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.

What Have You Done With Your Life?

via Robin M.

I've marked the ones I've done in bold. Once I'd finished, I was surprised how many of these I'd actually done. Given my age, 69 out of 150 is pretty good, I think! I'd really like to get around to a bunch of the others eventually.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk.
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe. (Backpacked in South America? Yes.)
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds (I can claim 50)
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Achy, Breaky Back Pain

I'm feeling achy today. I forgot to take my pain meds this morning when I got up to comb VanGoghGirl's hair before school so I went about eleven hours without them. I got up this afternoon feeling awful! The crappy part is that once it's out of my system, taking a single dose doesn't provide the same level of pain relief as it does when I take it on schedule. When my body still contains some of the narcotic, it doesn't take as added medication to get it to the point where I can move around without an extreme amount of pain.

I wish I could end this love-hate relationship with my pain meds. I hate the drowsiness that comes with them but I just can't engage in the normal tasks of life without the relief that they provide.

I am a member of disability culture

I'm finally at a place in my life where I'm fairly comfortable with who I am. I feel like I have found where I "belong". I'm not just a person with disabilities (PWD). I choose to be a part of disability culture. If we all had to pick a category of people that we would call our own and remain with them and only them for the rest of our lives, I'm pretty sure that I'd cast my lot with other PWD.

Yeah, I know. I've made the argument that the oppression I face is multi-faceted. I catch hell as a women, as a person of color, as a PWD, as an unmarried mother. Solving the issues of just one of these groups will not end the oppression that I struggle against. I also have no desire to stop defining myself as a person with all of these labels as a part of my identity. I don't want people to stop seeing me as a person of color and a woman and a PWD. I'm just saying that, at this point in my life, when I hear about what's going on in the world, I will almost always think of how this is going to impact PWD.

I care about and consider how events and conditions affect people of color and women and economically-disadvantaged people and I write about these topics a good bit. However, I have noticed that, occasionally, the issues that loom large on the black blogosphere just don't get me as riled up as they do others. Sometimes I don't even hear about what the hell has been going on until way after the storm has passed. Like this "Dog the Bounty Hunter" foolishness. How did I not know anything about it until yesterday?

I've come to the conclusion that it's because I have to devote so much of focus on my health care issues. I've got doctor's appointments to make and attend, tests to have done, medications to take, pain to deal with. It's a never ending cycle, so it's become the sphere that I've learned to feel the most comfortable in. When I go some place where I don't know anyone, I find myself looking around for other PWD to help me get a feel for things. They are the ones who are most likely to have the sort of information I'd need like where the nearest bathroom is located, where would I find a water fountain in case I need to take meds, and stuff like that. That's the stuff that needs to be figured out before I can move on to deal with how the establishment feels about black people or women.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What A Laminectomy Really Is

You wanna hear something really crazy? I just found out that I am missing part of my spine. I was talking to one of my doctors and I asked them to explain exactly what they did to me during one of my surgical procedures a while back ago. The doctor explained that they had removed part of my spine. Now, I knew that I was missing part of my ribs but I didn't know they had chopped on my spine too. Why am I just finding this out? I know that they do tend to try and put everything in very kind terms when it comes to discussing my cancer but it seems like this part should have been stated a bit more specifically. It's not that I mind them removing it. I just like to know what parts I still have and which ones are gone.

R.I.P.
Little Sawed-Off Part of Bint Alshamsa's Spine

Friday, November 09, 2007

All Public Housing Units In New Orleans Set To Be Demolished

A fellow New Orleanian is trying to spread the word about the latest actions being taken to keep the poor out of the city. Concerned individuals are asked to please consider joining us in protesting the planned demolition of all public housing units. Unfortunately, I'm not know if I'll be able to get out there and participate in person due to my damned health, so I'm trying to do as much as I can to support the effort. Here's the message I received. Please feel free to re-post it anywhere you can.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello again everyone out there who still thinks about us. As many of you know from previous posts, I am very invested in the fate of affordable housing in my city, and specifically in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is the first to go on the chopping block here, as LaFitte is the heart of the neighborhood. The 6th ward has a long cultural history in the city. Please read on and if anyone decides they want to join the protest, my home is always open. It looks like civil disobedience will be our only option. Thank you for reading.

peace,
syd

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A major human rights crisis exists in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. It is a crisis that denies the basic rights to life, equality under the law, and social equity to Black, Indigenous, migrant, and working class communities in the region. While this crisis was in existence long before Hurricane Katrina, the policies and actions of the US government and finance capital (i.e. banking, credit, insurance, and development industries) following the Hurricane have seriously exacerbated the crisis.

