Normal Queers -- The Ultimate Oxymoron and a Mighty Slippery Slope
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Well, there's been quite a flap going on about Senator Craig and his pee-pee dance.
I've read everything from complaints that his arrest on flimsy charges is, by its very nature, homophobic, through how comparing his T-room antics to a committed gay relationship is like comparing a child-molester to a well-adjusted, loving family, to the portrayal of his action as that of an alcoholic who "just can't help himself".
Something that I noted, however, was a pretty steady stream of "eeeeewwws" in many of the responses that I read and heard to the idea of anonymous sex in a public bathroom.
Now, granted, it's not my turn-on, and it's not something I would necessarily want to stumble in on if I was pressed for a piss in a busy airport, but, in truth, I don't have that big of an "eeewww" about it. Does that make me a pervert?
Oh, wait. I'm already a pervert. (Note to self: You are a dyke. This means that, to many, you are also a pervert.)
One of the things I didn't like about some of the coverage that I read/heard/observed was that there seemed to be a lot of "Don't make us look bad" crap going on.
This doesn't surprise me from the GOP -- the grand old party has, for the past 30 years or more, seemed to perfer that their members to march in lock-step (apparently this is one of their turn-ons).
I do get a bit uncomfortable, however, when I read some of the vociferous "Well, I would never have sex in a public restroom!" indignation from more liberal quarters, or hear from LGBT people that they wish those T-room Queers would stop making the rest of us Normal Queers "look bad".
Like I said, anonymous public sex in the airport john is not my gig. Clearly, however, it's someone's gig, since there seem to be no lack of places to find anonymous sex in public restrooms in this country, since I've personally known a fair number of dedicated tea-queens in my life, and since it seems to have developed a coded language and set of traditions all its own.
I commented about this over at Shakesville, but for those of you who missed it, I'll summarize: Amongst the tea-queens that I've discussed this with, they have all reported that part of the turn-on is the combination of anonymity and the possibility of getting caught. (I'm fascinated with what turns people on sexually in general, and I've actually had discussions with a lot of people who have different sexual proclivities, gay, straight, bi, and otherwise -- primarily because I'm also fascinated by what turns me on, or doesn't turn me on, and I want to understand this stuff.)
I tend to be fairly non-judgmental when it comes to sex between consenting adult humans. My attitude is "If it's safe and consensual for all parties involved, and everyone's enjoying themselves -- have a fabulous time."
I do have some questions as to whether public sex in an airport restroom can be wholly consensual, as there is the possibility of unwitting onlookers who have not consented to be part of the "action" -- who are simply there to answer the call of nature -- and since they may actually be a factor in the turn-on for the consenting participants (and therefore, part of the action in some way), this seems a bit dicey to me -- but I have the same questions when Jehovah's Witnesses leave a pamphlet in my mail-slot entitled "Jesus for the Jews" because I have a mezzuzah on my front door. So, that's a question about the nature of consent and participation for me, rather than a judgment on a particular sexual practice, AFAIC.
But I digress.
I get uncomfortable and begin to ask myself a lot of questions when I hear this distinction between "normal" queerness (which I think that some LGBT activists do actually capitalize on, especially in media presentations) and "perverted" queerness -- because I've seen it used too many times as a way to marginalize certain elements of the queer community. When I was working as an activist in Oregon during the fabulous "Lon Mabon" era, there came a time when some of the more "mainstream" activists wanted the drag queens, trannies, crew-cut bull-daggers, and Queer Nation folk to sit down and shut up, or at least "tone it down" until the elections were over.
The supposed logic for this was that "they" were making "us" "look bad". (Excessive quotation marks intentional.)
"They" were showing too much skin in the Gay Pride parade. "They" were cross-dressing and having sex with multiple partners and having their genitalia altered and doing things that "normal" queers (who just wanted to adopt a couple of children and have a successful career in real-estate and live happily ever after with the only person they had every had sex with) would never, ever, do.
At first, I kind of bought the argument. I fit in the more "normal" category of queerdom, at that time. I'd held jobs with the city, state, and federal government. I owned a house. I was raising kids. I was in a long-term relationship. I was a nice, white dyke who could pass as straight if I needed to. I was, in many ways, the gay-assimiliation movement's wet-dream.
The assimilationists talked very convincingly about how, if "we" just appeared normal enough right now, when the storm was raging, then later we could gain rights for the edgier queers.
The problem was, I loved those drag-queens and those bull-daggers -- I had a profound sense of gratitude for the edgy queers of the 60's and 70's whose actions had actually paved a way to the life that allowed me to be out and proud.
I cooperated for a very short time with the philosophy of "let's all try to look really normal, for the sake of the Movement".
A very short time indeed -- because, as I took my first tentative steps down that slope of loose shale, it wasn't long before I had fellow activists demanding: "Don't say this," and "Don't say that," and "Don't appear in a photo-op with this queer or that queer -- they're too radical," -- and I found that the very thing that I was trying to counteract (the suppression of queer-ness) was alive, well, and living in the LGBT movement itself.
