Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lansing Queers Fight Back Against Transphobia...Literally

I don't know how I feel about the fact that they used violence to fight back, but the message is loud and clear. Transphobia is not ok. check this out and let me know what you think.

Keep in mind too "An eye for an eye leaves the world blind." -MLK, I think...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The more things change, the more they stay the same... Reflections on the Effigy Found on UK last Week

If you haven't heard about the effigy, check this out.

I went to the forum on Wednesday night and was sadly disappointed in the outcome. A visceral part of me wanted an honest discussion about the incident. While I am glad that so many leaders spoke out about the act, I left the building wanting more. It was like the speakers assumed a lot of things, and just wanted to speak their piece about how "they" aren't racist and the "others" that did the act were horrible.

Having done diversity work on campus I have grown accustomed to the lack of a dialogue between students, faculty and staff on campus. While I don't think that we as a campus are doing less or more work than any other campus, I feel that we as a community do not assess our efforts in an honest way and work from there. I believe that if you hang an effigy of a black person from a tree, presidential candidate or not, it speaks not only of that specific person but also of the history of racist violence in the United States. Yes, Sarah Palin was hung from a roof in California, but there aren't people out there saying "I don't want a white person running this country." Watch this video. Pay attention to the first statement "The black will take over". As a woman, she does face sexism (how big were her beauty pageant photos?) and they have hung women as witches in the past but they aren't alluding to Sarah Palin actively being a witch. I'm not trying to create a hierarchy of oppression here. Sarah Palin experiences her sexism in different ways. I feel that the symbolism of Obama hanging from a tree were stronger in comparison of the two effigies.

Lexington has struggled with race in the past, but as a long time citizen of Lexington, I have noticed that it is often a silent struggle. People either agree with racist ideas that they have grown up with, disagree with them but feel too guilty to talk about the reality of them or are affected by them and can't speak because they are in the minority. I hoped that Dr. Todd and others would speak to institutional racism that affects people on campus; that someone would acknowledge that while there are people outside of campus that are filled with ideas of hate, there are people and structures on campus too that believe the same thing. I wanted a space, as a student and a staff member, to listen to others in their struggle for acceptance and feeling ok on campus. What I feel like it came to was that students have to make themselves feel better. Too often, this message has been given at the University of Kentucky. There is going to be a march on Wednesday, November 5 for students to speak out about this event. It makes me sad that it wasn't offered by the Administration.

I want to help start the conversation on campus, but I don't know how. I try and do diverse programming on campus, and work with the students that I serve but I feel like I am doing little to nothing. What do you suggest for ways to talk about racism surrounding the political election?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Website on anti-capitalist Conversations

I just ran across this website and thought that it was fantastic. It is called "Enough" and it deals with conversations on scarcity and abundance, how we decide what to keep and what to give away and anti-capitalist issues. Check it out here.

I would like to look through it and post some stuff too, but it makes me think a lot about class structures in the world. Back to my paper on class for my ed and gender class.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Why Women Earn Less Than Men" from TIME

Time just published an article that discusses gender discrimination in terms of using Transgender people's experiences to explore gender discrimination.

Check it out.

While the article is riddled with assumptions and stereotypes ("Which force is greater: women's choices of men's discrimination", "Women raise children and take more time off from work", etc.) I am pleased to see the connection with gender exploration and transgender issues. This article doesn't create an otherness for Transgender issues, and I appreciate that, although I don't know that it gives enough levity to the complexity of transitioning and how that could affect or intensify how the people in the study experience their own gender.

More on this later too.

"Unwelcome Visitors at Ole Miss Debate: KKK"

Read this.

Wow. "Every place that has come under black rule has declined... (Leadership) is just not in (black people's) nature." I guess I'm not too surprised that the KKK is still going strong with it's racist ideology, but to see the Emperor of Mississipi's White Knights so openly acknowledge his ideas is a bit jarring. I would like to see him overcome racist structures and not have a little civil unrest. How is DC under "black rule"? Is it because there are a lot of black people in the city?

Let me gather my thoughts and add to this later.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm not sure what to say...

I saw this commercial earlier and it made me a little sick. If you think about the symbolic meaning behind "Dark Temptation", the sexualization of Black Americans; The literal showing of white women of privilege eating the "dark" or Black person alive. Watch for yourself and let me know.

New Axe Dark Temptation Commercial

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Get Involved- Open Letter to Sarah Palin

I signed Planned Parenthood's open letter to Sarah Palin. More information below.

"Sarah Palin is not my candidate.

It is hard to believe that John McCain has actually found
someone more anti-choice, more extreme, and even more out of
touch on the issues that matter to women. And I'm deeply
concerned about what lies ahead if McCain and Palin are elected
-- dissappearing reproductive health rights, dramatically
decreased access to health care services for poor people, and a
return to the dark ages when it comes to accurate and
comprehensive sex education.

Please join me in signing Planned Parenthood Action Fund's open
letter to Sarah Palin stating clearly why she is not our
candidate. They need millions of people to sign this open letter
-- people representing every walk of life, every part of the
country, every political view. They will use the letter to
represent to every voter before Election Day the sheer diversity
and the enormous number of people who cannot and will not
support McCain and Palin and why. Here's the letter -- click
here to sign it:


Dear Sarah Palin,

You are not our candidate.

