors!"


and

"Hun, we didn't make this video to communicate the message that transgender identities result from child abuse or anything else. We made it to laugh at people who think that."

However, being a member of several marginalized groups, time and time again, I have seen incidents where someone thought they had come up with brilliant satire (e.g. Black Entertainment Television's "Read a Book" video) that was, in reality, a blatant justification for stereotyping black Americans. The fact that it was made by Blacks didn't/doesn't change that fact. So I can understand why the fact that this Worst YouTube Video Ever was created by members of the transgendered community might not/doesn't change the impact that it may have on those who are harmed by it.

I swear, do I need to bring VanGoghGirl on the internets to tell people that saying you were only joking doesn't get you off the hook when you're being offensive?

By the way, the "But I'm one of you guys!" argument fails. Always.

A Song for Transgender Day of Remembrance

Nix Williams is engaging in a creative project similar to that of NaBloPoMo (which I'm participating in for the first time) and NaNoWriMo. (Ktrion has been sticking to her 1667 words a day). The goal is to write and record a song a week through the end of 2007. This week's song is called "Divide Us Now" and it was written as a contribution to the Transgender Day of Remembrance that took place a few days ago. There is an interesting background story to it that involves Nix' recent brush with Sheila Jeffreys (a notorious transphobe). You can read it and listen to the song here:

Divide us Now

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Comfortable Transition for a Fellow Blogger: R.I.P. Guy Dunsterville

I really don't visit the A Room Of Our Own (AROO) blog for many, many reasons. However, I arrived there tonight via a link in someone's post (I forget who it was at this point). Anyway, I found out that one of the sites' bloggers transitioned (from this world to the great beyond) due to an infection related to his Multiple Sclerosis. I really wanted to post a comment on the post but I'm not really sure it would be welcome and I didn't want to cause his loved ones any further grief during such a difficult period. Still, the description of his last moments really filled my heart with gladness when I read it.

"We put the palm-tree picture up at the foot of his bed and I've hung the crystal over the end too, and he's snuggling the lil owl along with a monkey from a friend and a big teddy bear from a third."

"I left a block of post-it-notes out on the table for people to write him messages which I was able to read to him later, which was fab. We've put them all into a little book"

"we persuaded the medical team to let us take him home yesterday, of course he has a disabled flat and a proper hospital bed & so on, so it's all perfectly set up. And he can listen to music, and have his familiar smells & sounds, and people can visit in comfort and without pressure. And we give them proper tea and coffee, instead of plastic random brownstuff from those awful machines!"


This is the sort of end-of-life care that preserves the dignity of the individual and provides for them as spiritual, emotional beings--not just lumps of bone and flesh to be manipulated and shoved aside after being deemed irrevocably useless to society. It's what we all deserve.

Regardless of what you feel about the politics over at AROO, I think that this particular situation is worth acknowledging. I hope that, wherever the soul that was Guy Dunsterville in this life may now be, he has now found the sort of perfect bliss mentioned in many of the world's faith traditions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pro-Choice Organizations and Issues of Color and Disability

I've been thinking about this topic for a long time. Over the years, I've witnessed some complicated and heartrending situations arise that caused me to drastically amend my views on abortion. To get it out of the way, let me explain where I used to stand on this.

Unless the woman was dying-- I mean dying at that moment, not just some potential result that might happen in the future--then it's wrong to have an abortion. The one exception for this would be an ectopic pregnancy because I considered that a pregnancy that was completely un-salvageable. My view was the standard party line passed down to me from my ODD.

I still remember when NOW came on my campus to talk to us about "women's issues". One of the (all-white) group called to me as I was passing by. The girl wanted to discuss how our abortion rights were under threat. She tried to appeal to the fact that I was in the bio-sciences in an attempt to try and sell me on the idea tell me about how there's no reason to see abortion as problematic because it's just the removal of a bit of tissue, a cell clump, which doctors do all the time with other parts of the body. She also went into how the majority (about 90%) of medical schools make abortion procedure training optional and that she felt it should be mandatory.