One of the clearest examples of this crisis is the denial of the right to housing in New Orleans, particularly in the public housing sector. Since the Hurricane, the US government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has denied the vast majority of the residents of public housing the right to return to their homes. Unlike the vast majority of the housing stock in New Orleans, the majority of the public housing units received little to no flood or wind damage from the Hurricane. Yet, as of October 2007 only ¼ of the public housing units have been reopened and reoccupied. The Bush government refuses to reopen the public housing units in New Orleans because it appears intent on destroying the public housing system, demolishing the existing structures, and turning over the properties to private real-estate developers to make profits.

Based on the discriminatory Federal Court ruling issued on Monday, September 10th, all of the major public housing units in New Orleans are now subject to immediate demolition (the latest report from Monday, November 5th is that HUD will attempt to start the demolition on Monday, November 19th. However, this is being challenged by various legal advocates and will be delayed until at least Wednesday, November 28th pending a Federal court hearing). The first site on the schedule for demolition is the Lafitte housing project. Lafitte therefore, is the line in the sand that must be drawn by all peoples in support of the human right to housing.

"I Pledge"

I believe in the fundamental human right to housing, and I will not be a witness to the denial of this right to the peoples of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I therefore pledge myself to resist the denial of this right by all civil and humanitarian means available, including civil disobedience. I pledge to stand ready to take action against this imminent threat and to put myself on the line, either directly in New Orleans or in strategic locales throughout the US, in support of the demands and leadership of the peoples of New Orleans and their organizations in the struggle for housing and human rights.

We ask that all those interested in coming to New Orleans to contact us before making the journey. We need to ensure that everyone coming is registered, properly orientated and trained in order to partake in this act of resistance in the manner determined by the local leaders and residents. Please contact us via email at action@peopleshurricane.org, with the word "registration" in the subject line. Also, please include the following information:

Name:
Affinity Group/Organization (if applicable):
Phone:
Email:
Have you ever received any training in civil disobedience?
What skills/resources are you able to bring to New Orleans?

All making this pledge must be advised of the following:

1. As of now we do not know exactly when the demolition orders will be given. We hope to have this information within at least 48 hours of the scheduled demolition to contact you and give you sufficient time to act (including travel for residents and allies coming in from out of town).
2. Given the limited timeframe and resources of the various organizations spearheading this fight back, access to the following will be limited:

Legal counsel and aid. All effort is and will be made to provide adequate legal support, but the reality is that it is limited at present.
Lodging and food. Again, given the uncertain timeline and limited resources, housing venues are presently limited, but all effort will be made to support all those making this bold pledge.

For more information, please contact the Peoples' Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) at 504.301.0215 or info@peopleshurricane.org or Survivors Village at 504.239.2907 or survivorsvillage@gmail.com.


Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!



If you are coming to New Orleans:

Please think about forming an affinity group before you get here. Different roles in an affinity group can be:

* legal support person/people for members of your group
* medics
* photo/videographer
(for documentation of events and indymedia coverage in your own area)
*police liasion
*arrestees
etc, etc.

if your group has some of its own logistical needs taken care of, this will help local organizers coordinate on a broader level. For example, if each affinity group has a legal support person, they can coordinate with the local legal team to make sure everyone's legal needs are taken care of.


The Homecoming Center | 1222 Dorgenois | New Orleans | LA | 70112

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why The Sexual Binary Doesn't Make Sense To/For Me

A few minutes ago, I was explaining to someone about why I prefer to consider myself as queer and not "gay", "straight", or "bisexual". In my experience, the choice between gay or straight just doesn't work for many people.

