About Me

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Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland. My time now is mostly spent getting better at being a person, refining my time management skills, trying to read normal people books and articles, and learning how to be a force for good.

T1D Life in full effect. 

I will never stop learning, nor will I stop working to make a difference for someone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An interesting discussion on feminist activism and push-back from the privileged

Hugo Schwyzer discusses the Good Man Project's decision to not publish a column he wrote in response to a post by the project's founder, which inspired a Twitter back-and-forth. The links to the Twitter conversation are available on Schwyzer's blog linked above and some background story which I'll post here: Serious Discussion is not wrathThe Wrath of Feminists, and As Equals and as Friends. The discussion surrounding male privilege and dominance is one we must continue having, especially if the founder of a project aimed at contributing to this discussion is terrified of facing backlash for being an asshole.

I commented on Schwyzer's blog, but here's my take and let me know yours.

This issue, as with other vital social issues like it (racial privilege and anti-racism, gender privilege and gendered understanding, sexuality and human rights) are all centered on choosing to take responsibility. Guilt is only helpful if one feels guilty about things they have specifically done. Responsibility is about taking a stand and taking ownership of something that harms many and privileges others. As a straight white male, I enjoy so much unearned privilege, and at times I do feel guilty for not doing more.

I decide, each day, to take responsibility for making a more equitable and equal society for my community, for my important people, and for myself. This inevitably involves accepting criticism, and I choose to accept it as someone with privilege and social power that I have not explicitly earned through meritorious work. Criticism for me is always helpful, even if it comes with barbs aimed at my ego; especially with barbs aimed at my ego. I appreciate the humility that criticism of my social location provides, and I do not see disagreement with my current viewpoint as an attack. It is an opportunity to become more aware and more responsible.

Fear is powerful, and as a male in a western society, I feel the fear of losing privileges that I have enjoyed; however, that fear is wholly set aside when I envision a future of understanding and true integration of every person, whether previously privileged or not. If I’m not willing to talk about my own life, and if I am not willing to tell my own ego to take a hike, I am not taking responsibility for making equity a goal, and that is unacceptable to me. Talking about how men are victimized is important, but the central concept here is that feminism allows for a critical look at social and societal inequalities of all kinds, and my social location gives me the ability to choose to pay attention, which in itself describes social privilege perfectly.

Not running this piece smells bad. If it doesn’t fit with a brand, that’s capitalism at its finest and completely within the rights of a publisher to decide. Given that, if the mission of a movement is to allow for a ‘lifting up of the rug’ on what we can do to make our communities and society more just, marketing should be the last thing on a publisher’s mind, as should the ego of a man unwilling to accept criticism for his privileged social location.

Update 10/30/13:
Yes, I'm well aware of Schwyzer's meltdown, and subsequent obvious lack of integrity, honesty, and full-hearted bullshittedness. He's a jackass, I'm aware. His work was fairly good; his self-absorbed crap was tough to watch happen, and really lacked much of what many of us yearn for in good faith male feminist leadership. That said, while I do hope he tends to his shitshow in fucking public silence as decency dictates, I hope that those of us who are really working to act as positive forces continue to do so. Fuck his bullshit; I'm still going to advocate for us guys with shit-tons of privilege using that privilege as leverage against the, "we don't need feminism anymore." And those of you saying crap like, "feminism is a mistake, let the good times roll," up yours. You're full of it, and you know it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

High School Principal as a homophobic bully...are we serious?

Been a while, so I figured this was as good a time as any to post something. I just read/watched the story about the high-schoolers trying to establish a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) at their campus, and apparently a straight ally was wearing a shirt with signatures of those who favored it because the administration had blocked their petition from the start. This principal then decided that it was appropriate to physically and verbally assault and harass this straight ally, after clearing his current classroom. Pretty fu**ed up if you ask me. Here's a rundown from a fellow blogger/newsie/anti-hate online activist Addicting Info: high-school-principal-bullies-gay-student-activist. Just for kicks, here's the link to the video news report from local news station WBIR10 story, in case you'd like to check it out and haven't already.

I wrote him an email, and cc'd a few folks in the administration at his school as well as from the local school district. I'm posting the email I wrote him, and at the end I'll include his contact info, as did Addicting Info. Here's what I said:

Aloha Principal Moser,

I would like to keep this short and sweet, since hopefully you are receiving a great many emails about your anti-humanist view of your students, but I don't want to act like you. So All I will tell you is that your position as a principal at a school teaching children (a public school no less, which is supported by a state government and is a place meant to be free of bigotry and hatred regardless of religious beliefs), implies that you are a responsible adult. This implication is obviously false, given your treatment of a current pupil who dared to speak the truth, and even wear it on his clothing.

I believe you are in need of psychiatric and psychological help. Your obvious disillusionment with what someone else's sexuality is supposed mean, is intriguing in a primary educational leadership figure. I would imagine that having as much responsibility as you must, you would develop a sense of responsibility to your students to set a positive example for dialogue, discourse, respect, and acceptance. Instead, it is clear that you do not possess the mental capacity to lead an educational institution, and as such I would hope you would at long last show some dignity, and seek the proper amount of help for your social illness: hate and fear of children who attend your school. I would also suggest that while you are in treatment, you might consider either formally stepping down from your position as principal, or at least a leave of absence. No one who is this worked up and willing to gay-bash a student in their care should be around children, especially when it is obvious that you are willing to harm children in your care. Sure, the student in question is a teenager, but that does not give you any freedom to act as though he is your personal verbal and physical punching bag. 

