Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I'm Not Excited About Same Sex Marriage

As a Queer identified person I've found my romantic and sexual attractions range a fairly wide gamut, including some people that would be identified as being the same sex as me by the state and/or federal government. With this in mind same sex marriage sounds as though it could have a major impact on my life and open up all sorts of possibilities. Additionally I largely see same sex marriage as a foregone conclusion even if it may take a while. So why aren't I more excited?

As people that know me have gradually realized I'm a marriage resistor. I see the institution of marriage as unnecessary to create stable families and view the insistence on marriage promotion amongst politicians as a method to subtly control individuals. I also see a number of the every day acts of violence and oppression perpetuated against Queer people as being more important to focus on than, and in many ways unrelated to, the legal status of same sex marriage. Naturally this has caused a lot of conflict with the mainstream Gay rights movement that seems to be all about marriage as a way of obtaining legitimacy in the eyes of straight society.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Labeling the Boxes

Words are important in activism. It's not just about saying the right things, or explaining things in the right way, it's also having the right words to describe what it is you're talking about. That's why I made the (probably futile) effort to coin the term gnostivism. Words can be harmful but they can also be helpful in mitigating harm. Identity labeling is considered by some to do more harm than good, and I really disagree with that. So I'm going to try to explain why I see it as beneficial, at least for right now.

The main argument against identity labeling is that it only serves to divide people. There is a certain notion amongst particular groups of progressives that by eliminating all distinctions between people we'll be more likely to treat each other equally as human beings. This is a fairly positive idea all by itself, and isn't a bad thing to want to work toward, depending on how one does that work. I would say that, in fact, I do believe that in an ideal world identity labeling will be de-emphasized and people would be allowed to just be people, in whatever way they happen to express that. However, jumping to the elimination of labels in any situation short of an ideal world can lead to a lot of problematic responses to real world issues.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Horror of Steubenville and Every Other City

Trigger Warning: Rape, Rape culture, misogyny, violence against women, victim blaming, possibly incoherent swearing by me, ALL links contain potentially triggering material

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What My Queerness is Not

Trigger warning: some homophobic language

I'd like to take a moment to clarify, because sometimes there can be confusion.

My queerness is not homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or just plain sexual. It is not dependent on who I am attracted to, who I am in a relationship with, or who I am married to.

My queerness is not based on genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, gametes, musculature, broad shoulders, long legs, body hair, deep voice, or sex assigned at birth.

My queerness is not my long hair. It is not my black-painted finger nails. It is not my eye shadow, the way I shave, or my desire to have my facial hair permanently removed. It is not dependent on whether I'm wearing a skirt or jeans. It does not come off with my clothes. It does not come off in the shower.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fighting For Polyamorous Marriage

My favorite podcast, the excellent Polyamory Weekly, just had a show on the subject of polyamorous marriage (so nice, I linked them twice) and whether or not it's something we should be fighting for as a movement. I always enjoy these kinds of discussions and I actually have strong feelings on the subject, so I was planning to just call in when I realized that I have one of those fancy blog things now. Suddenly I'm able to comment on things soapbox style, so I thought I would do that instead.

Most of Cunning Minx's points on this show come from an article by Mistress Matisse (Poly bloggers have the best names) called You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom so I'll be discussing those first.

Quick Post: Intentions and Bad Cookies

Depression is horrible. I know this is a pretty controversial sentiment, right up there with bee stings aren't fun and Boys Don't Cry is "not a feel good movie." Depression is so horrible that when combined with a persistent illness it's very difficult to drag one's self out of bed some mornings, or even some afternoons. However, things are expected of me. Health and mental well-being are great concepts and all but they don't serve the capitalist machine or help me fulfill my get-a-piece-of-paper-to-signify-my-intelligence plans so I need to prioritize. Since that's hard to jump right into from a position of "if I lay here all day and don't move, maybe I'll feel better tomorrow" I'm doing some blogging first to get warmed up for the important things like journal entries that aren't graded on content.

Here's a slightly more controversial fact: intentions don't matter. It's kind of depressing when you think about it (or maybe that's just me) because intentions are given so much importance in our social interactions. "It's the thought that counts" may be as well recognized for its passive aggressive implications as it is for its honest sentiment but it's still a cultural standard for our feelings on intentions. In America, at least, we've really embraced this concept that well-meaning gestures are much more important than shallow but practical ones. When a surprise goes wrong because your partner turned out to be allergic to the chocolates you bought it's still supposed to be better than if you had ruined the romance by asking beforehand. Romance is a good intention, surprise is a good intention. Here's a better cultural standard: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

We treat intentions like some kind of magic spell. Simply by informing someone that our intentions were good and pure there's some kind of expectation that the mistakes we made in the actual implementation should be less painful to us. Imagine if surgeons used this logic. "I only meant to cut out the cancer, I didn't mean to lacerate all those internal organs. Hey, there's no call to get upset, I didn't do it on purpose!" The well-intentioned speakers expect to get away with their mistakes, in fact they will actually be upset if something that they didn't intend to be harmful is called out when it actually causes harm, simply because they're well-intentioned. Consequences aren't nearly as important as disposition for the person that doesn't have to receive the consequences.

Would someone ever forgive a drunk driver for causing a loss of life solely on the basis that their only intention was to get home before the police caught them? It's absurd to imagine.

So what does this mean for those of us in oppressed groups? We're continuously bombarded with messages about who we are, what we want, what is expected of us, and some of those messages are harmful. Actually, I would say the vast majority of what oppressed groups hear in the world is constructed in a way that causes harm to their sense of self and well-being. That's part and parcel of being oppressed, it is itself an aspect of oppression. Some of those messages are aimed at us by people that honestly just want to help. The concerned uncle that's sure just telling you to "suck it up" will help beat back the depression, the police officer that tells a group of young women to watch what they wear when they go out at night, and the politician that tells an African American audience that the best way to reduce gun violence is to have stable monogamous marriages are all probably genuine in their desire to help produce a solution to problems they see. They're still wrong to say it, the effects of their words can still lead to incredible suffering for the people that they're unconsciously disempowering. They ARE at fault for these words.

My point is simple: you are judged based on what you actually say, not what you mean to say. Your words are harmful based on what people hear, not what you think they SHOULD hear. If you are striving to be a genuinely good person this means you have to take responsibility not just for your words but for the effect they have and respond in kind. Don't be defensive, don't try to shift the blame to how the other person perceives what you said, just accept that they have had a reaction and you now need to operate from that situation instead of the one you envisioned. This applies to everything: misgendering, racial insensitivity, slurs you didn't know where slurs.

There are no rewards for trying not to be a horrible person and not making it. There's no way to request that reward in a well-intentioned manner. No one wants to give you a cookie just for trying, and if someone does it's probably full of salt.