Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gender Room

It has one toilet and one sink. There is no stall and no urinal. The door locks. What makes it a men's room? 

Perhaps the lack of changing table means that it has asserted itself a sense of resentful masculinity? Is it the kind of room that despises even the slim progress of equality that has lead to nurturing fathers, single fathers, and pairs of fathers? Could it disdainfully relegate those duties to the women's room down the hall, no doubt full of frills and lace and things more appropriate for changing a baby?

Does it silently criticize those that don't fit its image of masculinity? Are the business students that pass by too slight for it? Is it upset by my long hair, shocked that a man would walk through the world this way? What would it feel like if I had come in wearing a skirt?

Can it imagine the ill woman, clutching sadly at the locked handle of its sister room? Will it consider the man standing outside its anonymous door, not obviously suggesting its singular nature, and wondering if he passes well enough to go in or if he must find the tucked away gender neutral restroom, laying unadvertised in some other hallway, before his need to go becomes an infection? Would it refuse to serve its purpose if they'd entered? Would it stop its long months, still too newly built to have gone years, of uncommenting silence in order to object?

Does it resent its label? Has it always wished to be some other sort of room? Would it sympathize with those people that have rejected their own societal label? Can it even tell when someone walks inside it what society has labeled them from the moment of their birth?

There is nothing that passes in or out, no person, no substance, no horrific drunken expulsion or clogged overflow that is more degrading, more obscene, more thoroughly revolting than the image it holds no responsibility for. The sign that proclaims something the room can never convey on its own, has no reason to convey, has no need to convey. The glaring fault, terrible only because of all of the things that must be the wrong in the world before that label would exist. Like a scarlet letter, labeling all who enter as under the sway of society's judgement. 

"Men's Room"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Your god, Not God

Writing a blueprint for a new coalition is hard. That's all I can say to people that I know are waiting for a particular post to go up. In the mean time I want to tackle something on the religious end of the issues I care about. I've been fairly focused on queer issues for a while and I think it's time to shake that up.

There is a form of oppression in our culture that I think is often only recognized spiritually but which has very tangible effects. Feeling something spiritually is difficult to quantify exactly, especially for people that aren't religious. There also aren't solid terms for different forms of religious oppression the way there are for other kinds of oppressions, so I can't point to a concept that can be more easily recognized by people with more removed relations to faith. For a working term, admittedly one that doesn't quite roll off the tongue, I'll be using "Gnosivism".

This refers to the assumptions that
  • Everyone in a society has the same religion, or that everyone is hearing the same thing from the divine, as the mainstream of the dominant religion . 
  • The dominant religion of the culture is superior to all other religions
  •  And that members of other religions or those lacking religion can be freely mistreated, harmed, oppressed, discriminated against, or litigated against.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Will Not Go Quietly

I was planning to put together a post today discussing the formation of a coalition. I actually have about a third of it put together already, but I'd hoped to finish it later tonight. Then someone told me that I should go back into the closet.

It doesn't matter who it was. It doesn't matter that they probably meant it as honest advice with no actual malice. If anything that makes it worse. Quite honestly it also doesn't matter that they eventually tried to apologize. It happened.

I am a Polyamorous, Pagan Queer. I am a man and I wear skirts. I march at rallies, I vote, I speak, I protest. I have strong feelings about the society that allows homelessness and foreclosures to exist in the same nation and I'm vocal about them. I am also white, fairly well off financially except for my crushing debt burden, and fairly young with no dependents. I have more of an opportunity to be out than most people in the oppressed categories I'm in, but I still face all the prejudices and oppressions that coming out brings. I walk my campus in femme cut clothing along with masculine. I wear things associated with women: makeup, nail polish, skirts and leggings. Pictures of this are already online and there's not much chance of getting them off now, not that I'd want to. I've peppered the internet with essays, blogs, posts, and for several glorious seconds I've even appeared in Daily Show footage for speaking at a rally. I am out.

To be out to me means to be free. To have cast off my closets and my broom closets and my men's section clothing racks and women's section clothing racks. To have sat across from my parents and said "I love both of these women, and they love me. This is because of who I am" even knowing we wouldn't last beyond college and even knowing they might not understand. To have stood in front of hundreds of people, sat on panels, stood before classes, and told them I'm Queer. To have stood up before professors and said "I'm Queer and I am NOT okay with what you said."

To me being out means to be watched. To know that only one police officer needs to be the wrong one to come across me walking at night in a skirt and make an assumption, and so to fear all of them at least a bit. To know that my employment and my housing are always in a tenuous state because of a lack of legal protections, and no will to back up those that exist. To know that a gendered bathroom is never an entirely safe space for me.

For someone that has never had my experience, someone apathetic to activism, to tell me that because it might be safer for me in the short run I should go back in the closet is an absolutely heinous act. Closeting someone is an act which dismisses all of their identities as being secondary to the ones they are expected to have. It is an act of intense violence, stripping someone of their autonomy and acting as an apologist to their oppressors. Pushing someone back into the closet is no less than a dismissal of the entire movement that spawned a response to the AIDS epidemic. If someone wants to be closeted, or needs to be closeted out of concern for their own well being, they should never be condemned, but to tell someone that is free of the closet that they would do better to go back embodies the force of all subtle oppressions, microaggressions, and assumptions into a phrase. "This world is better than you. Your place is where it put you. It's better if you just see that."

If I lose my home, if I cannot be employed because I raised my voice for the thousands of people that cannot raise theirs, I would rather live on the streets like Sylvia Rivera than to allow myself to be silenced. If I am subject to violence I will face it as has every activist before me that refused to be moved, to be pushed away, to be quieted, to be closeted. Let my name be sung in a hall somewhere like a hero, shouted out like a demand that violence be addressed, that suffering be addressed, that oppression be addressed, and that the apathetic not sit idly by because I went out with my head up and out.