Please consider my advice, and if you do decide to stay in your official position as principal, I would only ask that you remove yourself from contact with any and all of your students, since any of them might be at risk for victimization from a school official they have been told, over and over again, is only looking out for their best interests.

Be well and enjoy a speedy recovery from your hatred of high school kids,

-Nick


His contact info: Maurice Moser: moserm@monroe.k12.tn.us

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why do we act like a**holes?

I commented on this Urban Politico entry...might wanna take a look? http://www.theurbanpolitico.com/2011/08/hypocrisy-at-its-finest.html#more

Read the hyperlinked article...seriously...

The behavior of folks in congress and/or the senate is not surprising given what we know about who people really are... I imagine you are familiar with reality, and familiar with who people really are...they aren't who they say they are on video for a campaign.

Given that, why is anyone surprised? Why are we all so 'shocked' at the douchebaggery of everyone, literally everyone in congress and the senate, who are supposed to be 'special' when they are just...us? Why? Fu**ing why is anyone surprised, appalled, angered, disgusted, or opposed for that matter? These people are US!!!!! Why are they supposed to be different? And who the heck decided we had to live our lives by the standards they refuse to live by year after year? Why is this still SHOCKING? Be honest for once! I am a human being with wants, needs, assumptions, political baggage, social baggage, relationship baggage, friends, family, heart and soul. They are THE SAME. They are not different. They (those in D.C. or state leadership) are not different from us in any way, other than economic wealth, usually gender privilege, and social/political connections. REALITY: THEY ARE STILL HUMAN PEOPLE. PLEASE STOP THINKING THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. THAT IS SILLY.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Casey Anthony

I know it's been a couple weeks, and so this isn't news anymore since nothing lasts for more than a few public seconds...but I had an email exchange with a former student of mine, and if anyone else would like to chime in, please do. Here's what I think about the case:

Casey Anthony was innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This was a criminal case, so that was the standard for the jury to use as a litmus test. Was there any way that someone else could have done the crime, in a reasonable person's mind? The jury in this case believed so. I would say the justice system prevailed here; a jury would have had to be party to a miscarriage of justice if they had voted for a guilty verdict. Thinking someone did something criminal, and knowing it to be true intrinsically, is not equal to a guilty verdict in a courtroom.

Here's an example from history: an African American male is accused of raping a white woman. Because 'everyone knows' that it had to be true, then a guilty verdict is an easy affirmative. Now, we can make the argument that racism might be different than what we saw in the case against Casey Anthony. However, if we were to take it on faith that she killed her kid, since any and all factual evidence was either inadmissable or nonexistent, then we would be making the same kind of legal leap of injustice that we have perpetrated for hundreds of years.

That being said, if she came into my bar I wouldn't stop another lady from kicking her ass, because I'm pretty sure she's either indifferent to her daughter's violent death or she did it herself. But, I sure wouldn't want to be convicted on circumstantial evidence, nor would I want my friends or family or anyone for that matter convicted circumstantially, especially if they didn't actually do the crime.

So it's a toss-up. It can feel messed up, yet it is the purpose of the justice system to allow for average folks on a jury to make this kind of decision this way. They did good; the prosecution sucked some yucky testicles. And even then, only having circumstantial evidence isn't the complete fault of a prosecutor's office. Sometimes we just don't have the evidence to convict someone. it would be nice if we saw this pattern forming across racial lines, but we're still a very racist nation-state (as I'm sure people of color know better than I).

I also think that if we always look for some deep, deviant psychological reason for a mother harming her children, instead of ascribing the behavior to just bad behavior, we're not being fair either. Our assumptions about women and criminal behavior are still very gendered, and my argument is this: couldn't she have killed her kid, or been indifferent to the murder of her kid, because she's a self-centered asshole? Again, I'm not saying that this is a fact, but it's a possibility that we don't seem to be entertaining. Like, ever.

It's also sad that she was news to begin with. But we're still baffled at the fact that mothers are people, and sometimes do crappy things (or might be partly responsible for crappy things happening).

Those are my thoughts on this. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Admittedly, this is also good, for a different reason

Look, I'm pro-human. And seriously, if you're a true American, you are too. This was also very well put together, albeit not as humongous or sexy, but definitely with just as much merit and written beauty. It is from a couple years ago, so those of you who have seen this, please forgive my straight and entitled ignorance...I'm still learning as I go. Enjoy from here or hyperlink this: http://www.alternet.org/sex/86347/

Why I Fought for the Right to Say 'I Do'
The right to marry will change how we feel about society and our place in it. And it will change -- officially -- how society feels about us.
May 26, 2008
As you all no doubt know unless you've been hiding under the blankets for the last week and a half, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the state Constitution. In a little less than a month, same-sex couples will be able to legally marry in California.

My partner and I are going to be one of those couples.

And I want to talk a little bit about why.

One of the questions that gets raised a lot when the subject of same-sex marriage comes up is, "Why is marriage so important? Why aren't civil unions or domestic partnerships good enough?"