I spent years of my life trying to fit into one category. The first person who ever had a crush on me while I crushed on them was a boy. He was my "boyfriend" but we only talked on the phone twice and we never so much as held hands. Hey, what do you expect? We were still in the single digit age group! Throughout my adolescence and all but the last couple of my teen-aged years, I had some meaningful relationships with both females and males but I wasn't sexually active, so I'm sure those years count towards determining anything other than the fact that I had no desire to sleep with anyone.

If someone is currently involved with a man, as I am, does that mean they are no longer or not necessarily attracted to women? I don't think so. If our sexuality is only determined by our current partner, then that would mean those who aren't partnered don't have a sexuality. That just doesn't make sense, at least not to me. My sense is that one's sexuality is determined by several factors that, of course, includes whatever relationships someone may be in at a given point in time.

It has taken me many years to figure out why the sexual binary just doesn't seem applicable to my life. It isn't simply because I'm able to love women and men. It's because I am not a binary kind of person. I am the product of many generations of voluntary ethnic mixing. I've had several inter-racial relationships. I have lived being perceived as both disabled and non-disabled. I have been a conservative with progressive views. Taking all of that into consideration, it's easy for me to see that it would be unusual for me if I did feel comfortable in any binary system.

In some circles, there seems to be a lot of resentment towards those who refuse to see the world as black and white or, in this case, gay or straight. It's 2007. Sometimes it really amazes me how some people just can't seem to understand the fact that sexuality is a continuum, not a dichotomy. Maybe they're really just hoping that we'll all just stop making it so dern uncomfortable for them to remain oblivious to reality.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kathy Hogan's "Political Operatives" Idea Regarding Judge Teresa Carr Deni

Dear Kathy Hogan,

you've been copying and pasting the same message all over the internets. Have you noticed that no one is buying it? There's a good reason why. It's because your claims are ridiculous. I'm going to show how bogus they are by addressing them piece by piece.

Hogan:
The part of this story you don’t know is that this was a manipulation of the press by political operatives, who purposely fabricated a twisted version of the facts right before an election, to smear Judge Deni’s reputation for political reasons that have nothing to do with the case they used to launch the campaign against her.

Here's the thing, you have absolutely nothing to back up your claim about this all being the work of "political operatives" and you know what? Even if you did, it wouldn't make any difference as long as what they were saying is true. That being the case, do you have anything, anything at all, that shows Carr Deni did not throw out the sexual assault charges against Dominique Gindraw? Do you have anything, any sort of information from Carr Deni, that shows she did not say what she is on the record as saying? Have she even retracted those statements?

Hogan:
Once they got one paper to print their twisted version of the facts, the other papers piled on, repeating the false facts from the first story.

Nope. Several different sources have been used by the journalists and feminists speaking out about this idiot Carr Deni. The assistant district attorney and the victim and even the police have all backed up the facts as they've been described in newspapers around the world.

Hogan
What you think happened is not what happened, and her political opponents knew they had her over a barrel, because the rules of judicial conduct prevent her from arguing the facts of a pending case in the press.

If Teresa Carr Deni cared about judicial conduct, she wouldn't have dropped the sexual assault charges in the first place. Secondly, even SHE doesn't think that judicial conduct prevents her from arguing the facts of a pending case in the press. SHE is the one who told a reporter that the victimized woman had sex with another man after Gindraw raped her and before she went to the police. By the way, that was a complete lie but I don't suppose you'd find that inappropriate for her to do either. Let me guess--the political operatives made her say that, right? By the way, did they also force her to say that this case "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped"? Evidently, Teresa Carr Deni has no problem commenting on the case when she wants to, so why should we see HER as the victim here?

Hogan:
Some people will not find it easy to accept that they were played.

And some people think that we should ignore the facts.

Hogan:
Others who know how politics are played in Philly will acknowledge that what I am saying has a certain familiar ring of truth to it.

You can take your "ring of truth" and shove it where the sun doesn't shine because all that matters here are the facts. Unless you can prove what you're saying, there's no reason why we should believe that all these people, including Carr Deni (whose own words convict her), are lying.

Hogan:
I have known Judge Deni for better than 30 years. I am telling you that what you read in the papers, and the firestorm that was created out of it, was a calculated political manipulation that had nothing to do with the truth.