I had several responses that visibly annoyed her. For one, saying that a fetus is just a clump of cells doesn't make it unproblematic because it assumes that there are no ethical issues involved with the removal of cell clumps. Secondly, it was improper for doctors to perform abortions according to the Hippocratic oath that many of them take before going into practice and, even if it wasn't, I don't think that med students should be forced to violate their religious beliefs when they have already decided that they will not be abortion providers. Lastly, if NOW purpose was to support women's issues, then who decides which positions they take? Did they also support and provide information favoring the views of women who are against abortion? Obviously, that conversation did not end well.

Looking back, there are some flaws in my arguments but there were also many other problematic issues that I didn't bring up, didn't understand or recognize back then. Since that first brush with NOW, I've become pro-choice but I still have a lot of issues with NOW, NARAL, and similar organizations. The way that they dismiss all those who disagree with them as "right-wingers" is a major one. This totally eliminates the ability to dialogue with women whose views are as important as those who are (already) pro-choice and in agreement with their platform.

What about women of color and women with disabilities? Do our views matter or are we simply props to be used in appeals to those who think of themselves as caring about the plight of the poor, poor, minorities?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Michigan Governor Granholm Prohibits Gender Expression Discrimination

Michigan Bars Trans Discrimination

This is awesome news! I'm glad that Governor Granholm isn't waiting for our federal government to get its act together. Not only does this bar discrimination against transgendered people, it also prohibits discrimination against het, queer, and gay people whose appearance or identity doesn't match with what some may deem gender-appropriate.

It's nice to see someone doing the ethical thing even when it's unpopular with certain segments. This can only spread to more places. Once such laws are in place, they are difficult for future administrations to undo. Once you recognize rights, people aren't going to allow you to take them away without a fight. I wish I lived in Michigan so that I could vote for Granholm in whatever political position she seeks in the future.

The fact that a woman did this is even more impressive. It shows how much we can accomplish when we abandon the idea that we are unable to do anything except what men allow us to do. When we truly claim our power, no freedom can be denied us.

I'm not denying the fact that there are forces that oppress women or that we are often disadvantaged relative to other groups. However, we are more than just victims. We are capable of controlling our destiny. That's the message I want to pass on to my daughter. If we claim that men are in total control over the world, then we're not even giving women credit for the things they accomplish. That just doesn't seem empowering to me.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Natural Allies

Lisa has a great list of links over at Questioning Transphobia right now. One of them is to an article called Trans liberation and disability liberation: a necessary alliance. In that post, Shiva says everything that I've tried to express except with a much better vocabulary and a lot more eloquence. It makes me feel hopeful about the future when I see other people with disabilities writing on this topic.

More than people of color (as a class) or women or any other marginalized group, the struggles of transgendered people seem most like my experiences as a person with disabilities. Both groups bear the brunt of society's cure mentality and both can be found in virtually every other category of people you can create. We are lesbian, gay, het, queer, black, Latino, Asian, white, Native American, rich, middle-class, poor, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, and yet, our needs are often ignored even by those who profess to be interested in social justice.

I'm curious about what can be done to further ally-work between people with disabilities and transgendered people.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Grown-up Potty Language

Renegade Evolution has a great discussion going on over at her blog right now. In "Now then: Pornspeak, Part One" and "Pornspeak part 2: On the throne of 'persondom'", Ren describes pornspeak as "the language used in pornography; towards the performers, on the back of the DVD’s, or in the add teaser/trailer copy". It's the stuff that's often used by some activists to try and show how absolutely vile and despicable and unladylike porn is and why we should just ban it altogether and send those fallen women to reform school tout de suite! I think it's a very important conversation because of how often this language and the unauthorized use of images of sex workers is used to make the argument against women having agency with regards to their bodies.

Look, I wouldn't want to read pornspeak in front of my mother but personally, when I read it, it just sounds really silly. I mean, it seems like they string together a bunch of words just to excite the secret joy of using potty-language.

I remember being a kid and we'd take turns calling each other the most outrageous names we could think of. Nobody took it seriously. It was just fun saying words that we would never be allowed to use in "polite company". It was cathartic.

To me, pornspeak is just the same thing. I think we all have the desire to do things we aren't "supposed to do", like buying a box of me and my daughter's favorite cookies and then hiding them in my closet so that I can keep them all to myself. Maybe a preacher rents an R-rated movie so that no one in his congregation sees him sneaking into the theatre to see it. Maybe you convince your het male partner to walk around all day at work while wearing a pair of your panties.