The usual answers are practical ones. And I'll certainly second them. Marriage is recognized around the country and around the world, and all its practical and legal rights and responsibilities get carried with you everywhere you go in a way that is most emphatically not true for civil unions and domestic partnerships. Besides, it's a well-established principle that "separate but equal" is inherently not equal. The very act of saying, "No, you can't have this thing that everyone else can have, but you can have that other thing we created just for you that's almost exactly like it -- isn't that special?" It's the creation of second-class status, pretty much by definition.

But I want to talk about something else today. I don't want to talk about the legal and practical benefits of marriage. I don't want to talk about hospital visitation rights, child custody rights, inheritance rights, tax benefits, all that good stuff. That's all important, but it's also well-covered ground.

I want to talk about something more intangible. I want to talk about why we're getting married apart from all that.

Marriage is an unbelievably old human institution and human ritual. My parents did it. My grandparents did it. My great-grandparents did it, and theirs, and theirs. The word and the concept carry a weight, a gravitas, intense and complex social and emotional associations, from centuries and millennia of people participating in it. And as far as I know (admittedly my anthropology is a bit weak), it's existed in one form or another in almost every human society, in almost every period of human history. There may be exceptions, but I don't offhand know of any. Getting married means being a link in a chain, taking part in a ritual that's central to human history and society.

Yes, much of that history and many of those associations are awful. Sexist, propertarian, oppressive. But the evolution of the institution from its complicated and often terrible history into what it is today is part of what gives it its weight. The history of marriage, and its growth away from ownership and towards equal partnership, is the history of the human race's maturation. Participating in it means participating, not just in the history and the ritual, but in its growth and change.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships just don't have that.

Let's look at the recent Supreme Court ruling in California. Let's look at what it won't change for my partner and me and what it will.

On a day-to-day level, it probably won't change much. We're domestic partners, and California domestic partnership does afford most of the legal rights and responsibilities that marriage offers. Within the state, anyway. As long as we stay in the state, not much changes in any practical sense. And I doubt that much will change between her and me. We had a commitment ceremony two and a half years ago: a joyful, exuberant, larger- than-we'd expected celebration that we spent many months planning. That ceremony and celebration, and everything we went through to make it happen, did change our relationship, profoundly, and very much for the better. I doubt that our legal wedding in June will have anywhere near that same impact on how we feel about each other.

But it will almost certainly change how we feel about society, and our place in it. And it will change -- officially -- how society feels about us.

When we get married in June, the State of California will officially recognize that our relationship has the same weight as our parents' did, and their parents', and theirs. It will officially drop this "separate but equal" bullshit. It will officially stop seeing us as kids at the little table, poor relatives who should be content with leavings and scraps, second-class citizens. It will officially see us as actual, complete, honest-to-gosh citizens.

Now.

Look at the patchwork of laws around this country regarding same-sex marriage. Look at the states that have banned it, and the ones that have gone so far as to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Look at the fact that if my partner and I travel to Alabama or Michigan, Alaska or Pennsylvania, or any of over two dozen other states, our marriage will be seen as not having existed at all. Null. Void. Look at the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress and signed by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1996, stating that the Federal government will not recognize same-sex marriages, even if they're completely legal in the state where they were performed.

What does that tell you about how those states, and the country as a whole, sees us?

That's the weird paradox of the California ruling. It's thrilling. It's unbelievably great news. It's a huge historical step. But at the same time, it throws the true meaning of this legal patchwork into sharp focus. It makes it that much clearer that queers in this country are, in a very literal sense, second-class citizens. We pay taxes, we serve on juries, we have to obey the same laws that everyone else does, but in a very practical, codified- into-law sense, we just don't count for as much.

Legalizing same-sex marriage isn't just about the legal and practical recognition of our love and our partnership. It's about social recognition. It's about being seen as a full member of society. Kudos for the California Supreme Court for understanding that. Let's hope the rest of the country figures it out eventually.

Important note: As powerful and historic as this step is, it could be undone. In November, there will almost certainly be an initiative on the California ballot, asking voters to amend the state Constitution and ban same-sex marriage. If you think this issue and this movement are important, please consider supporting Equality California.

Damn, this is good

I already posted this as a link on Facebook, but honestly it deserves some re-blog play too. Absolutely beautiful execution here as a fellow blogger and writer on things important. And I don't think I could have gotten here. No way; I'm a straight, white male, and that's a big-time triple-threat. Please, take the time to read this and allow yourself to understand not only the nuance and craft of the writing itself, but the intent behind the effort. At least to me, it's astoundingly honest and wonderfully powerful, with some 'focused rage' (to borrow a quote from Time Wise, who I think borrowed it from a writer who is probably a person of color) to boot.

Here's the hyperlink to the original: http://www.mattildabernsteinsycamore.com/gayrights_lip.html


Sweatshop-Produced Rainbow Flags and Participatory Patriarchy: Why the Gay Rights Movement Is a Sham
Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore

The Assimilation Success Story
As legends go, San Francisco is the place for sexual debauchery, gender transgression and political deviance (not to mention sexual deviance, gender debauchery and political transgression). The reality is that while San Francisco still shelters outsider queer cultures unimaginable in most other cities, these cultures of resistance have been ravaged by AIDS, drug addiction and gentrification. Direct on-the-street violence by rampaging straights remains rare in comparison to other queer destination cities like New York, Chicago or New Orleans, but a newer threat has emerged. San Francisco, more than any other US city, is the place where a privileged gay (and lesbian) elite has actually succeeded at its goal of becoming part of the power structure. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), members of the gaysbian elite use their newfound influence to oppress less privileged queers in order to secure their status within the status quo. This pattern occurs nationwide, but San Francisco is the place where the violence of this assimilation is most palpable.