I learned very quickly that this is not helpful.
It's not like it doesn't come up for me, now -- the whole concept of solidarity vs. basic ethics.
There have been many times when I've taken a deep breath when an "ally" says something that seems fallacious, or specious, or completely fucking fucked up . . . . and I've asked myself the question: "Should I confront them on this in a public forum, or should I just keep my mouth shut for the sake of the appearance of solidarity?"
This came up for me this week.
I was reading a thread about the whole Craig thing, and I felt myself torn: On the one hand, I didn't want my comments to be taken as a demonization of the whole t-room phenom, or the gay men who partake of it, but on the other hand, I really believed that, from my experience and discussions with actual people, there was a valid point to be made that the risk of potential discovery and consequence was at least part of the erotic aspect for the participants, and a risk that those participants took, consciously.
It felt like a delicate moment for me. I realized that a lot of the readers of my comments might not have any real background into t-room culture, and while I didn't want to go into a long dissertation about my own explorations and understandings of it, I also didn't want to put something out there that simply portrayed my t-queen brothers in a way that would tend to allow others to dismiss them as "perverts".
I also didn't want to put something out there that would just stir the shit.
I recognize that these internal struggles arise for me, however momentarily, on a great number of discussions that I have, online, or in person, regardless of the topic at hand: Is it important that I speak? Is it important that I refrain from speaking?
I also recognize that such internal struggles (if I don't really go all spartan-wrestling on them, and approach them with naked critical thought) can be destructive to my basic ethics and principles, and my knowledge that any real movement for change has enough strength to encompass diversity of opinion and being-ness.
If I stay silent for the purpose of simply exhibiting solidarity, I'm still staying silent, and I know from harsh experience that silence can be construed as consent. If I do that, I'm doing exactly what I despise in the monolithic right wing.
If I stay silent for the purpose of not wanting to become a "lightning rod" in a discussion, I'm doing exactly what I despise in Democratic Congress-folk who won't stand up and be counted, for fear of losing an election.
If I stay silent for the purpose of hiding myself in some false sense of safety, and make some flip, ambiguous statement instead of what I really want to say, I'm Senator Craig, tapping my foot and passing my hand under the stall divider, hoping I'll get what I want without revealing myself.
Now, when I think of that, I actually do have a big "eeeeewwww".
Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:24 PM
The Personal is Political
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This week, it just seemed like one of those weeks that, everywhere I turned, my issues were in my face.
It's not like I try to be impersonal at this blog. I've noticed, however, that my most recent blog entries have been pretty impersonal (credit this to the fact that I started that whole "Angst-Loss Challenge" thing last month . . . Wow! Was that just last month? -- I'm becoming Gonzo! . . . . and that whole angst-loss mission . . . .quest . . . thing . . . was, however unintentionally, pretty political overall, and rarely personal).
So, this post will be entirely personal.
The news and posts that set my issues clanging this week were about rape, and mental health/suicide. (Surely you must know that these aren't my only issues -- just the ones I'm currently ranting about.) Still, I figure I should just come clean about some of my personal biases and perspectives regarding these issues.
Yes, I was raped. Repeatedly. From the ages of 2 -5 and later, in my early teens. I aborted the fetus of my rapist into a toilet in middle school. It was terrifying for me at the time, and unexplained, and unacknowledged, and awful. Just like the rapes .
I was also diagnosed as "mentally ill" (age 37), institutionalized and medicated as such, and considered and planned suicide seriously enough that I was put into isolation and dis-allowed writing implements (one of the things that had kept me alive between age 13 - 37), cutlery, and q-tips (although how one is supposed to be able to commit suicide with a q-tip is still beyond me, even though I have googled it extensively).
Thankfully, my days of "clinical depression" are now behind me, and the thousands (literally) of hours and dollars that I spent on therapy helped me moved from "abject victim" to "thriving survivor" in terms of my sexual abuse.
Monday, I was reading various blog-entries about Owen Wilson's suicide attempt, and then, some posts about "gray rape". I felt mad. And sad. And bad. And then mad, and sad, again.
To give you insight into my emotional responses -- when I googled "Owen Wilson Suicide" the day the news broke, the top link read: "Owen Wilson's suicide bid" -- like he was "bidding" on his suicide? Like it's Ebay or some fucking shit?!?!
I'm the last person in the world to buy into the whole "every suicide is a tragedy!" thing. I have sat with friends who were dying (in enlightened Oregon) for whom assisted, intentional death was the greatest blessing in the world (prior to Oregon passing the Death with Dignity act, I had friends who were dealing with AIDS who passed by their own hand without public sanction, but shhhh, don't tell anyone -- that would be illegal and shit.)
However, I was shocked by some of the shock that I read in response to Wilson's attempt to depart.
Be warned that, given my biases, what follows are Portly Dyke interpretations of what I read in the MSM:
"But he's So Young! So Handsome! So Thin! So Rich! So Blond! So Famous! So Successful! So Cute! So Smart! So . . . . . so . . . . . . . so . . . . !"