This is a universal theme. Taboos are meant to titillate. People see them as a way to define proper behavior within a society, a way of keeping order but I think they serve another purpose as well. The more taboo something is, the more it can be used to relieve the tension that we all feel from having to conform to societal pressures day in and day out. Without taboos, we would never get that out. We'd probably, in my humble opinion, have a whole lot more murderers and domestic violence incidents and animal abuse because that sort of tension is going to push us to find sort of way to release it.

*The language below this point uses an example of pornspeak. If you may find such language triggering, then you might want not want to any further.*

If using/reading potty-language is all it takes for someone to relieve that tension, then good for them! It's just the grown-up version of the game we used to play. Calling someone a

"toilet-licking, mother-effin', son of a gun, pineapple-head"

as a kid, just turns into

"dirty little fuck fiends (are) naked and begging for stiff throbbing cock, and all the gooey jizz that cums with it".

It's just all really silly to me and I can't bring myself to get riled up by any of it.

I'm turning off comments on this post because I'd rather you go and participate in the conversation on Ren's blog. This is really her topic and I just wanted to put my words in a post here so that folks will know where I stand on this issue.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Supporting the Troops (Even the Non-White Ones)

In "This Made Me Cry", Renegade Evolution wrote about a video that I mentioned on my blog back in October (Our Disposable, Invisible Lives). I mentioned my take on the video in her comments section and it sparked a bit of discussion. I thought about writing my response over there but I figured it might be best for me to take this to my own blog so that it didn't drag things out over there against her will.

Like Renegade Evolution, I come from a family where many have served in the military. My family's military service history goes back to George Washington's time as a general. Many, but certainly not all, of those relatives who served were people of color. Several of them rose to rather prominent positions within the military. So, I have no desire to denigrate those who serve. I think I've probably bragged about my family's military history a bajillion times on this blog and I have a few posts sitting as drafts right now that also discuss them.

Part of the reason why the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq bothers me so much is because I have such strong feelings about the military. Personally, I'm a pacifist. At least, I try to be. The German is a true pacifist but my views are more theoretical, pertaining to what an ideal world would look like. I'm far too cynical and jaded to believe that we should cease to have a strong military, so we need to support those who do join unless we are willing to do so ourselves.

One of the things that's tragic about the current wars is that they are affecting people of color in a manner that is definitely disproportionate to the makeup of this country. Outside of the top brass, a huge portion of our military consists of people of color. Blacks make up 30% of the military, which is about twice the total percentage of blacks in the U.S.A. The percentage of Latino, Asian, and Native American soldiers is also increasing. Even though this is, in many ways, a white man's war, it's being fought by and against people of color and I think that's something that needs to be discussed.

However, my problem isn't with the girl who made this video. I'm quite sure she didn't exclude people of color purposely nor did she try to minimize the contributions of POC soldiers. If she belongs to a military family, I think that if someone had pointed out the dearth of people of color in her video to her, she probably would have made an effort to be more inclusive. One of the things that I loved about working for the military was how egalitarian it prided itself on being. I think this is one of the reasons why you see such a high number of inter-racial marriages in the military. Still, that doesn't mean that we should overlook the racial/racist aspects of these wars. If we ignore, overlook or downplay the contributions of soldiers who are people of color, then are we really showing as much respect for military as we'd like to think we are?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Second Life Transgender Day of Remembrance Speech, Part I


There were several great speeches given at the Second Life Transgender Day of Remembrance event last night. I've received permission to post three of them. Here is the first one:
-------------------------------------------------------------
Selah.

Stop. Listen. Reflect.

We are here to reflect on those who have fallen over the years. Through the violence of some, through the negligence of others, and, through the intimidation of society, those who took their own lives.

Each candle extinguished brings the night ever closer. Each voice silenced quiets the choir.

Selah.

My name is Carrie Talaj, although some of you may know me by the name Jenn Dolari. Thank you for coming tonight. While I haven't been an active member of the transgender community despite being in it for some time, I've known people who were. I've seen the Day of Remembrance start as a small personal affair, and become a nationwide, then worldwide vigil for those of us who have died. About five years ago I went to the vigil in Austin, run by the TACT group there. It got me thinking that I felt I wasn't doing enough on my end, but I didn't know what to do.