I refuse. I reject. I deny. Unequivocally, without exception and in no uncertain terms: The Closet. I am burning my closet down, right here, and right now. Here I stand for all the internet to see.

-Thorin Sorensen

Saturday, February 16, 2013

MBLGTACC part 3: Identity Caucuses and Allies

Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here

"I hate it when allies talk," is something I was told by a close friend after MBLGTACC was over and we were discussing our experiences in different identity caucuses. For the first time in my life I've been able to understand this sentiment, and it's a heavy one so I'm taking a whole post to break down what it means to me and potentially what it should mean to allies. The first part of this post is largely based around experiences at MBLGTACC, and so it's related primarily to the LGBTQ community, but in relation to the allies themselves it doesn't matter what group they're allies of. This is important content to understand.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

MBLGTACC part 2: Polyamory and Politics

 Part 1 is here

A few more days out from MBLGTACC 2013, the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally College Conference, I'm ready to took another look at the conference and assess feelings that aren't just longing to return. It wasn't a perfect conference, as much as I loved it, and although it was the most inclusive of Polyamory of any MBLGTACC I've attended that also left more room open for things to go wrong. So with a queer movie night behind me (Watched "Together" and apparently Scandinavian comedies are based around the idea that if as many people as possible are miserable it must be funny for SOMEONE and romances universally mean always going back to the man that hit you) I'm ready to tackle the Polyamory workshops and caucuses, how they worked, how they didn't, and what they could have done. 

I've started adding handy labels to posts to designate the level of understanding you'll need to have of a specific community to jump right into a topic. This way I won't have to be as extensive with providing definitions for terms I've covered before in each new post. If you're coming here for a Socialist perspective for example (which I really am going to get to extensively once the MBLGTACC stuff is properly wrapped up) but aren't really familiar about Queer identity or Polyamory, there are some articles you should check out before others will make sense to you, and vice-versa. So introductory posts that explain issues entirely from scratch get labeled as "Basics" while in-group topics will be labeled with "Intermediate" and theory that is deep in-group will get an "Advanced" tag. If you don't know much about Polyamory feel free to check out my What is it? Polyamory article (now updated to include more readings on the subject) and some of the linked websites before trying to understand this post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MBLGTACC part 1: Unpacking MBLGTACC

At the moment I am recovering from an incredible weekend at the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally, College Conference otherwise known as MBLGTACC. This is one of the largest annual conferences in the country, certainly the largest in the Midwest, that is specifically about queer issues. Over 2000 people of all different identities, some of them far beyond the scope of the included acronym, converge on a college somewhere for a single weekend of discussions, workshops, networking, learning, teaching, and in some cases having conference sex. I hope that explains the delay in posting this. People don't sleep at MBLGTACC so much as they close their eyes briefly between late night events and early morning ones, and I've been thrust straight back into normative society and homework without processing time. Expect several posts in this series but don't expect them all right away.

I want to spend some time unpacking my own experiences at the conference, and the conference in general. As amazing as the conference was for me there is still a barrier of entry that includes monetary requirements, college attendance, and travel. There is a value to sharing some of the insights gained in this setting with people that couldn't access it, and allowing additional processing opportunities for the people in attendance. While I hope that much of my blog will be easily accessible without needing to locate a ton of outside readings, some posts are predominantly aimed at those that have an understanding of a specific community already. While I will try to provide some links for “obscure” terms my expectation is that people already in the LGBTQ community will be the ones most interested in MBLGTACC.

If you're utterly lost this may be a post to explore again after I've had the chance to elaborate on more topics.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What is it? Polyamory

What is it? is one of several types of posts I have planned for Polyamorous Paganism. I hope to use it to outline the basics of an identity, concept, practice, or act that not everyone floating around the internet may be familiar with. These aren't 100% comprehensive posts, and they aren't infallible. I can only explain my personal views on what a subject is, and I don't speak for the entirety of any community. Additionally, I'm still learning. In many of these communities I'm still a student and in some of them I'm still new. What is it? is only meant to be an introduction to a subject and an invitation to start learning along with me. 

I am polyamorous. At one point that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to say to another human being. I've said it online and in classrooms, and most of the time I'm as comfortable mentioning it to a casual acquaintance as I am to an auditorium full of people. I've helped start the Polyamory discussion group for the Fox Valley, although I haven't been able to attend in months, and I'm the go-to activist for any speech or presentation on the subject on campus. I actually get to do two presentations on the subject on the same day later this month, one of them for a class full of freshman. At the same time this was one of the most difficult subjects I've ever spoken to my family about. It has inspired some of the happiest moments I've ever had in relationships. It makes up the root of the first word in the name of my blog.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What is it? Queer

What is it? is one of several types of posts I have planned for Polyamorous Paganism. I hope to use it to outline the basics of an identity, concept, practice, or act that not everyone floating around the internet may be familiar with. These aren't 100% comprehensive posts, and they aren't infallible. I can only explain my personal views on what a subject is, and I don't speak for the entirety of any community. Additionally, I'm still learning. In many of these communities I'm still a student and in some of them I'm still new. What is it? is only meant to be an introduction to a subject and an invitation to start learning along with me. 

There are only two days left before the start of MBLGTACC, the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Ally College Conference. While the word Queer doesn't make it into that title it is one of the largest queer events in the Midwest. It's also one of the two big events I look forward to every year for reaffirming and enhancing my identity (the other one is Pagan Spirit Gathering in the summer) so I want to include it as part of my blogging experience.

So what is Queer? How is an event or a space queer? Why am I so inconsistent with capitalization?