So . . . . what?
So depressed? So desperate? So miserable? So hopeless?
I've been there. I was depressed, desperate, miserable, and hopeless, even when I was young, handsome/beautiful, thin, (never really rich or famous, although I was temporarily blond), and also while I was successful, and cute, and smart (which I think I still am).
I was one of those "super-copers", who hid my underlying depression very well -- even from myself, at times. I managed to dis-associate from my abuse history almost completely until my life fell apart at 37. In retrospect, this was a brilliant survival strategy -- it allowed me to complete college, get a job, and create a family in a fairly stable manner. I believe that my consciousness did what it was designed to do, very well -- it kept me together until I had the breathing space to disintegrate, and then re-integrate. The process wasn't "fun", but it was effective. /*pat, pat, pat*/ Good old brain.
So, now, when I read stuff about famous people like Owen who are obviously dealing with mental health issues (probably depression -- duh, ya think?), in a country where 10% of women and 4% of men take anti-depressants -- yet the CDC doesn't actually have a listing for the word "Depression" in its A-Z index of diseases -- I get a little . . . . . how do you say in zis cuntry? . . . . .PIZZED FUCKING OFF?!?!?! (Fire Ze Missiles!!)
Because if you google (without quotes) Owen Wilson Suicide right now, you get more than 7 Million hits, and if you add one word to this google search and make it Owen Wilson Suicide Depression, you get only 281,000.
This is what I was talking about in my last post -- about living in a culture that I believe is incredibly inauthentic. Fourteen to nineteen percent of our population can be under active treatment for depression (and who knows how many others are not being treated, or are self-medicating with booze and drugs?) -- but we don't want to talk about it.
I have some rather radical notions about mental health and depression, truth be told.
[Disclaimer: My opinions and ideas do not stem from laboratory research -- they are admittedly anecdotal and personal.]
I worked for more than ten years with low-income elderly and handicapped people (mostly mentally ill) as a social worker. Shortly after this time, I became a patient in the "mental health" system for about six years. One could say that I have a well-rounded (if that's the right word) view of the issue.
I believe that it is possible that some people's brains just "work that way", and produce a butt-load of chemicals that give them a tendency toward depression.
However, it has been my experience that a far greater number of people that I know, who suffer from depression, do so in response to a specific event or ongoing situation -- like being a Vietnam vet who never got treated for PTSD, but was just expected to come home and act "normally" after witnessing atrocities, or being a retired elderly person who gave their heart, soul, and body to a corporation and got cheated out of their retirement fund, or being a dis-enfranchised person of color who lived in deep poverty from birth but managed to put themselves through college, yet couldn't get anyone to hire them for a "real" job because of the deep scars that daddy carved into their face in a fit of drunken rage when they were 9 years old, or being a woman who was divorced by a husband of 40 years, after raising his kids and ironing his shirts and kissing his ass, because he found a younger, more attractive woman, or . . . being a survivor of severe childhood physical and sexual abuse.
One of the descriptions that fit my depression perfectly is "Depression is just anger without enthusiasm." - Steven Wright.
I had a lot to be pissed about, and I had never really gotten pissed about it. When I was a child, and my abuse was happening, it wasn't safe, at a very physical and tangible level.
When I was just starting out in my life, and needed to "look good" and qualify for a job, it still wasn't safe, although now, the un-safety was more about a financial security and social acceptance.
While I was raising kids who depended on me, and needed my loving care and financial support, letting this rage out didn't seem safe or effective, in terms of my life plan at that time.
Finally, when I was no longer a "mom", and my lover began to act verbally and physically abusive towards me, it was safe for me to let that anger emerge. But some part of me seemed to know that the abuse that I was experiencing at the time (though bad enough) wasn't the thing that I was really, truly pissed about -- and so, not knowing who to be pissed at -- I turned that rage toward myself. Depression. Suicidal ideation. Anger (huge, and totally understandable, anger) -- turned inward.
My personal journey to understand, process, and direct that anger where it belonged took me the better part of a decade.
During that time, I took medications to "manage" my depression. I don't think that this was a mistake. I think it saved my life. The medications that I took allowed me to get adequate sleep, and eat normally (I had the sleepless, anorexic version during the time I was suicidal, rather than the sleepy, listless type I had experienced at other times in my life). However, those medications did not "cure" my depression. They only helped me to function well enough to move toward the root of my anger.
I don't hold with the prevailing thought that depression is just a brain-chemistry thing, and if you find the right magic combo of medications, it will disappear. I think depression is also an internalized anger-in-response-to-trauma thing -- and if 14% (conservatively) of our population is being treated with medication to handle internalized anger, what does that say about our nation, and why can't we fucking talk about it??? Just how pissed off are we?
One of the things that is pretty well documented is that women are twice as likely to experience major depression as men -- worldwide. (I am not discounting the ravages of depression on males here, just working up to a point.). There are a whole lot of studies that show a whole lot of variability on things such as race, education, and income, but statistics on depression among women vs. men are very, very consistent.