I first moved to San Francisco in 1992, just before my 19th birthday, and was completely terrified by the conformity, hyper-masculinity, and blind consumerism of the legendary gay Castro district. I quickly figured out that this could never be my "community," and always assumed that it wasn't anyone else's, either. Then one day, just recently, I was walking through the Castro with a friend of mine, whose social group includes a number of gay white men in their fifties, and everywhere guys were smiling at him and reaching out with great big hugs. I realized, then, that the Castro was somebody's community, and this was, for a moment, a revelation.

What is sad about the Castro (and similar gay neighborhoods across the country and around the world), and indicative of what gay people do with even a little bit of power, is that these same smiling gay men have failed to build community for queers (or anyone) outside their social groups. Many gay men (even in the Castro) still remain on the fringes, either by choice or lack of opportunity. But as the most "successful" gays (and their allies) have moved from outsider status to insider clout, they have consistently fought misogynist, racist, classist, ageist battles to ensure that their neighborhoods remain communities only for the rich, male and white (or at least those who assimilate into white middle-class norms). They've succeeded in clamping down on the anger, defiance, flamboyance, and subversion once thriving in queer subcultures, in order to promote a vapid, consume-or-die, only-whites-need-apply version of gay identity. Homo now stands more for homogenous than any type of sexuality aside from buy buy buy.

In 1992, there were still a few slightly interesting things about the Castro: a gay bookstore with current queer 'zines, and freaks and drag queens on staff; a used bookstore with a large selection of gay books; a cafe with live cabaret shows; a 24-hour donut shop with a rotating cast of tweakers; a tiny chocolate shop filled with delicate creations; a dyke bar; and a cruising park where faggots actually fucked. These meager (and mostly fag-specific) resources have disappeared, as rents have skyrocketed and corporate chains have replaced local businesses. A glittering Diesel clothing store now dominates Harvey Milk Plaza, the symbolic heart of the Castro, and the historic Castro Theater shows Eating Out, a movie about a straight guy pretending to be gay in order to get the girl with the gay friends (The tagline reads, "The fastest way to a girl's heart is through her best friend.").

Gay bar owners routinely call for the arrest of homeless people, many of them queer youth, for getting in the way of happy hour. Zephyr Realty, a gay-owned real estate company, advises its clients on how best to evict long-term tenants, many of them seniors, people with HIV/AIDS and disabled people. Gay political consultants mastermind the election of anti-poor, pro-development candidates over and over and over.

In 1998, wealthy gay Castro residents (don't forget lesbians and straight people!) fought against a queer youth shelter because they feared it would get in the way of "community property values." They warned that a queer youth shelter would bring prostitution and drug-dealing to the neighborhood. For a moment, let's leave aside the absurdity of a wealthy gay neighborhood, obviously already a prime destination for prostitutes of a certain gender and drug-dealing of only the best substances, worrying about the wrong kind of prostitutes (the ones in the street!), and the wrong kind of drug dealers (the ones who don't drive Mercedes!) arriving in their whitewashed gayborhood.

One sign of the power of San Francisco's gay elite is that any successful mayoral candidate must pander to the "gay vote," so it was no surprise when, in February 2003, Gavin Newsom, a straight, ruling class city council member representing San Francisco's wealthiest district, hosted a lavish, $120-a-plate fundraiser for the new $18 million LGBT Center. At that point, Newsom was most famous for a ballot measure called "Care Not Cash," which took away homeless people's welfare checks and replaced them with "care." Gay Shame, a radical queer activist group, gathered to protest Newsom's agenda of criminalizing homeless people in order to get ahead at the polls, as well as to call attention to the hypocrisy of the Center for welcoming Newsom's dirty money instead of taking a stand against his blatantly racist and classist politics. Whose Center was this, we asked? Was it a center for marginalized queers, queers of color, homeless queers, trans queers, queer youth, older queers, disabled queers, queer artists, queer activists, queer radicals... -- or a Center for straight politicians to hold dinner parties?.

Our questions were answered when police officers, called by the Center, began to bash us as soon as they escorted Newsom inside. One officer hit a Gay Shame demonstrator in the face with his baton, shattering one of her teeth and bloodying her entire face. Several of us were thrown face-first into oncoming traffic; one protester was put into a chokehold until he passed out. As four of us were dragged off in handcuffs for protesting outside "our" Center, Center staff stood -- and watched -- and did nothing to intervene. Neither Newsom nor the Center has ever made a statement condemning the police violence of February 2003. In fact, one year later, newly-elected Mayor Gavin Newsom rewarded the powerful gays who stood on the Center balcony and watched queers get bashed. Newsom grabbed national headlines and solidified his San Francisco support base by "legalizing" gay marriage, and throngs of gay people from across the country descended upon City Hall at all hours of the day and night, camping out, sharing snacks and wine, and toasting Gavin Newsom as the vanguard leader of gay civil rights.