When the 2003 vigil came around I again went to Austin to observe the passing of those who died that year. Again I was moved, but did not know what to do. Several of my friends were knee deep in planning that year's remembrances, and, again, I felt there was more I could do.

It wasn't until a few month before the 2004 event that Erin Lindsey, of Venus Envy, and I decided to create a virtual vigil using our webcomics. Originally we planned it to be just a simple crossover comic between our two strips. Instead it grew quickly over the years to include many other comics. This is our fourth year and many of the art pieces you see here come from those years.

As much as I hope and pray that we will never ever need another vigil ever again, I'm glad that there now exists, here in Second Life, a place where we can remember and reflect on those who came before us, and hope for a future where we will never need a place like this again.

There are ten names on the list this year that we know of. Ten names...Nakia Baker, Keittirat Longnawa, Moira Donaire, Michelle Carrasco, Ruby Rodriguez, Erica Keel, Bret Turner, Victoria Arellano, Oscar Mosqueda and Maribelle Reyes. There are no doubt many more deaths that we don't know about. People who have "been disspeared" or killed and buried in fields far from their homes never to be heard from again.

And while they may be gone, their deaths, known and unknown, should never be forgotten, minimized or depreciated. Nor should any of the others who have died. The names that reach out to us from out past. Names we know. Names we don't know. Names lost to history. Each of our brothers and sisters gone, crying out from the past, "Make our lives mean something! Make our deaths have importance! So that the lives that come after yours can live a life free of violence and pain. A life where 'never again' is a truth, and not a wish."

We quibble over labels and divisions. Transgender. Crossdresser. Transsexual. Drag King. Transvesitite. Arguments over who belongs in what group, wether or not a specific individual "has done their homework" or wether a transsexual should go deep stealth or not. We create the lines, divide ourselves into boxes, and do what we can to keep the outsiders out, and care for only those inside those boxes while still finding more lines to divide us. And yet, with all the boxes and divisions, there is one thread that binds us all: We are being killed.

We stand here, looking for words and phrases to reassure us, to give us hope for the future. But the fact that we stand here, together, at this place, show us that we do not NEED hope. Do not NEED reassurance. The fact that we are here shows that hope for a brighter future for ourselves and out posterity exists in us all. That together, we care enough to say "This ends now!"

As we stand here in defiance, we fight a more desperate battle that the one we mourn today. The LOSS of the our hope. The loss of the dreams we all share. The loss of the lives we make in the face of adversity, of arcane laws and even our deaths. The loss of our dreams, the dreams on every name on these pillars, the loss of who and what we are. We must never forget, in the face of violence, of stupidity, or arrogance, that we are who we are and what we must be. Against these things, we must never let our dreams slip through our fingers.

We have lost lives this year, and while the listing is smaller this year than last, we must never give up the fight and we must soldier on, wether there are a million people behind our words, or just one. When the day ends, and we all go back to our everyday lives, do not forget the names here. Remember that they were your brothers and sisters. Remember that they died living their lives to the best of their abilities. Remember that as the lights of their souls go out, that yours still shines brightly in defiance of the night, and that you can make this a better place for the souls to come. For each candle extinguished brings the night ever closer and each voice silenced quiets the choir.

Selah.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Second Life Transgender Day of Remembrance Event

If you have a Second Life, you can log on and attend the vigil that it taking place right now. The venue had to be changed. We are now at the following coordinates:

Pavonia 8, 72, 100

Everyone is welcome. Please drop by, if you can.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

transgender symbol

Today is the 9th Annual Day of Remembrance. Every year, people are killed because they are gender-variant. They don't conform to their society's ideas about how a "man" or "woman" should look. It's cowardly and opportunist to attack transgendered people. Because society doesn't value transgendered people's lives as much as it does those who are cisgendered, gender-variant people are easy targets. You can kill them with almost guaranteed impunity in many places.

But these lives matter!

Any system (e.g. community, government, culture) that permits people to kill transgendered people is unsafe for other vulnerable members of that society. People with disabilities are at risk. People of color are at risk. People who are sex workers are at risk. People who are religious minorities are at risk. Lesbians, queers, and gays, tomboys and fairies, bois and grrls, do you see what I'm saying? We all need to be concerned about this.