Well, why didn't you say so? I mean, you are obviously more informed about this case than the assistant district attorney, the police officers, the victim, and the judge herself, right? Give me a break! You could have known Carr Deni for 100 years and it still wouldn't change the facts of the case. Do yourself a favor. Before you come back to my blog, make sure you have something intelligent to say.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Our Sister Lakshmi

picture of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi
Today there were several articles about an little girl named Lakshmi Tatma who was born with four arms and four legs. As we speak, she is undergoing surgery in order to remove a "parasitic twin". Medically, she is considered a ischiopagus tetrapus--a term that describes the part of her body where conjoining took place and how many legs she was born with. However, this condition isn't all that makes her story so beautiful to me.

Amazingly, she was born on the holy day devoted to the celebration of Vishnu, a Hindu god who has four arms. Vishnu's consort is the goddess Lakshmi and she also has four arms. The little Lakshmi Tatma is considered a reincarnation of the goddess Lakshmi and the people in her home town have erected a temple for her.

I know some people may see the date of her birth as anything more than coincidence but I do not. Of all the places in the world that the Creator could have allowed a child like Lakshmi Tatma could have been born, she was brought forth in a place where she wouldn't be pitied or warehoused or "euthanized". Instead, she is being venerated.

Imagine what the world would be like if the birth of all people with non-conforming bodies were seen as auspicious and not shameful or disgusting!



Lakshmi Tatma with her father, mother, and brotherLakshmi Tatma lying on examination table chatting with a doctorLakshmi Tatma lying on examination table by herself

Beautiful Black Women Photos: Variety is the Spice of Life

Someone sent me these photos yesterday via e-mail and I decided to share them here.





















These women are all black, all beautiful, and all transgender women.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Creating my Statement of Beliefs

I've been thinking about how I could let people get a general idea of where I stand on several issues. There are some topics that I feel strongly about but I don't tend to write about very much. I don't know how this is going to turn out so please consider it a work-in-progress. I would appreciate any input on how I could do this and what general categories I should use.

LEGALIZATION ISSUES:

Sex work
I believe that sex work should be decriminalized. I don't believe that there is any essential difference between agreeing to have sex with someone after they spend 100 dollars buying me dinner and agreeing to have sex with someone after they put a hundred dollars in my pocket. If I made a Pilates video and put it on the market, no one will claim I've done anything wrong even if someone purchases it strictly because they find it sexually appealing. If someone seeks to purchase a video of me with no clothes on, it's okay as long as Paramount or Columbia studios produce it. So, to me, there is no reason why those videos labeled as porn should be illegal nor are those who create these videos deserving of stigmatization.

Drugs
I think that some drugs should be decriminalized. Let's face it. Marijuana is only illegal for two reasons:
1. The tobacco companies didn't want to compete against it and were able to lobby to have it made illegal
2. Virtually no politician is willing to fight for legalization because they'd have to risk being labeled "pro drug-use" the next time they came up for election.
I do not think that smoking marijuana is going to improve the health of most individuals. However, no one can deny that it's a pretty dern effective drug-delivery method for some. I think there are also some pretty good arguments to be made about the legalization of other drugs too. However, even if these drugs are not decriminalized, I think it is extremely unethical to incarcerate people simply because they are addicted to an illegal substance. There are also religious issues involved here. Indigenous people should be free to engage in their religious practices, including those that involve the use of mind-altering substances. If you want a reason why we should allow this, why don't we just start with the fact that we've taken every other thing from them and is it really too much to ask that they at least be able to practice bodily autonomy and a way of life that pre-dates our system of government by several thousand years?

Kick Teresa Carr Deni Out Of Office NOW!

I am a survivor of sexual assaults--yes, the plural is appropriate in my case. None of them resulted in a prosecution of anyone. How can I possibly explain with words how this has affected who I am. If I could remove just one experience from all that I've gone through in this life, it wouldn't be having cancer or lupus. It would be being a victim of sexual assault.

The cancer and lupus? I can deal with the stigma associated with being a person with disabilities. However, as much as I am against putting a hierarchy on oppressions, being known as someone who has been raped is just worse for me. So why am I talking about it here? Well, I think this is one of those times where I simply can not sit back in my comfort zone.