I Think We're Alone Now... Citizenship, Gay Marriage and the Christian Right
In the fall of 2004, Marriage Equality, a brand new brand of "nonprofit," held two amazing benefits in New York City and Washington, DC. Called "Wedrock," these star-studded events featured numerous celebrities, major-label activist rockers from Moby to Sleater-Kinney, Bob Mould to Le Tigre. Just to get people all excited about marriage equality, the promotional email for the events concluded by stating, "Get angry, protect your citizenship."

If gay marriage is about protecting citizenship, whose citizenship is being protected? Most people in this country -- especially those not born rich, white, straight and male -- are not full citizens. The not-so-subtle demand to "protect your citizenship" evokes images of George W. Bush's screeds against "enemies of freedom." Gay assimilationists want to make sure they're on the winning side in the citizenship wars, and see no need to confront the legacies of systemic and systematic US oppression that prevent most people living in this country (and everywhere else) from exercising their supposed "rights." This willful participation in US imperialism is part of the larger goal of assimilation, as the holy trinity of marriage, military service and adoption has become the central preoccupation of a gay movement centered more on obtaining straight privilege than challenging power.

Gay assimilationists have created the ultimate genetically modified organism, combining virulent strains of nationalism, patriotism, consumerism, and patriarchy and delivering them in one deadly product: state-sanctioned matrimony. Gay marriage proponents are anxious to discard those tacky hues of lavender and pink, in favor of the good ol' stars and stripes, literally draping themselves in Old Glory at every pro-marriage demonstration as the US occupies Iraq, overthrows the only democratically-elected government in the history of Haiti, funds the Israeli war on the Palestinians, and makes the whole world safe... for multinational corporations to plunder indigenous resources.

A gay elite has hijacked queer struggle, and positioned their desires as everyone's needs -- the dominant signs of straight conformity have become the ultimate signs of gay success. Sure, for white gays with beach condos, country club memberships, and nice stock portfolios with a couple hedge funds that need trimming every now and then (think of Rosie O'Donnell or David Geffen), marriage might just be the last thing standing in the way of full citizenship, but what about for everyone else?
Even when the "gay rights" agenda does include real issues, it does it in a way that consistently prioritizes the most privileged while fucking over everyone else. I'm using the term "gay rights," instead of the more popular term of the moment, "LGBT rights," because "LGBT" usually means gay, with lesbian in parentheses, throw out the bisexuals, and put trans on for a little window-dressing. A gay rights agenda fights for an end to discrimination in housing and employment, but not for the provision of housing or jobs; domestic partner health coverage but not universal health coverage. Or, more recently, hospital visitation and inheritance rights for married couples, but not for anyone else. Even with the most obviously "gay" issue, that of anti-queer violence, a gay rights agenda fights for tougher hate crimes legislation, instead of fighting the racism, classism, transphobia (and homophobia) intrinsic to the criminal "justice" system. Kill those criminals twice, this logic goes, and then there won't be any more violence.

The violence of assimilation lies in the ways the borders are policed. For decades, there has been a tension within queer politics and cultures, between assimilationists and liberationists, conservatives and radicals. Never before, however, has the assimilationist/conservative side held such a stranglehold over popular representations of what it means to be queer. Gay marriage proponents are anxious to discard generations of queer efforts to create new ways of loving, lusting for, and caring for one another, in favor of a 1950s model of white-picket-fence, "we're-just-like-you" normalcy.

The ultimate irony of gay liberation is that it has made it possible for straight people to create more fluid gender, sexual and social identities, while mainstream gay people salivate over state-sanctioned Tiffany wedding bands and participatory patriarchy. Many straight people know that marriage is outdated, tacky and oppressive -- and any queer who grew up in or around marriage should remember this well. Marriage still exists as a central site of anti-woman, anti-child and anti-queer violence, and a key institution through which the wealth and property of upper class (white) families is preserved. If gay marriage proponents wanted real progress, they'd be fighting for the abolition of marriage (duh), and universal access to the services that marriage can sometimes help procure: housing, healthcare, citizenship, tax breaks, and inheritance rights.

Instead, gay marriage proponents claim that access to marriage will "solve" fundamental problems of inequality. This is not surprising, given that the gay marriage movement is run by groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the Log Cabin Republicans, who have more in common with the National Rifle Association than any sort of left agenda, queer or otherwise. These are the same gays who routinely instigate police violence against people of color, homeless people, transgender people, sex workers and other marginalized queers, in their never-ending quest to "clean up" the neighborhoods they've gentrified. Their agenda is cultural erasure, and they want the full Monty.

For a long time, queers have married straight friends for citizenship or healthcare -- but this has never been enshrined as "progress." The majority of queers -- single or coupled (but not desiring marriage), monogamous or polyamorous, jobless or marginally employed -- would remain excluded from the much-touted benefits of legalized gay marriage. Furthermore, in order to access any marriage benefits, those not entirely "male" or "female" would need to accept gender tyranny. As gay marriage continues to dominate the mainstream gay agenda, resources are directed away from HIV prevention, AIDS services, drug treatment, domestic violence services, and other programs desperately needed by less privileged queers -- millions of dollars are being poured into the marriage coffin. The fight between pro-marriage and anti-marriage queers is not a disagreement between two segments of a "community," but a fight over the fundamental goals of queer struggle.