So, you just had to know that I was going to bring in the rape theme here, huh?
And I am going to.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the incidence of depression is so much greater in women than in men, while, in the last ten years, as the number of murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults have dropped by 15-22%, the number of rapes has dropped only by 2.4%. (And that, BTW, is not anecdotal -- it's from the FBI crime statistics spreadsheet.) Hmmmmm. Think there might be a connection?
It fucking pisses me off -- more than I can possibly express -- that I am still actually having, and witnessing, conversations where we argue whether it's OK to fuck someone who is passed out drunk -- that we are debating whether this is "really" rape or not.
The fact that we are still having that debate, to me, speaks volumes to the validity of the concept that we live in a rape culture.
Speaking up and out about it is part of my therapy -- part of the way I keep myself out of depression.
Here's my hypothesis: The more you are being screwed (and I don't mean that in an enjoyable, consensual way), and the more you feel/think that you have no power to stop being screwed, and no way to speak up and out toward the person screwing you, the more likely you are to be depressed.
That was my experience.
Which is why, I think, we have so many women, and so many vets coming home from Iraq, and so many Native Americans, and so many people in poverty, and so many elderly people -- who exhibit depression -- because these people are getting screwed -- and considering that a majority of the nation wants the war over and the president and vice-president impeached, and that elected officials are doing precisely squat about that . . . . . it's no surprise to me that antidepressants are the most prescribed drugs in the US.
I'm not even going to go INTO the whole anti-depressants as a cash-cow for pharmaceutical companies thing at this point. I would probably implode.
Hokay. Just checking in with myself to see if I've ranted enough. Yes, I believe that I have.
Oh. And I hope Owen figures out what's pissing him off.
Portly Dyke's Prescription for Ongoing Mental Health: Speak your mind.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:30 PM
Having an Oh Fer Fuck's Sake! Moment
Monday, August 27, 2007
I notice that I just dealt with a butt-load of intense issues today. It seems like, everywhere I turned, there they were --- MY issues.
So, you might say: "Hey, Portly -- what exactly ARE your issues?"
Queerly, they're not so much about queerness.
My issues are, mostly, at this point, about attempting to be an authentic human in an incredibly artificial culture, about being a person attempting to be comfortable with who they are mentally and physically in a culture that attempts to regulate "normalcy" in terms of mental and physical criteria, and about making authentic contact with other human beings in a culture where genuine contact with other human beings is portrayed as "dangerous".
In light of my issues, I've been working on a light, breezy post about my personal relationship with suicide and rape (OK, don't weird out -- it really IS a serious post, but with me, this type of post can get SERIOUSLY serious).
So, to maintain perspective, and help me to complete this post, I'd like you to preview this:
Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:41 PM
The Amazing Vanishing Queers
Saturday, August 25, 2007
This week, I read an open letter over at Incertus from Bradley, who was asking gay people not to boycott Ft. Lauderdale just because their mayor is a flaming asshat.
I commented (as is my wont):
"Personally, I've never been certain about "stay away" boycotts, especially as concerns LGBT issues -- precisely because the whole idea is to "disappear" us anyway (Get back in that closet, you pesky things you!).
I would suggest something more directed and visible: Have all the people of Ft. Lauderdale who hate Naugle's policies and homophobia put a sign up at their business (prominent and visible from the street) that says "Mayor Naugle is an Idiot", and instruct LGBT tourists to support these businesses exclusively -- at the same time, have STRAIGHT tourists who are gay-supportive boycott in a "stay-away" fashion."
I've been thinking about this a lot since I made that comment.
For over 20 years, I've advocated "coming out" (for both LGBT people and their supporters), as the single most effective strategy for combating homophobia.
In effect, an LGBT boycott of Ft. Lauderdale's as a tourist destination simply does precisely what Naugle wants: He waves his magic wand, opens the robo-toilet door (to the tune of a quarter million $$), and Poof! -- the poofs are gone!
I'm not going to go into prolonged, agonizing detail about the depth and breadth of Naugle's idiocy. Bradley, over at Incertus, has already done that, (and if you haven't read Incertus, I heartily recommend that you do so) -- Bradley even coined a new term for Naugle, et al, that I love: Crupid (Crazy AND Stupid).
In case you're not into a full surf-fest tonight -- suffice it to say: Naugle contends that gay public sex is a huge problem in Ft.L -- 8 arrests in two years! Yikes! (This is by Naugle's account -- 2 arrests by other accounts). Those 8 arrests constitute whopping .004% of the city's 185,000 people -- yes, that's right -- 4/100% of one percent are having it off in public bathrooms -- it's an epidemic, I tell you, an epidemic!!!!!
Naugle also says things like: "I don't use the word gay. I use the word homosexual. Most of them aren't gay. They're unhappy." But he also says: "I'm not homophobic, and I'm not a bigot."
Well, phew! I feel so relieved!
