Organizing Intersectional Actions

Recently, I’ve been doing some trans/queer organizing that I’ve felt didn’t fit with all of my values. This is something that happens often in organizing, where our ideas for social change don’t yield the benefits we expect from them.

In order to keep myself accountable to the values important to me (most prominently, intersectionality and abolition), I created an organizing worksheet titled “Proposed Action Worksheet.”

I will update this document as needed, but it can be found here, and the link is available on the Resources page. If you have any feedback, let me know!

Tattoos and Painted Nails: Taking Back My Body

*Trigger Warning: self-harm, depression, anxiety*

I sat down on the carpet and pulled the coffee table up close. Picking my supplies up off the floor next to me, I placed them on top of the paper towels; it wasn’t until later that I discovered I needed another layer, or maybe just different paper towels. I stared at the bottles of nail polish with a sense of anxious excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Of course no one noticed my awkwardly painted nails, or maybe they did and just didn’t care. But to me, they meant so much more than I could explain at the time. They were small symbols of a rebellious femininity I refused to acknowledge for decades.

The good thing about nail polish is its impermanence, the way it fades as it meets the realities of day-to-day living. It feels more suited to my hands after it’s started to chip – more raw and honest. However, when I started this transition – from adolescent to adult, from living a lie to unapologetic authenticity, from intensely hating my body to passionately loving myself – I chose a much more permanent symbol.

I never wanted tattoos as a kid. I remember asking my dad why he had one on his shoulder if the church didn’t allow them, and his explanations always involved the word “mistake.” The shame in his voice was palpable, a reminder of the divine laws and eternal consequences for how we use our bodies.

Despite the teachings of my childhood, I no longer felt the same way about my body. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say that I finally felt in control of my body after I came out. I finally started to love my body and myself, and that made all the difference. After more than seven years of self-harm, I resolved to treat my body the opposite way I was taught to treat it.

In other words, I was not going to force harm upon it anymore, especially not through self-injury.

It was an important moment for me. It was two and a half months later than my one year mark, but at least I followed through (something that seldom happened for 19 year-old me). I felt like the June bugs from my childhood, leaving behind a shell that I had finally outgrown. But it was more than that; it was a triumph I never thought I would achieve during the first six-months of my year long battle. I was celebrating overcoming an intense bout of depression, anxiety, and seven years of self-harm.

Continue reading “Tattoos and Painted Nails: Taking Back My Body”

Activists: Say NO to a Third Gender Marker

I was shocked when I heard that non-binary gender was legal here in Oregon. The overwhelming hatred against our community by the government, the “criminal” “justice” system, and individual and communal violence in the past few years has damaged my ability to hope for meaningful change. In fact, shortly after hearing this news, the shooting in Orlando happened. It seems that no matter what policy changes we gain, the violence persists.

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t too hopeful after I processed the news that Jamie Shupe was the first legally genderless person in the United States. As a non-binary activist, my mind went straight to what this would look like in terms of policy – and I started to worry.

How will the government apply this ruling? What will the requirements be to change sex/gender on legal documents? Will we be able to remove gender markers from our documents, or will they add a third option? How will this process include refugee new arrivals and asylum seekers? How will it include our indigenous and undocumented siblings? Who will this ruling be accessible to?

Most importantly, whose voices will be at the forefront? Over the past few decades, the “LGBT Movement” has largely been a legal and policy reform battle funded by those with the money to effect change. Our revolutionary history has faded, and our community has become increasingly divided by privilege and power. Continue reading “Activists: Say NO to a Third Gender Marker”

Dear Cis People: Stop The Fragile Mindset

Unfortunately, the problem with fragility isn’t isolated to race. When it comes down to it, fragility is a privilege problem. It is one reaction you have in response to being called out for your privilege, and it’s a form of violence. It minimizes your responsibility to be educated about your privilege, and it continues our oppression to your benefit.

I’m a genderqueer writer and activist, and I often discuss issues that affect the LGBTQIA+ community. While I love the work I do, I am not required to educate you. Yes, I love to educate people about these issues. Yes, I’m going to continue to do it. However, that does not mean that you should expect me, or any other trans person, to educate you about our issues, especially when we don’t have a close relationship.

Here are some reasons you should stop it with the cis fragility:

I Get It. You Don’t “Hate” Me.

It seems that people think if they inject “I love you,” “I respect you,” “I care about you,” or “I’ll always support you, even if I don’t agree with you,” then they’re off the hook. Newsflash: It doesn’t make what you said any less transphobic and hateful. Really, all you did was show me that you have a very narrow and conditional definition of love and respect.

That’s something you should take some time to examine, away from the people it harms. Continue reading “Dear Cis People: Stop The Fragile Mindset”

“Faggot” and “That’s So Gay”: The Issue of Intent and Impact

People used to always assure me that they didn’t mean to insult queer people. After all, they were raised using “faggot” and “that’s so gay” in a way that was detached from the idea of queer people altogether. They were just harmless words, and didn’t indicate their feelings toward gay people.

This is an argument I used to accept. I used to think to myself: “Well, I guess now that I know they don’t mean anything hurtful by it, it would be silly for me to be offended.” Wrong.

There are two major problems with non-queer people using words and phrases like “faggot” and “that’s so gay.” First, they aren’t their words to use, even when queer people they know use them. Second, the intent really doesn’t matter when the impact is overwhelmingly negative. To learn more about how these words are meant to shame femininity and why that’s a problem, check out my article here. Continue reading ““Faggot” and “That’s So Gay”: The Issue of Intent and Impact”

I Was Homophobic, Transphobic, and Misogynistic: My Journey to Acceptance

Faggot, pussy, and sissy are all words I’m too familiar with. They have been present in my life for as long as I can remember, and not only because people have applied them to me. Unfortunately, I used these slurs throughout the majority of my life.

I was raised, like many other people, in a cisheteronormative household. Boys were supposed to be tough so they could grow up into men, and girls were supposed to be polite so they could grow up into women; when they grew up, they were supposed to marry each other.

When I broke from the many gender stereotypes that were applied to me – an occurrence that happened more often than not – those slurs were the consequence. I wish I could say that I used them only in an effort to fit in, but that wouldn’t be entirely truthful. I had internalized the cisheteronormative standards I was raised with, and those slurs became a part of my vocabulary.

My ignorance has never been bliss. Throughout my journey to discover that I am genderqueer, trans feminine, and queer, I often felt as if I was doing more damage – to myself and those around me – than I was growth. Looking back, the person that I used to be is not someone I would feel comfortable around today. My behavior was hateful, my words were violent, and my thought process was oppressive. Continue reading “I Was Homophobic, Transphobic, and Misogynistic: My Journey to Acceptance”

Stop Reinforcing Our Oppression: On Dismissing as a Pervasive Tool

photo credit: Second Place Is The First Loser via photopin (license)

Micro-agressions are being discussed a lot more these days. With the work of prominent national movements like #BlackLivesMatter, media outlets like Everyday Feminism, and many local anti-violence organizations, we are beginning to challenge oppression at every level.

One set of micro-aggressions that I encounter frequently is what I call dismissive micro-aggressions. This set of behaviors is rooted in the idea of respectability politics – a belief that we must act and react the way the oppressive class deems appropriate in order to be taken seriously. It doesn’t happen only from people with privilege though. People who have internalized their oppression perpetuate these ideas and participate in this behavior as well. It is one of the ways in which they adhere to respectability politics in an effort to be accepted by a society which ultimately benefits from their oppression.

Dismissive micro-aggressions include, but are not limited to, the following: Continue reading “Stop Reinforcing Our Oppression: On Dismissing as a Pervasive Tool”