Monday, February 13, 2012

Blogger on Hiatus

I'm preparing to take a new job in six weeks, so my blogging has ceased for now, and, depending on how the new job goes, possibly for quite a while. As a conciliatory gesture, I'd like to share with you a post by a friend of mine, about some bullshit in the music world.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Airing Dirty Laundry

First, an apology: I'm sorry I've been doing a bad job of keeping up with writing here. I'm traveling to Tallahassee (three hours each way, 2-3 days a week) to do archival research, so I've been sans internet access all day, and on the days I'm in town I need to do things like prevent student insurrections (grade papers) and ensure basic survival (grocery shop, sleep). So I can't promise that I'm about to become a better and more consistent blogger, but I can say that I WANT to be a better and more consistent blogger and will do my best.

Anyway. Onward. Trigger warnings for anti-queer hate.

By now, many of you have probably read this, a masterful piece in Rolling Stone about the Anoka-Hennepin school district and its issues with bullycide. If you haven't read it, go do so, and keep some Kleenex next to you. Rolling Stone is not in the habit of issuing trigger warnings, so I shall do so here: trigger warning for suicide and anti-queer hate.

And then there's this, a story about how Suffolk County, Virginia schools are considering banning "cross-gender dressing," which: I have no idea what that even means. Does that mean girls have to wear dresses and boys have to wear bolo ties or girls have to wear Mary Janes and boys have to wear top hats? What about people who aren't boys or girls? Do they wear space suits? The rationale here is that they're trying to prevent bullying, but what they are doing IS bullying. It's saying in no uncertain terms, "Just conform to this hegemonic binary gender expression and we'll leave you alone." As though there aren't gender-conforming queer people and gender non-conforming straight people. But perhaps more important, as though the people supporting this policy aren't bullies themselves. There is nothing okay about telling someone that they need to dress in a way that conforms to your expectations for them based on how you read their gender. It's horrendous.

Readers of Nth Wave and watchers of the news and even listeners to notorious asshole Dan Savage are aware of how straighties bully queer people. This isn't news to most people. Which doesn't mean it's something we should just get over and accept as a fact of life, of course. The Rolling Stone piece calls this a war on gay teens - I'd say it's a war on queer teens - and it is, and we have to keep fighting it.

But. There is also this kind of bullying and exclusion and violence within queer communities and radical feminist communities. Alert Reader Steve sent me this awhile back: it's a radical feminist collective blog hub. Don't get your hopes up. What it is is mostly a collection of radical feminists freaking out about trans people in a really gross way. And they are calling themselves radical feminists, not Republicans, not Bible-believing Christians, not Tea Party Patriots. Radical feminists. These people are advocating, directly or indirectly, anti-trans violence.

And then there's this Jack Halberstam interview in Lambda Literary, which I just read for the first time after hearing alllllll different kinds of people getting really excited about how great it is and a very few people pointing out that it's loaded with anti-trans bigotry.

There are things to like about the interview, like this:

The premise of The Queer Art of Failure is that at this moment, intense capitalist accumulation, we’re living with one model of success and failure and one model alone. And that model is, that to make money and to advance professionally is what it means to be successful, and everything else is failure. That’s given us a zero-sum model against which we can judge our achievements in life, and that’s very unfortunate, because it squashes out all kinds of people doing alternative things for alternative reasons that may be much more valuable to their communities and to the world. So if you’re absolutely dedicated to organic farming, recycling, playing in a punk band on the weekend, and blogging, and you do some temp work in your spare time, you’re making a big contribution to the world we live in but you are not able to feed into the model of success that we’ve set out. So the book suggests that in such a moment, the moment of Occupy Wall Street and the one percent and the 99%, we need better models of success and failure. We need to measure ourselves against different standards. And the book proposes that queer people have actually been doing this for a long time precisely because we quickly fall out of the prevailing model of success and failure by not managing to meet the standards of gender and sexuality set for us by our usually straight families. Therefore there might be insights into failure that come out of queer art and queer culture.

But then there's this:

It’s not totally important to my understanding of self that other people read me as a man. It’s important that they read me as masculine, and it’s important that they read me in some way that I’m at odds with female embodiment. But it’s also important that they read me as someone who is not going to have that tension resolved by getting some surgeries. We’re living in a moment where people are pretty creative about their relationship to gender variance, and I think that the queer worlds we live in can tolerate a lot of different gender designations, so I don’t see why we can’t hold onto “butch” along with a whole set of other markers and identity, difference, embodiment, masculinity, variance and so on.

Emphasis mine. How dismissive can you be? You know? "Getting some surgeries"? While it's true that not all trans people desire surgery - or hormones - for some people, access to surgery is a life-or-death issue. Halberstam just runs right over that in attempt to prove... something. I'm not quite sure what.

And then there are the radical queer feminist folks who talk about how hard it is to date trans men [PDF], and people like this lady who told me to my face that gender-conforming feminine women who people don't read as gay are "attractive" and other queer ladies aren't.

So, you know, here's an example of why tokenism doesn't work, I guess. One queer person cannot speak for all queer people, not even Jack Halberstam. Some queer people are bigots. Some feminists advocate violence. We've got to work on our own house repairs even as we try to get the straighties to stop picking on us all the time. It can be exhausting, but we're going to have to do it together so that we can all keep building. Burning everything to the ground isn't going to fix the problems faced by those kids in Michele Bachmann's school district.