"If a free society cannot help the many
who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."
President John F. Kennedy

"With the first link, the chain is forged.
The first speech censored,
the first thought forbidden,
the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably."
Unknown

“While there is a lower class, I am in it;
while there is a criminal element, I am of it;
and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Eugene V. Debs, 1913

burning candle

Monday, November 19, 2007

She Asked For It

"Look, it's pretty simple, ladies. If you don't want to have regrettable sex or "get raped," quit getting trashed around trashy guys. Just like if you don't want to wreck your car, DON'T DRIVE DRUNK. "Rape" doesn't just happen in a vacuum. It takes 2 to tango and those situations can all be easily avoided if you just act like a lady."
--your everyday neighborhood rape apologist

I was child in elementary school spending the night by my friend's house. Our families belonged to the same church. We fell asleep on the floor while watching a movie in their den. In the early morning hours, her much older brother came in and raped me.

I was a little girl, a child. I was sleeping. I didn't drink alcohol. I didn't take drugs. I wasn't hanging out with a man of low character. I was hanging out with a girl (who was also in elementary school) from our church. My mother was friends with her mother and had been for a couple of years. They were a middle-class family living in a four bed-room, two-story house in a beautiful, safe neighborhood in New Orleans.

Feel free to tell me how a little girl who didn't even understand what sex was could be to blame because some sick bastard decided he was going to rape her.

Oh yeah, his name was John McNulty and he never served a day in jail even though I was not the first or last girl he raped.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Religious Conversions

Today my sister came into town from Texas so that we could celebrate our cousin's birthday. It turns out Neko-chan has been hiding something from everyone. While we sat at the restaurant eating our dinner, she announced that she has converted to Christianity.

At first I thought she was joking. After all, she was raised in a Buddhist temple. Her father is a priest, for heaven's sake! The last time she visited, she told me that she had made some friends at school who invited her to their weekly bible study. It's one of those college student groups where the kids get together and make it a sort of social get-together after they read a chapter or two from the Bible. She liked going because they were really nice and friendly and fun to hang out with but she assured me that she had no plans to convert. Apparently between that visit and this one, something changed.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I believe that everyone should be free to change their religion or religious affiliations if they want to. I know what it's like to feel obligated to stay with a religion because you were born into it, so I would never criticize her for converting. Still, there's something a wee bit unsettling about this. I just don't know how to articulate what it is that I'm feeling.

One of my brothers converted to Islam earlier this year and it didn't bother me at all. He had shown an interest in doing so some years ago but never went so far as to do it. When he told everyone in the family after he recited the shahada for the first time, I made sure I let him know how much I supported his decision. Somehow, this feels a lot different though.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Marginalization of Transgendered People

I just finished writing a post about accepting and embracing transgendered people. At the very end, I decided to provide links to some blogs written by transgendered women. At that point, I realized that I am only familiar with a couple of them. Lisa and Queen Emily aren't the only two transgendered bloggers on the web. Yet, they were the only two that I could think of off the top of my head. Why is that? I can easily think of over two dozen cisgendered feminist bloggers. I can name at least a dozen blogs by people with disabilities and another dozen by people of color. However, two transgender blogs is the best that I can do. Or is it?

The only reason why I know about those two blogs is because both Lisa and Queen Emily have posted here on my blog. In other words, I didn't have to put forth any effort to find them. They came to me. So do I really deserve any credit for mentioning them in my last post? Not really.

Calling yourself an ally is a big deal to me. It's not enough to just say, "Yeah, I'm all for equality for those people" and then go back to happily ignoring all the issues they face but that's exactly what I've done. Do I regularly look for news about transgendered people in the media? Nope. Even if something falls in my lap, then I may or may not write about it here. Pretty convenient, isn't it?

I can afford to ignore it. I'm pretty slim. I have features that are fairly consistent with this society's ideas about what a woman looks like. I know that's a bit of a simplification given my status as a person of color and a person with disabilities. However, I think it's pretty clear that I'm talking about relative status here.

All other things being equal, being transgendered means having an extra layer of oppression and marginalization that cisgendered people with the same basic characteristics (e.g. race/ethnicity, age, disability status, income bracket, sexual orientation) just don't face. At least, that's what I think as a result of all that I've observed. The truth is, I can't know exactly what being transgendered means unless I make more of an effort to seek out and listen to the voices of transgendered people. Otherwise, I'm just doing the same thing as those who deem it appropriate to speak on behalf of people like me without ever taking into consideration what I have to say about my experiences.