Gay marriage proponents are anxious to further the media myth that there are only two sides to the gay marriage/assimilation debate: foaming-at-the mouth Christian fundamentalists who think gay marriage marks the death of Western civilization, and rabid gay assimilationists who act as if gay marriage is the best thing since Queer Eye for the Straight Girl. It is no coincidence that queers who oppose gay marriage are shut out of the picture, since it's much easier for a gay marriage proponent to win an argument with a crazed homophobe than with an anti-marriage queer. And every time some well-meaning straight leftist thinks they're being open-minded by taking the gay marriage side, they need to go back to Feminism 101.

Of course, Christian fundamentalists make no distinction between diesel dykes and Diesel jeans, or, to be more direct -- they think all queers are gonna burn in hell, Tiffany or no Tiffany. (as in, "I think we're alone now...). Every time gay marriage proponents patiently explain to Fundamentalists, "One, two -- we're just like you -- three, four -- we bash queers more!" the Christian Right gains authority. But this false polarization serves gay assimilationists as well, by silencing queers who threaten the power that lies behind their sweatshop-produced nylon rainbow flags.

When gay assimilationists cheerfully affirm, over and over again, to lunatics who want them dead, that of course gay identity is not a choice, because who would choose it, they unwittingly expose the tyranny of simplistic identity politics. Not only have the dominant signs of straight conformity become the central goals of the gay assimilationist movement, but assimilationists see a threat to Christian fundamentalist security as a threat to "progress." Forget about choosing our gender, sexual or social identities, forget about building community or family outside of traditional norms, forget about dismantling dominant systems of oppression -- let's just convince the Christian right to accept us on their own terms.

Movement Rights, Civil Community
On January 13, 2005, 22 national LGBT rights organizations (including all the above, and more!) issued a joint statement with the leaden title, "Civil Rights. Community. Movement." Unsurprisingly, this document is filled with empty rhetoric such as, "We, literally, are everywhere," and "Stand up. Spread the word. Share your story." It even quotes gay rights pioneer President George W. Bush from an interview in People, where he agrees, in spite of his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, that a couple joined by a civil union is as much of a family as he and Barbara.
"Civil Rights. Community. Movement." opens by defining "civil rights" as "The rights belonging to an individual by virtue of citizenship [italics added]." Here we can already glimpse the exclusionary agenda of the gay rights movement. Instead of calling for universal access to benefits generally procured through citizenship (such as the right to remain in this country), this document seeks to secure a gay place at the red-white-and-blue table of normalcy, on the fashionable side of the barbed wire.

This opening paragraph also attributes the successes of civil rights movements to "the complex interweaving of legal victories, political progress and advances in public opinion." Even a mainstream liberal would agree that many "civil rights" victories came about in large part through mass protests and extensive civil (and uncivil) disobedience campaigns. But the LGBT movement prefers empty terms like "political progress" and "advances in public opinion" to any recognition of direct action struggles. You don't want to frighten the funders!

The document continues by talking about challenging the family values rhetoric of "a small but powerful group of anti-gay extremists" by "[opening] America's eyes to the true family values that LGBT couples, parents and families are living and demonstrating every day." This is where "LGBT rights" becomes most sinister. In allegedly attempting to challenge the "radical right" (they're not Christians anymore, but worse -- radicals!) this document still insists on defining "family values" along heteronormative lines, rolling back decades of queer struggle to create chosen families that do more than just mimic the twisted ones assigned to us at birth.

When the report notes that "Binational LGBT couples and families can be cruelly torn apart by deportation and immigration laws that treat them as legal strangers," we are led to believe that marriage is the only solution to this citizenship dilemma. No mention is made of non-coupled queers who are deported while seeking asylum, of systemic racial profiling in citizenship decisions, or of routine murders of undocumented immigrants on US borders. Instead, the document states, "We must fight for family laws that give our children strong legal ties to their parents." One must infer that this pertains to the cases of lesbian (and gay) parents who lose custody of their children due to homophobic courts, though this is, astoundingly, not mentioned. While a shortsighted focus on parental control should be no surprise when coming from a "movement" centered around marriage, it is particularly striking given the extremely high rates of suicide, drug addiction and homelessness among queer youth, especially those escaping scary families of origin. What about family laws that allow children to get away from abusive parents? What about providing support systems for queer youth, who have extremely high rates of suicide, drug addiction, and homelessness?

The organizations behind this document prefer to talk about the "true family values" of straight-acting gays than to resist the tyranny of assimilationist norms. Apparently, "true family values" call for more inclusive hate crimes legislation, but no challenge to the prison industrial complex. "True family values" call for overturning the military's "anti-LGBT" ban instead of confronting US imperialism. "True family values" require all of us to "invest" in the movement, "invest in our future." That's right -- send in your check NOW, before you get priced out.
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I couldn't create this myself. It's much too genuine for me to have been able to come up with. (Because, as mentioned before, I'm straight, caucasian and male, and I have more privilege than I know what to do with.) But hell, I'll make sure it gets as much play as I can, because if we don't start trying to think differently, we never will. And it's important to our survival as a people to start thinking differently. 'nuf said.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The 'adulting' movement

Something I've been thinking about for awhile now is the idea that as we grow older, we mature and become 'adults'. I'm not certain what this means, as many folks would explain being an 'adult' as sustaining a family, living in one place, having one job, and growing older. Some folks would say that being an 'adult' is more about attitude; this in and of itself is not necessarily wrong, just obscure and unspecific. Others might say that being an 'adult' is about handling the relationships you have in a 'mature manner'. However, most people who say this aren't mature or adulty, at least as far as I can tell. Then we come the idea that being an 'adult' is a very obscure thing. It is quite an eye-of-the-beholder type of concept, but we can say a number of things about what being an 'adult' means for certain, and this is what I will talk about today.