But back to my point . . . . . I'm almost sure I had a point . . . . . Ah! Yes!
I'm really not sure that "stay away" boycotts are truly effective for minority populations that bigots actually wish would simply "disappear". This includes LGBT people, immigrants (legal and illegal), people of color in regions where they are in the minority, religious minorities, etc. (Did I miss anyone?)
I think that "stay away" boycotts work very well in situations where you are part of an unseen/unheard majority (or near-majority), or where the functioning of day-to-day society rests heavily on your minority's provision of participation (think middle-class factory workers, civil rights actions in the segregrated South, and Cesar Chavez).
One of the problems with boycotts is that they require either a) significant numbers, or b) great stamina. Unless you can marshal a significant majority in order to create a high-profile impact immediately, you're going to have to rely on steady erosion of profits over time to change political and/or social attitudes.
Gay tourism currently accounts for about 11% of the Ft. Lauderdale tourist dollar each year. That's not too shabby. However -- it's not unthinkable that an infusion of homophobes who have been called to "Support Mayor Naugle" might intentionally visit Ft. Lauderdale when they might otherwise have trekked to Jesus Camp, and offset this. (Cuz Naugle has a dog! And a kid! And he married Barbie!!)
Make no mistake -- the loss of 11% of your annual income would probably get your attention. It would definitely get my attention.
But remember this one little detail: In order for a boycott of your business to work, you would have to KNOW that this 11% drop-off was lost due to a factor that you had some power over. Which means that every boycotter would have to let you know why they had stopped patronizing you.
It is, to me, a pretty apparent truth that you generally know much more about the people that DO spend money on your business than about the people that DON'T.
This is where Queer boycotts get problematic. A lot of LGBT folks are still in the closet. Many of them are unlikely to send a letter to the Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce or City Commissioners saying: "My name is ___________, and I'm (gay/lesbian/bi/trans), and even though I spent $_____ in Ft. Lauderdale last year when I visited your fair city, this year, I'm spending my money elsewhere, because your mayor is a bigoted asshat."
(That's the message that I would encourage every LGBT person who does decide to boycott Ft. L this year to send, BTW.)
Because: Vanishing without a trace does absolutely nothing to help a movement that is about visibility.
(If I could emphasize that statement any more with my limited html skills, I would.)
Some of you may have recognized this post as the tired old rant of a retired activist, or, more hopefully, as a partial primer on the dynamics of successful boycott.
I participated in my own oppression as a lesbian for years and years and years, by not coming out. I opted to disappear rather than speak up. One of the lasting lessons that I learned was: If you want someone to recognize and affirm/accept you as you are, shutting up and going away just doesn't really work all that well.
So, this year, I hope that there is a veritable plethora of lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, and trannies in Ft. Lauderdale, being themselves, shopping only at merchants who proudly display the sign "I Think Jim Naugle is Crupid!" (or, more simply: "Flush Naugle!"), letting these merchants know that this is why they are shopping there, and happily enjoying themselves. (After all, we are "teh gay" -- we have a reputation to uphold.)
And as for Mayor Naugle, my position has not changed:
"I don't mind straight people, as long as they act queer in public."
Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:16 PM
It's Always Darkest Before the Fat Lady Sings
Friday, August 24, 2007
The last couple of weeks, I've been experiencing profound ennui around blogging.
As I've sifted through news items and blogs, and watched stories of completely contemptuous behavior from the White House, failure after failure to actually support the troops that war-mongers supposedly lurv, very thinly disguised or completely undisguised preparations for implementing martial law (now with new improved theocracy sauce[tm] !), and corporate welfare that passeth all human understanding, well, let's just say I've felt a little down. Slightly impotent. As Shakespeare's Sister said yesterday, I've been feeling the Big Wev.
I've been starting a post, and then thinking "Well, shit. This isn't going to make any difference, anyway."
Sometimes I've simply stopped typing in mid-word.
I hate this kind of apathy in myself. I think it's precisely what the
asshats-that-be powers-that-be want us to feel.
I started thinking about that impotent apathy I was feeling, in light of some of the shit that I've been reading in the news. The White House will write the Petraeus report. It will refuse to release subpoenaed information. Georgie boy is suddenly unabashedly invoking Vietnam (which, until now, seemed to be a third-rail thing). All of this is being released to the MSM in a sort of flamboyant, 13-year-old way, as if the administration is trying to send the message, very obviously: "You can't stop me. Nyah, nyah, nyah!"
I'm not so naive as to think that the White House couldn't do all the shit it's doing right now, and do a better job of keeping it hushed up. The blatancy of the actions we've been seeing recently indicate to me that one of two things might be happening:
- The asshats-that-be actually think that they have now amassed enough power that they could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, to whoever they wanted, OR
- The asshats-that-be are doing everything that they can to present this image of omnipotence, and to convince people that they have this power.
I could come up with only one logical explanation: Because they are desperate. Because they know that nearly 70% of all citizens oppose the war. Because they know they are losing the battle to keep the war. I think they also know they are going to lose the next election (despite the wimpitude of the new Democratic majority in Congress).