Proud Member of the FEMINIST Transgender-Acceptance Movement

Kim over at "Bastante, Already!" has a magnificent post about feminism and the acceptance of male to female trans persons. In "Because I'm Not A Transperson, Part Two", Kim explains,

When your politics or theory hurt other people they are wrong.
When your beliefs cement labels onto others, they are wrong.
When you refuse to let individuals express themselves in ways that harm none, you are wrong.

She also issues a call to action for all feminists.

I am one feminist who accepts transfolk completely.
Therefore, feminism does accept transfolk -- no matter what anyone else says to the contrary.
Who's with me?

I am. Will you answer the call?

Wonderful Transgender-related blogs:

Questioning Transphobia
Sexual Ambiguities

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Afro Project: One Year Later

I stopped perming my hair last November. In June it was still really short. Since the, it's grown like wildfire. I can't even hold it down with the cute little headbands that I use to wear! I let VanGoghGirl take some pictures of it so that we can chronicle my transformation from "civilized negro" to "militant black chick".

picture of me looking down at the camera

Me smirking at the camera

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Exercise In Owning My Class Privilege

According to the creators, this is an activity "designed to help the participants gain awareness of the vast range of social class that exists within themselves and others". It was originally done with college students but I think it makes for a very interesting tool that helps me put my own experiences into perspective. I wish that there was a version for examining non-disabled privilege. Who knows? Maybe I'll create a version.

I go back and forth about whether I was really poor growing up. I knew lots of kids who were richer than my family was. Still, I've very aware that there are folks all around me who were a lot poorer than we ever were, even during our roughest periods. Our lights were never cut off. We always had a home phone. We always had food in the house. We always had clothes that fit and were at least fashionable enough for us to never have reason to feel embarrassed around our peers. My older brother and I had our own rooms but my younger brothers shared a room. We went on vacations but they were mostly to attend religious conventions or family reunions.

I think I'm going to have to consider this a bit more thoroughly later on today. In all I would have to take 21 steps forward (out of the total 37 possible) if I was in a room participating in this activity.

How many privilege-steps would you have to make?

Step into Social Class
A Social Class Awareness Experience
Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University
© 2007

Equipment:
A big room with space to move for all participants
Chairs to sit for discussion


Rules:
Pay attention to how you feel. Angry, sad, happy, winner, loser . . .
No talking – we will talk about this a lot when it is over
Line up here and take a step forward of about 1 (one) foot or one foot length

When you were in college:
If your father went to college, take a step forward.
If your father finished college
If your mother went to college
If your mother finished college
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home
If you had your own computer at home
If you had more than 50 books at home
If you had more than 500 books at home
If were read children's books by a parent
If you ever had lessons of any kind
If you had more than two kinds of lessons
If the people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it
If you have less than $5000 in student loans
If you have no student loans
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp
If you had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house
If you had a phone in your room
If you lived in a single family house
If your parent own their own house or apartment
If you had your own room
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School
If you had your own TV in your room in High School
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.


Now everyone recognize that you are at the same place academically.
Everyone turn around.
Everyone has permission to talk.
No one has permission to accuse any one or any group of anything.
Everyone must use “I” statements.
Note that the people on one end of the room had to work harder to be here today than the people at the other end of the room. Some of you had lives of more privilege than others. There is no one to blame, it is just the way it is. Some have privilege and some don’t.
(this can be said now or later, I don’t know where it will be appropriate)

Discussion:
What were the feelings that you had during this experience? Who was angry?
(Anger will be a primary emotion at this point.)
What, specifically, makes you angry?
Who are you angry at?

Who was happy?

Summary Statement
This experience was about creating awareness of privilege. What it is, what it does, and what it means. Having privilege does not mean that you worked less hard. All it means is that you had a head start, so maybe it does mean you didn’t have to work as hard . . . .

Homework
During the next week notice how your high school years helped or didn’t help your experience in school/at work . . . .

Explanations and Notes:
All of the step taking was about things not requiring effort on the students’ part, that were things done by others.