On September 20, in Philadelphia, PA, Dominique Gindraw and three of his friends raped a woman at gunpoint. Even though there was ample proof that it occurred, the judge who presided over the preliminary hearing decided to drop all of the sexual assault charges against Gindraw. Why? Because the victim had previously agreed to have sex with the defendant in exchange for money.

So, what did Judge Deni order the defendant be charged with instead? Armed robbery. She decided that what had occurred was not rape but actually "theft of services". Never mind the fact that she never consented to have sex with all of these men. Never mind the fact that they forced her to have sex with them at gunpoint. According to Deni, "She consented and she didn't get paid . . . I thought it was a robbery." When asked about this case, Teresa Carr Deni says she slept well that night after issuing her ruling. Well, I bet we're all glad to hear that, right?

This is outrageous! This judge is absolutely incompetent. Fortunately, the people of Philadelphia have the ability to do something about it. Tomorrow, Philadelphians going to the polls will have the chance to decide whether or not they want to give Teresa Carr Deni six more years to misapply and ignore the laws she is getting paid nearly $150,000 a year to uphold.

What this judge did hurts all women in that it makes it more difficult for any of us to get justice from the courts. When she has been victimized by the rapist, a woman is already forced to give all sorts of irrelevant information about her sex life anytime she makes an accusation of rape. Then, to have to go before a judge who claims that a woman being gang-raped at gunpoint is nothing more than a theft of services...Well, how many women do you think would be willing to put themselves through that? I'm not even a sex worker and I know I wouldn't.

The humiliation and mental anguish associated with being raped is excruciating even when you're the only one who knows it occurred. How can we get the rapists off the streets if we allow judges to send the message that it's okay to rape a woman as long as you think she would have willingly had sex with you under different conditions?

When it's your innocent little sister or your single mom out on a date and the guy rapes her at gunpoint, do you think you'll be okay with that argument?

See more here and here.

By the way, did I mention the fact that Dominique Gindraw went on to rape another woman at gunpoint four days later?

When Did "Ass" Become Okay To Say On The Radio?

Okay, I need to hear from someone with their finger on the pulse of modern music because I am feeling clueless right now. A moment ago, The German and I were messing around on our computers and I was listening to the song "The Good Life" by Kanye West. It was supposed to be the "clean" version but in the middle of the song I hear

Y'all pop the trunk, I pop the hood, Ferrari
And she got the goods
And she got that ass, I got to look, sorry.

My first reaction was, "Whoa!! Is this really the clean version of the song?" I double-checked and sure enough, it was. The German listens to more hip hop than I do--yeah, I know there's a bit of irony there--so I asked him if artists were really allowed to say "ass" in the edited versions of their songs, the ones that are labeled clean and put on the shelves at Wal-Mart. He says they can. He even claims that they can even use the word ass on the radio without having to bleep it out.

When did this happen? It wasn't always like that, from what I recall. Has it really been that long since I was a regular listener of commercial radio? I'm beginning to feel ancient! Maybe I'm being a bit of a prude tonight but, I just don't see any reason for "ass" to be allowed. I don't really object to the use of curse words. In fact I use them from time to time. However, I'm not so sure I am for the inclusion of these terms on the radio. Yeah, I'm probably just being a bit of a fuddy-duddy, but would someone please tell me when all of these changes started happening?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Suburban Kids Make Me Sick Sometimes

I am just really disgusted tonight. Two of my family members arrived in town last night. It was my aunt whose husband committed suicide a few months ago. She also brought her daughter with her. They came to attend the bridal shower of one of my cousins. Now, I'm going to have to vent about this very problematic marriage that's about to take place but it will have to wait until later. As awful as it may seem, I just have worse things to worry about than my suburban cousin who is marrying a guy off the internet that she just started chatting with a few months ago and has made it clear that she chose him over the other internet guy who was talking to her because this one had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Last night, about ten of us were hanging out down the street by my cousin's house. Of course we started talking about everyone in the family and what's the latest news in everyone's lives. Like in many New Orleans families, my cousins are just as close to me as my siblings. Well, we have one particular cousin who has been "acting out" for the past few years. However, he has gone far beyond that this time. I found out that he's currently sitting in jail because he got busted selling crack. Yeah, that's right. Crack!