When I considered it this way, the new "in your face" defiance of the White House made sense to me. Like any self-despising bully who realizes that he's out-numbered, Bush is blustering while he eyes all possible escape routes.
Suddenly, I found new energy, and new hope.
While I have occasionally seriously worried about the preznut (and his puppeteers) declaring martial law in order to prevent a Dem from taking the White House and making himself dictator for life, I simply remind myself that two-thirds of the population would either fight this, or quietly drink hemlock rather than face a lifetime supply of GWB.
So, I'm finding a glimmer of optimism as I scan the raving of the wingers.
Even my aging midwestern parents cast a jaded eye on the MSM these days, and have begun to turn to "alternative" sources for their news. As Murdock swallows up all things media, real journalism is blossoming on the web -- a bevy of activist broad-sides flutter down my internet tubes every day, all day -- and if you think the MSM isn't worried about the real effect of those writings, think back on the prolonged hissy fit that Billy O had last month in an attempt to discredit Daily KOS. If you really think this was just the reaction of one (admittedly) crazed pundip, rather than a directive from a concerned media mogul and his minions, well, I have some ocean-front property in Kansas you might be interested in.
So, viva la desesperación! In the coming days, I'm simply going to re-framing the "bad news" into one glowing headline: "Asshats-That-Be Admit Progressive Movement is Winning."
Posted byPortlyDyke at 6:36 AM
Why I Could Give A Rat's Ass About Gay Marriage
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It's true. I really don't care whether the "State" or the "States" give me the "right" to join my soul with the soul of my beloved . . . . because I don't think that this power rests with them, anyway.
See, that's the whole problem with the concept of "marriage" as a legal institution, as far as I'm concerned -- and why the arguments, both for (and against) gay marriage, need to just be shot out of the sky with one big, enormous gattling gun.
If you ask this question of every citizen in the USA: "What is marriage?", you'll get a as many different answers. If you ask further, "What is marriage for?" . . . . well, don't say I didn't warn you about the dangers of cognitive dissonance and information overload.
I honestly DO NOT CARE whether I have the right to "marry" my life partner.
I do care whether I have the right to:
- Transfer money to her bank account without paying gift tax
- Visit her in the hospital and/or emergency room without having to pay a lawyer to draw up papers to this effect
- Take out joint insurance with her without paying extra premiums
- Have her covered by my health insurance and disability benefits
- Own common property and run a joint business with her without having to pay the State an annual fee to form a Limited Liability Partnership
- Take advantage of any tax breaks available for those who share income as committed partners
- Have her inheritance rights to our joint property be automatic and unquestioned
- Rent or buy a house with her without being discriminated against
- Adopt children with her, if I wanted to
- And on, and on, and on
a) Get the fuck out! of the marriage business altogether and require everyone who wants to make the legal agreements required to allow another human (yes -- everyone -- even blood relations) to visit them in the hospital, own common property, etc., go through the same legal steps that I have had to go through to secure my own and my partner's rights (hire a lawyer, make out a power of attorney, a will, create a legal business partnership, etc.)
b) Grant the rights and responsibilities currently protected under the state-legislated marriage laws to any adult citizen who wants to get legally "married", and who agrees to adhere to the legal responsibilities that are attendant to marriage.
These days, it really cracks me up any time I read the "special rights" crap that homophobes spew. When the whole "special rights" thing was first invented in the 80s, I used to get all inflamed and upset. I would say "No! I don't want special rights! I want equal rights!" -- in other words, I totally fell for their manipulative, crappy, hateful political tripe -- I honored this absolutely absurd rhetoric by giving it a response.
These days, I just laugh -- because the people who are all cranked up about how gays will destroy marriage if they are allowed "special rights" don't realize that every heterosexual couple who is married is already receiving more "special rights" than I will probably see in my lifetime as a queer.
In my state, married people automatically hold all property in common -- no need to hire an attorney ($120/hour+) and/or pay more than $100/year to form a legal partnership. They receive their partner's pension and social security benefits if their spouse dies, automatically. They have the right to make medical decisions for their spouse, and they are automatic inheritors of one another's assets, whether or not a legal Will exists.
I consider these rights "special" because they are entirely based on a choice -- the choice to marry -- a choice that is denied to at least 10% of the population of my state who might want to marry someone of the same gender.
Marriage isn't something you're born with. It isn't dependent upon your race, creed, or nationality. The right to marry the person of your choice (and therefore partake of the special rights afforded to married people) is currently available to every citizen in only two of the 50 states in our nation (and is being hotly contested in both of these states).
If we ever needed an example of a completely arbitrary, unreasoning, and capricious legal intervention in the private lives of citizens, I think it would be marriage law. By providing special status and rights to married people, government mixes up what I think is essentially a metaphysical state (concerning the blending of two individual human lives/souls/hearts/whatever you're comfortable with) with a legal state (concerning the disposition and status of real property, contact rights, etc.).
