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