You are not our candidate because you required women in Wasilla
to pay for their own medical examinations after being raped.

You are not our candidate because you do not support a woman's
right to choose, even in the case of rape or incest.

You are not our candidate because you've cut funding for teen
moms, and for comprehensive sex education.

You are not our candidate because as vice president -- a
heartbeat away from the presidency -- you would jeopardize
health care for women everywhere.

We are teachers, doctors, athletes, programmers, artists,
lawyers, secretaries, CEOs, students, designers, nurses, factory
workers, mothers, and fathers. We are conservatives and
liberals, Democrats and Republicans, country and city people. We
are women and men. We are voters. We are the Planned Parenthood
Action Fund.

We believe in a woman's right to choose and the right of every
person to have access to complete reproductive health care. We
are hundreds of thousands strong, and we are doing everything we
can to make sure you are not elected.

You are not our candidate.

+ + +
Please click here to add your signature:"

Why I Believe There Should be a Gender Inclusive ENDA

The other day I was lifting some weights at my university's recreation center and noticed some other people staring at me. It wasn't the quick glance, but the one that suggested "What the fuck are you?" I'm no stranger to people asking me what gender that I am, or assuming that I am a man which happens even more frequently. Something about that instance really got to me. I was so uncomfortable that I left the Rec center and decided that I needed to create a blog to speak out about gendered assumptions. Most days I can handle the staring, the questions, the assumptions about who I am based on my short hair and lack of overt feminization. I just wanted to work out and without saying a word two people made me feel unwelcome.

Another story from last week. I was traveling back to Lexington from Wisconsin and stopped in a Bob Evan's to have dinner with my Father. While my Dad was in the bathroom, a child and her Father walked by our table. She was asking questions about the people in the restaurant. She pointed to me and asked something. The Father (I am assuming) looked me straight in the eye and said, "That... I don't know what that is. It doesn't matter." As they left the restaurant I listened to their conversation and realized that the child was asking the gender of people in the room. It didn't upset me at the time, but the conversation lingers in my mind.

I don't normally dwell on people assuming things about my gender or mistaking me for a man. I actually don't mind when people call me a man and then correct themselves. It is the feeling of otherness or of being unwelcome because I don't easily fit into the gender binary. This is where the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has a personal element for me.

Last year there was a bill introduced in congress, HR. 3685, which was a reduced version of the original Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR. 2015. The new version prohibited discrimination on sexual orientation alone, instead of both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Let me divert for a moment and explain the difference.

Sexual Orientation is your attraction to specific or non-specific genders. For example, if you are a lesbian in the United States you typically are a woman attracted to other women. Gender Identity is the gender that you feel comfortable expressing. Your gender identity and gender expression may coincide with your biological sex (think xy, xx) or differ or fluctuate. If you transition from one gender to another you often change your sexual orientation. If a gay man transitions to a woman, and is still attracted to men, then they could be considered straight.

You may be wondering what the big deal is between the new ENDA and the older one. Why not go for the reduced bill and then expand it later? For one, if they pass the newer bill it would take a long long time to expand the bill to include gender identity and expression. For another, many many people (Queer or not) do not fit into the rigid gender binary and it's many cultural rules. The queer community has used gender performance as a way to create visibility of queerness, and often the performance goes against gendered rules set about in United States culture. Gender identity and expression does not restrict itself to the Transgender community. By limiting the bill to sexual orientation protection, it is severly limiting it's usefulness of protections for people to discrimination based on who they are sleeping with or how they define their orientation. It is ok if someone discriminates against someone because they have short hair if they are a woman, just not if they are a lesbian. That makes a lot of sense.

For a more thourough discussion of ENDA, check out this link: Daily Kos: Vote NO on ENDA.

Something to chew on, back in the 60's you could be arrested for being a woman in public and not having at least 3 feminine articles of clothing on your person. In New York City, the police would often do raids on gay bars and arrest people for not having properly gendered clothing. I wonder what constitutes feminine clothing? Do socks count?

What do you all think? Does Lexington rigidly conform to gender rules? Why? Is it because Lexington considers itself a "southern" city? Is it the large state school atmoshphere? I have noticed more people making assumptions about my gender in Lexington than in the DC area. It might just be because I am paying attention more, and also because I have worked a public service job for most of the time since I have been back. People can get crazy about coffee.

Dress in drag for a day, see what happens. Why do we depend on gendered rules so much?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It all starts with a step...

I have lived in Lexington a long time. It has been a great home for me filled with joys and sorrows. While growing up, moving away and then coming back, I have noticed some drastic silences in the town. To me, the most prominent and the most personal of the silences is surrounding gender. As a community there are so many assumptions about how we present our gender, how we interact through our genders and how we perceive our genders. I am hoping that through this blog I can start a conversation locally about gender issues and how they affect people. Through discussion, learning and compassion we can become a better community.

Granted, gender does not exist in a vacuum. No identity does. It is affected by all of the other identities that we each hold as human beings. I am interested in discussion from all sides and topics that relate to gender. Think broadly and I will too. Also, I realize that my privilege as a white, able-bodied, middle class, educated person can lead me to assume certain things about situations and ideas. I will try and be aware of my universal assumptions, but feel free to call me out also if you notice something. I am always learning and hope to help others too.

Welcome to this online community! Thanks for reading and contributing.

Mervin Sue