One of the most puke-some phrases that I've heard recently (and all too often, recently) is this: "Well, I believe that marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman".
Yes, and slavery has traditionally been between a dominant-culture master and a cultural minority as slave, (which speaks to some aspects of the "tradition" of marriage between a man and a woman that I'm not going to go into in great detail in this post . . . . unless I do).
If you've ever done any research on the history of marriage in Western Culture, you're probably familiar with the fact that, when we talk about the "tradition" of marriage, what we're really talking about is "Teh Property". Essentially, the legal concepts of marriage began in a non-civil agreements whereby a man purchased a woman from her father, and the recording of such agreements were really only important to establish "legitimacy" of offspring and rights of inheritance.
You might say "Yeah, but that's ancient history!"
Until 1848, married women in the US had no right to own property -- they were, essentially, property themselves. Think about that for a minute -- that's only 150 years ago (a little more than 6 generations). Until 1978, it was legal for a man to rape his wife in every state of the Union, and in Ohio, it's still legal to drug your spouse and have sex with them, unless your spouse lives separately from you.
You may ask why I'm bringing rape into this post, but what I want you to look at here is the concept of "wife as property", which, to my mind, has nothing whatsoever to do with the blessed state of joining in sanctified partnership with the object of your affections, or assuring the vitality of the "family", and everything to do with concerns about property.
Which is one of the reasons that I don't give a rat's ass . . . . . .
I want two things:
- I want to live with my partner in a thriving, sustainable, growing intimate relationship (which, I believe, no state license, or religious sanction can assure to me).
- I want to have all the options and rights that hetero citizens have in terms of how I choose to share my finances, my property, decisions about my health-care, retirement fund, life-planning, and family choices.
So, in that sense, yes, same-sex unions could seriously fuck up the foundations of "traditional" marriage, where Adam gets to own Eve, and all her offspring, and all the other fruits of her labor, forever and ever, amen.
Hmmm. Now fucking up that paradigm -- that sounds interesting. Maybe I DO give a rat's ass about this, after all.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:30 PM
The "Gay Agenda"
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I'm really too fucking tired to blog about much of anything tonight, but I can send you on to something you might find illuminating and/or interesting:
One Possible Impact of Homophobia (I think)
Be sure to follow the links at the end of each post in the series.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:14 PM
Lazy Ass Blogging
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Well, yesterday I started a two-day mentoring intensive with a couple of my students, so no bloggy-goodness from me. This morning will be short and sweet, but at least it'll give me a "presence" for the day.
Shit that made me laugh:
Shit that made me cry (in a good way, at times):
Melissa McEwan takes the words right out of my mouth.
Mustang Bobby moves me to tears.
That is all.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:00 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I was tagged by Phydeaux today, and this is a tag that I actually found interesting, so I proceed.
Four jobs I've had or currently have in my life:
- Gas Station Attendant
- Legislative Aide
- Stand-up Comedian
- (Pathetic --just three -- that's it, so far.) Want: Greece, Israel, India, France, Germany, England, Ireland, and Nepal.
- No place. I live in fucking Paradise. No shit. Really.
- Beer (and yes, it is too a food)
- Fresh Sweet Corn
- Deluxe Cheeseburgers from "Sea-J's"
- Fresh Sprouts of almost any variety, but especially, Lentil and Adzuki bean-- steamed Collard Greens tie exactly even with the Sprouts
- Jherek Carnelian
- Marguerite Brodie
- Rosa Parks
- Mary Renault's "Fire From Heaven" (Just)
- Sherri Tepper's "Sideshow" (Just)
- Plato's Dialogues (Currently)
- Terry Pratchett's "The Thief of Time" (Just)
Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:45 PM
Are You My Ally?
Saturday, August 18, 2007
In the past couple of weeks, I've noticed that, during my blog-reading adventures, I've felt a little tiny twinge everytime I read something like: "This is particularly hard, coming from one of our own", or "it's especially difficult to take this from someone on my own team".
I actually like the word "ally". I've used it as a relational category for people that I wouldn't probably want to get all buddy-buddy with, but with whom I do acknowledge a certain idealogical or principalic connection.
Recently, though, I've been noticing that recurring twinge, and as I've examined it, I've wondered if it may have to do with the combative/competitive/separative connotations of the word "ally" that are evoked in me by these statements ("one of our own"/"on my team" -- which implies that there is someone who is not "one of us", or that we are on a team, playing a game, which means that someone wins, and someone loses).
I notice that I don't have this twinge when I think of the less war-like definitions of "ally": an associate who provides cooperation or assistance.
In my life, I've found "allies" in odd places -- sometimes where I least expect it.
There was the long rambling discussion that I had on a train with a Mormon mother of 8 who told me that, although she was often conflicted about the subject of homosexuality from a spiritual basis, she strongly opposed any government action that oppressed gays or kept equal rights from them, because, as she said: "They could decide to do the same thing to Mormons".
