Friday, January 18, 2013

Monday, March 9, 2009

Privelege and Activism

Last Friday, I attended a Commission on the Status of Women parallel NGO event put on by ILGA and RSFL called, ‘The rights of invisible women - the human rights of lesbian and bisexual women.’ While it was about sexism within the LGBTI movement internationally and the intersectionalities of homophobia and sexism for lesbians, bisexual women, gender-non-conforming women, and transgender women in society generally, the discussion tended to focus more often than not on violence against these women. The amazing speakers discussed a variety of things, including many specific cases and dynamics of this violence and the gender dynamics within one particular LGBTI group.

The room that this event was held in was pretty small, and there were maybe 40 people there total. CSW parallel events have a pretty wide range in size and I’ve been to ones with maybe 15 people and ones with 100, but I went to another LGBT focused one last year on the Yogyakarta Principles and you couldn’t even fit all the people into the room—there wasn’t even standing room. Even at a women-oriented event like the Commission on the Status of Women, queer events about women specifically are apparently less popular. Who would’ve thunk?

Anyhow, during the question-and-answer period, one woman, an Anglican priest, stood up with a sheet of paper with an IGLHRC press release printed on it. It was about a 3 day conference happening in Uganda featuring a number of American anti-gay speakers. It is run by a Ugandan organization whose mission is, the "restoration of Ugandan family values and morals." It opposes access to safe, legal abortions. It also opposes the use of condoms and promotes abstinence-only programming as its approach to HIV prevention. It makes the sensationalized claim that homosexuality is "spreading like wildfire in schools." The event organizers have invited parents, teachers, government workers, politicians, counselors and faith leaders. It is important to note that in Uganda, senior government officials have called for the arrest and deportation of homosexuals, causing extensive persecution and violence against LGBT people. She asked the speakers what she, and other religious leaders, could do to counter these kinds of efforts.

One of the speakers looked deeply uncomfortable and spoke a little about the situation, for those who had not heard, and then said something to the effect of,

“And even now, people representing these anti-gay organizations are in this room with us, taking notes on what we’re saying.”

She then told that woman and anyone else interested to speak with her privately after the discussion.

This moment really shook me up, even though I’m well aware that there is extensive spying between pro- and anti-LGBT and reproductive rights groups, because all of a sudden I had to ask myself, ‘is this nice young girl sitting next to me someone who hates people like me?’ because I didn’t know who she was. Everyone had gone around the room when we started and said who we are and what organization we were from, but being a relative newbie, I only knew some of them and only knew some of the people. I also had to worry that people thought the spy was me because I was taking notes and when I introduced myself I just said I was a ‘student’ because I’m not officially with any group except the one I’m interning at, and I wasn’t there on their behalf.

Anyhow, it was deeply unsettling to think that I was less than four meters away from someone who was part of these groups that were specifically supporting the state-sponsored injury and death of gay people in Uganda, and all over the world. It made me feel less safe than I have in a long time, and at the same time deeply privileged that this was one of the scarier experiences I’ve faced as a politically active bisexual woman.

I don't mean scary in the physical sense--I didn't fear for my life or safety, exactly. But when I enter a room, especially a small room, full of out queer people and staunch allies I feel an intensely strong sense of safety and comradeship, and that bubble of comfort was abruptly pierced by this realization. I am now hyper-aware how how much of that bubble was the product of a whole mess of my privileges, which isn't to say it was a bad thing, but perhaps it was distorting of my view of the world.

Only two days previous I had been at a different parallel event about women in power and politics in central Asia and one of the other attendees, sitting next to me, was this girl/young woman roughly my age. The last speaker on this truly amazing panel was a middle-aged woman from Pakistan, who had a really depressing and upsetting account of the state and future possibilities of women in political life in Pakistan. She made a comment about having, personally, to balance fear of attack with continuing her political and feminist work. The girl next to me chimed in that she was also from Pakistan and that she was constantly having to weigh her desire to do this work with her desire to survive. It was profoundly humbling.

I am so damn lucky in the relatively mild homophobia, biphobia, and sexism I have faced in my life, and that I have the freedom and leisure to attend and participate in events like this one and do this kind of work.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ur Doin it Rong

I am... annoyed, to say the least.