I know, that being an adult means that I am not supposed to be silly. What I mean by silly is...well, I'll give you an example. My friend Will and I seem to find ourselves 'sillying-out' on occasion, or going so silly we actually become the definition of the term. Instead of going from one specific topic of 'adult' conversation to another with high levels of regularity and subtle seriousness, we sometimes will be speaking of very important topics such as wealth and race and gendered sexuality, and will suddenly start discussing how to best apply sunscreen to a walrus. It isn't that walruses have an ever-pressing need for sunscreen, but if one were to investigate the best way of applying sunscreen to a walrus, I am certain the data would be useful for any number of social science projects, and possibly the military.

I believe silliness to be a necessary skill for coping with life, but I know some folks would disagree. Mostly, when we talk about being an adult, we talk about having a sense of humor balanced with the concept of maturity, but again the definition of such is obscure to the point of ridiculous. Do we really believe that a sense of humor is only about being able to entertain someone else in a way they find enjoyable? Why is a sense of humor not a reciprocal engagement of figuring out how two people's definitions of fun and funny can mesh or coincide? This is the primary question I find myself asking. Why is you thinking I have a good sense of humor predicated on my being able to ENTERTAIN YOU? That seems a little fishy, definitely self-centered, and not at all fun for anyone but you. I also will give, that most folks don't think about this issue this deeply, although if you've only been reading for a couple minutes and are already thinking I've gone off the deep end, you need Jesus.

So here's the dilemma: do we really believe that in order to be considered an enjoyable 'adult' we must be able to entertain people, assuming we really enjoy that ourselves? And in conjunction with this, are we to also believe that sustaining a cartoony definition of the American Dream is the only way to be seen, or perceived, as a responsible 'adult'? If one were to choose to never 'settle down' and start what we collectively believe to be a 'normal adult life' most folks at least in the United States would try to find a way to say they were fucked up. If they happen to like said person, they would try to find words and concepts to explain away the person's seeming lack of maturity. Now, sometimes we glorify this lack of maturity, in the cases of high-level male executives who just never find the right person; they were busy building their career and 'sowing their wild oats' whatever the fuck that means. But when the high-level executive is female, this romantic idea disappears and we wonder, "Why wouldn't she want to have a family and kids? Is she lesbian? Is she too fucked up emotionally?" Beautiful double-standard to say the least. Misogyny to be precise. But that idea of what it means to be an 'adult' is fixed within a temporally fluid conceptual maze of everyday assumptions about what our lives are 'supposed' to look like, and gender is a highly flammable concept to address head on, especially when people think they know what's best for everyone else.

In any case, I'll give a simpler example. I know a number of young adults who work jobs, go to school, and sustain relationships and friendships that mean a lot to everyone involved. Why wouldn't these people be considered adults? Because they like to laugh out loud in public? Whenever we see folks laughing in public, everyone seems to get all insecure and weirded out. "What are they laughing about? Is it me? Is it that other dude with bad hair?" Instead of catching the fun bug, we get all paranoid about people HAVING FUN TOGETHER. My friends and I constantly bring absurdity into our conversations. It's funny. It makes us feel good. We deal with a lot of emotional weight by getting absurd about ourselves, each other, and everything else. See his post about the historical genealogies of dinosaurs if you'd like a more concrete example...we have conversations like that all the time.

I firmly believe that as we get 'adulted' we start to lose touch with the absurdities of our world. We start to think that the absurdities aren't absurd and funny; that they are normal, natural, and unavoidable. We think that if we aren't serious enough, we won't find success, happiness, or immortality. I would argue that success is again a fluid, and contentious and ultimately unnecessary concept wholly absorbed within the capitalistic ideologies of the 'First World'. Happiness too is a place littered with assumptions about what we are taught 'should' make us happy. And immortality is nothing other than those who outlive us remembering us for how we treated them, ourselves, and our communities. If we don't take time to talk about the subtle differences between gray and green aliens, or how we have trained ourselves to answer the call of the commercial, we'll lose our minds. Collectively, and eternally. And is that what being an 'adult' is really about?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Mascot War

A very interesting exchange between Simon Montoya-Smith at I Am Not a Mascot, and Brad Schaeffer from biggovernment.com from back in December. First, Montoya-Smith's original post here, a response to that post and then a final chapter here. I posted my response below, but anyone else care to chime in?

I think Schaeffer is ignoring a number of remarkably important points, and easily so; most of us white folk don't have to deal with the true nature of inequality embedded in our social world. We do not have to constantly be on guard in order to avoid feeling "overly sensitive" because every day is white people day. Every day, we do not have to be concerned with whether someone will make an off-handed racist comment, and think that we can't feel pissed about it because then we're just too sensitive, or too politically correct.