I'm extremely pissed off because this is all so ridiculous. I'm not saying that it's EVER good to sell illegal drugs but it's more understandable for some people to do it than others. Is selling weed going to make the difference between you eating today or going hungry? If so, then I'm not cold-hearted enough to say that we should lock that person behind bars for the next couple of years. After all, I ate tonight.

However, this situation is different. My cousin is not some child from an unfortunate background. This kid's life has been pretty damned cushy so far. He grew up with his still-married biological mother and father. They lived in a nice suburb in the house that my uncle had built especially for them. My aunt was a stay-at-home-mom for the kids. No one so much as ever smoked a cigarette in their home, not even guests. His dad owned his own business and came home every single night. They vacationed during the summers and other school vacation periods. My cousins always wore nice clothes and owned all of the game systems and gadgets that teens enjoy having.

So why was this kid dealing crack cocaine? In a word: boredom. That's all I can see. A few years ago, he went and got gold veneers put over some of his teeth and twisted up his hair in a pathetic attempt to create dread-locks (never mind the fact that my siblings are the only ones in the family with hair kinky enough to successfully accomplish this). He started trying to talk like someone from off of a rap video and began wearing his clothes hanging off of his ass. I don't have anything against hip hop style. In fact, I love it because it's a part of our culture. However, I don't like poseurs.

There's nothing wrong with being a kid from the 'burbs. There's nothing wrong with having the ability to go to good schools and live in a economically-advantaged neighborhood. If you don't have to work and you have parents who are willing to support you while you get whatever education you want to pursue, then I'm happy for ya'! After all, I'm not going to pretend as if I had it so-oo-oo rough myself. My bellyaching about whatever economic deprivation I may see myself as having would sound like petulance to the majority of people on this planet*.

So why is this kid pretending like he's in the same position as those who didn't get to choose whether they'd spend their lives in the "slums" or housing projects? Well, there's more to this story and I'm going to write about it tonight but I have to take a break now because I'm getting too aggravated about this and I need to go and vent to The German a little bit.

*My brain instantly thought about a post Zooeylive wrote back in March called, "Women of Color Feminisms, Chela Sandoval Etc."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thanks to the Creator Spirit for giving me some sleep!

Okay, so whoever it was out there that mentioned my insomnia in their prayers or intentions last night needs to tell me about it because what happened was nothing short of a miracle. I actually got to bed at 3a.m. this morning--a full five hours earlier than I'd been managing to do for the past month!

I also got some suggestions about sleep strategies in my last post and I've already started to give them a try. Thank you, my sweet friends, and thank you Creator!!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

No Rest For The Weary

You know, I'm beginning to really get depressed about my insomnia. I've gotten to the point where I can't even sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. I keep trying to rough it out and stay awake so that I might be able to sleep through the night but this Lortab makes it impossible. It doesn't help any that it's approaching wintertime which means my back pain feels like it hurts twice as much as it does in the summertime. The first pharmaceutical company that manages to make a pain medication that is as effective as a narcotic without the sleep-inducing effects will make trillions!

My Confession: I Don't Vote

I've been pondering whether or not to make this admission for a long time. I've been kind of worried about what some people might think of me if they knew this. I mean, it seems like a foregone conclusion that people who care about the world will vote, especially if they live in a place where they can do so freely. However, I grew up a bit differently from most of the people I know.

Once again, it goes back to belonging to the O.D.D.* I don't know if I'll ever be able to break away mentally even though I'll never go back to being a member. I know too much. That religion is completely ruined for you once you really study it. When I first had doubts, my mother encouraged me to find the answers to my theological and organizational questions by researching the publications produced by the church.

Anyway, one of the things that sets O.D.D. members apart from society is that they don't believe in voting. In fact, you're taught that it's wrong to do so. The principle behind this is that voting means you're putting your faith in mankind instead of in God. We're taught that only God can solve the world's problems and that we should be eagerly awaiting God's post-Armageddon kingdom when all evil will be wiped out. Mankind's attempts to create a world full of "peace and security" will never be successful anyway, so even if a candidate seems like a good person or an able public servant, you still shouldn't vote for them.

I'm going to write more about this later on tonight.

*Overbearing Dictatorial Denomination--the nickname I've given the religion cult that my parents raised me to be a member of.