I just got an e-mail from my school OutLaw group advertising an Anti-Prop 8 protest in New York. I saw the subject line and was like "OOO Fun!" You see, I LOVE the idea of LGB and allied folks getting together for a political parade, unlike the celebratory Pride events of the summer, and showing how deadly serious we are about our rights.


I read further and I realized that the protest was occurring at a Mormon Temple and just... no. No.

Look, I understand and am equally dismayed that the Mormon church was financially behind a lot of support for Yes on 8, individuals and leadership alike. I do. It sucks.


1) Protesting someone's place of worship is just tacky.

2) Protesting that church in New York is far too removed from the situation to be helpful.

3) The entire thing defeats the damn purpose of changing people's minds. No, really. The only positive thing that can come out of protesting SPECIFICALLY Mormons is drawing attention to the fact of the financial support for Yes on 8, something that I don't think is particularly unknown or disputed AND something that likely won't change if attention is drawn to it. If anything, it will get stronger.

4) Look. A LOT of people voted for and financially contributed to Yes on Prop 8. Not just Mormons. Not just Black people. White people. Catholics. Straight people. Probably the odd self-hating LGB person. Tons of diverse people voted for it and tons of people donated to it. You can't just blame a tiny subsection.

5) I understand the philosophy that you shouldn't have to persuade people to treat you equally but the fact is, we do. Protesting the very people whose minds we want to change, rather than, say, the system that allows people from out of state (such as myself) to donate to a state measure campaign is counterproductive.

If this protest were to change, and take its focus away from someone else's religion, I'm there. I'm so there. But as it is, right now? I can't.

(ETA: I don't mean to say we should respect a religion's claims that it is their right to hate gay people or whatnot. Just that I don't think it is productive to protest something that people say is their religious belief. I mean, how likely are you to change your mind about something you believe if people come up to you with signs and anger? And that's what we want to do, right? Change people's minds? Am I wrong about this?)

Good luck to everyone there, I guess.

ETA: I was fretting so much about this that I e-mailed the guy who fwded the announcement explaining my concerns and asking him to let me know if he heard about any non-mormon-focused protests, and he wrote me back and we debated the issue a bit. He has similar concerns but is more optimistic about the protest being specific to the institution rather than the temple itself or Mormons in general. I responded that theoretically such a protest could be possible, but that the folks organizing this protest were calling for mainstream media coverage and that I was pretty sure the narrative presented to the public would be "Gays protest Mormons," which would be counterproductive and hard to control. He agreed, and told me that he was friends with the person organizing it and had e-mailed him about these concerns. I feel slightly better now, even if it probably won't change anything.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Existential Thoughts About Israel And The Debate Of Doom

Questions that are left swirling around my drunken mind post-debate:

1. Should I feel this ashamed about not knowing the difference between 'tactic' and 'strategy'?
2. If the CBS poll is correct (that undecided voters who watched the debate favored Obama), how much did McCain's incredible stunt of douchebaggery pre-debate play into it?
3. Why did the man-bracelet incite Obama's most aggressive response of the night?
4. Um, why so possessive of Kissinger? And Reagan, Obama, really?
5. Why would Obama bring up the fact that his father is foreign-born hot off the tail of McCain's "I AM America, and I loves the veterans" shpiel? Why? Why??
6. Did it seem to digress into an "I love America, you hates it," "No I love America, you hates it!" "ZOMG it was the terrorists that collapsed our economy! Destroy them!" fest?
7. Does anyone else feel like McCain is going to self-impose the nickname, "The Punisher," sometime before the end of the debates?
8. Why was McCain so afraid of this supposed table Obama was going to be sitting at with dictators, even after Obama made it clear that none of these crazy men would be given access to hot tea during negotiations?
9. What would Sartre think of Israel's existential crises?
10. How on earth did McCain win the first "HI HILLARY SUPPORTERS!" mention of the night?
11. How did Obama manage to align himself more with Bush than McCain until about 30 minutes into the debate???
12. Why can Obama's blurb that was supposed to be about America losing competitiveness in the world be better summarized by: "The Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jonathan Safran Foer illuminated by Slate

The amazing Jonathan Safran Foer is interviewed by
To Paraphrase:
"I'm not an intellectual. No, seriously."
"My writing is like sex. No, seriously."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I have a bad feeling about this...

Wired's Star Wars timeline—added to and maintained entirely by its readers. I was extremely disappointed to see that someone else had already plotted the Star Wars Christmas Special.