And here's something that really bothers me: us white folks have never had to protect ourselves physically from racially motivated denigration of our singular 'selves' and our collective 'selves'. I'm not saying racism doesn't come in all forms, but institutional racism is not punishing white folks for being born. We've had to deal with almost no racially motivated social sanitation of who we are, or had to be legitimately concerned about becoming one of millions wiped off the planet through a holocaust, which is what happened when the white folks with a severe superiority complex and a capitalistic bloodlust arrived here.

So, while it is fair to say that Mr. Schaeffer did make a somewhat strong case for Mr. Moya-Smith's contradictory argumentation, the reality stands on its own. People fighting against the change of a mascot, doesn't stand up to scrutiny in light of the true nature of our nation-state's history. So, my advice: get over it, and rename them the murderers, with a suit carrying a briefcase in one hand and a coffin in the other. Then we can see how many wall-streeters come crying foul.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are whites racially oppressed...fuckin really?

This was actually on CNN.com. I hate this saying, but I'll use it here: fuck my life. Check it out: Are whites racially oppressed?

So, my answer is this:

Change is slow. And social change is slower than we like to think. 
If we are living in a racially equal time, it won't make any difference what our half African-American President says about race...but it makes people angry. 

If we are living in a racially equal time, white folks won't feel uneasy about talking about race, ever, and our first instinct as white folks won't be to blame people of color for the inequalities we have created generation after generation.
 

If we are living in a time of racial equity, white folks won't feel a need to try to 'take OUR COUNTRY back' because things are actually becoming MORE equitable, even though that equity is visualized through job loss, job insecurity and obvious shortfalls in public assistance programs now finally affecting white folks at almost similar rates as they have affected whole communities of color for decades.
 

No one heard cries of outrage against predatory lending in the 90's when it was only being used within communities of color. Washington defended bailing out fortune 500's, mostly manned by white folks, after THEY TANKED THE ECONOMY.
 

No one heard cries of outrage about the absolutely disgusting shows of 'patriotism' at the rallies to 'protect gun rights' in DC where white protesters spit on, screamed at and threatened both congressmen, congresswomen, senators and the President, as long as we saw white faces.
 

Now we have a racial panic when things are actually equal on the negative??!! Get the whole way the fuck outta here with that bullshit. It's still white people day every day. Black people will still get pulled over more times for driving while black than white folks for actually breaking traffic laws, even in February.
 

We've never needed a 'racial identity' until recently, and I still think it's bullshit anyway. So forget it, and go with cultural heritage instead. And quit the 'white supremacy is dying' whining. Enough already: grow up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Health care, a patient's perspective II

I wanted to write a little bit about how insane Ann Coulter is, but I think I'll leave it to all the others who are doing a great job: Glynnis MacNicol from Business Insider and Frances Martel from Mediaite featured on Talking Points Memo. Onward, to my next official blog post which hasn't happened since...crap, since I posted my last quickie for a class last semester.

This edition of Health care from a patient's perspective is going to focus on what happened when I tried to get insulin here in Hawaii. I gotta tell ya, my Weird Shitometer went batshit crazy. Here's the deal:

Last semester I didn't have health insurance...in fact, I didn't have health insurance from July 2010 until last week. I do feel lucky, in that calling up the health insurance folks who enroll us Instructors in the plans did move things along extremely fast, so thank you HMSA/EUTF employee I spoke with last week. Back to reality: I was running rully, rully low on 'slin. For those of you who know what I'm talkin bout, that ain't good. I saw my doc on campus, which cost me $20...doesn't seem like much, but hey, I was broke-ish. My bottle of Humalog was gonna cost me almost $150, and I'm grateful to my girlfriend who covered it for me at the time. Really grateful; I think I still owe her a couple foot massages.

After seeing the doc, I got my script, and headed to Walgreens here in Honolulu. As I was trying to pick up the insulin the first time, I started getting weird questions.
Pharmacy tech: "This doesn't say how much you're supposed to take per day."
My reply: "yes it does; it says I have an Insulin pump for a basal, and to take boluses by sliding scale with meals as needed...it changes based on how many carbs I'm eating, my exercise/activity, other factors..."
Pharma: "no, that won't work. We need to have specific directions otherwise we can't give you this lifesaving health product that you won't survive without. Sorry. Better luck tomorrow when the doctor's office opens and we can confirm."
Me: "uhh...ok? What's the deal, yo? I've never heard of this kind of weirdness before."
Pharma: "It's Hawaii law, so we can't get sued if you overdose."
Me: "Really? Is this state this weird? I've had diabetes for two decades, I'm in great shape and I'm really healthy. I think I'm capable."
Pharm: "Sorry, can't do it. We have to know that you know what you're doing."
Me: "20 years as a diabetic. Seriously. If I fuck up my own diabetes care, what am I suing you for? Irresponsible pharmaceutical activities? Slangin the wrong 'slin to a shady character such as myself?"
Pharm: "We'll call their office tomorrow, and we'll see you after."
Me: "Right on. I know this isn't your fault, but I'd love to know what the background is..."

So that's my Hawaii diabetes weirdness that sent my Weird Shitometer off the scales. Anyone else seen something funky like this?