There was the dinner-table conversation with my entire FOO (family of origin) where my fundamentalist brother-in-law and I found ourselves on the same side of an argument about home-schooling.
There have been people that I hated to say I agreed with when they made a cogent point, but I believe that intellectual and personal integrity requires that I acknowledge this when it happens.
I've known burly he-men who were more actively "feminist" than I was, and straight people who were way less willing than I to let a homophobic comment slide.
Conversely, I've experienced situations where I discovered that people who I thought should be my "natural allies" were not. I've heard grossly anti-feminist sentiment from radical lesbians, been on the receiving end of inflammatory and violent actions from self-identified peace activists, and been given lectures rife with capitalist dogma by avowed socialists.
So, who is my "ally"?
In my 30s and into my mid-40s, I interacted almost exclusively with lesbians (outside of my work). This was my culture, my community, and my environment.
For the last 10 years, my life has been very different, and my culture, community, and environment are far more diverse. Of those who I consider as being within my closest and most intimate circle, these individuals now span a wide range of orientations, ages, classes, spiritual approaches, nationalities, and races.
I consider these people my "friends", but not all of them are my "allies" in certain areas. One of my close friends spouts fat-phobic remarks (about herself usually, but never about me) on a regular basis. One of my close friends believes that the work I do for a living is blasphemy when regarded from his spiritual perspective. I love these people, and spend time with them whenever I can. So, I assume that in my mind, "ally-ship" is not a requirement for "friendship". Which confuses me sometimes.
I wonder if this separation between my concepts of "ally" and "friend" represents some idealogical schism in me. Do I hold my "political/activist" self as a separate being from my personal/social self? Is that necessary? Is it healthy? Does it support integrity in me?
I began this post with a question, and thought I might actually be able to answer it -- but now I seem to have simply manifested a bouquet of additional questions. (I hate it when that happens.)
I'd simply return to the definition of ally that I like: "an associate who provides cooperation or assistance" -- but this, too, seems like a garden of questions -- What is "cooperation"? "Assistance" with what?
I'm now realizing that I ask myself these questions every time I interact with someone who I think might be a potential ally. Someone posts about a subject that I feel passionate about, and I search their writing for evidence that they are "on my side" , or that I agree with them, or that their voice might be adequate to speak what I might have said. If there are little nuances to their words that create an eddy of disturbance in me, I notice that I calculate whether it's worth it to point this out, or whether it's more important to just support my ally for the bulk and intent of their piece (I'm not saying this is a good thing, just that I notice that I do it).
I think, though, that the "twinges" I've been feeling about this whole ally thing really have to do with this: I am aware, lately, of feeling less and less like someone who is engaged in a rational discussion in my nation, and more and more like someone who is in an embattled position. I notice that I don't even bother to comment at right-wing sites at this point. I bear the assumption that my very handle (PortlyDyke) will result in automatic dismissal, if not downright harassment.
I'm disturbed by the growing separation that I perceive in the USA, the "Us" and "Them" constructs that I find creeping into my own language. I'm disturbed by the fact that I watched the Republican debates only to see how outrageous the candidates might be, rather than in any remote belief that one of them might say something substantive, and the fact that I watched the Logo debates to see if any of the Dems were about to grow a spinal column on gay rights -- one of "my" issues.
I'm disturbed by how many times I've read (or typed) the words *running for cover* in comments and forums that I think of as being populated mostly with "allies".
So, I think it's time I got clear on what (or who) constitutes an "ally" for me.
Here's what I've got so far:
- I tend to feel "allied" with people who can imagine the circumstance or situation of others, and make some attempt to take that into account as they communicate.
- I tend to feel "allied" with people who passionately embrace and communicate about their own personal experience while acknowledging that the experience of others might be equally valid. (Shorter PortlyDyke for 1 & 2: I value the ability to engage in compassionate accountability.)
- I tend to feel "allied" with people who take responsibility for their words and actions.
- Just because someone decides to "let you be" for the moment doesn't necessarily mean they are an ally. Many gay bars existed prior to Stonewall -- the politicians, policemen, and others who ignored them (until they didn't ignore them) were not gay rights allies. When you become inconvenient to them, a person/organization/structure that is not an ally will have no problem throwing you under a bus.
- Just because someone decides to side with you for the moment doesn't necessarily mean they are an ally. Bill Clinton made masterful use of his "pro-gay rights" stance -- until his campaign was over. Yes, he did a lot of nice things like appoint gay people to his cabinet, and I think that probably did assist the gay rights movement. But I still don't trust him as far as I can throw him.
So, I suppose the real question that I might pose to others is:
Do you want to be my ally?
Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:25 AM
Trolls Part 3: Troll and Troll-Collectives -- Distinct Strategies
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
OK, this is the serious portion of this series. Sure, you may choose to have fun with trolls, or ignore them altogether, but honestly, I believe that there is a big difference between dealing with a single asshat who is diddling him/her/itself while attempting to stir up some shit, and dealing with the kind of concerted attacks that troll-collectives attempt to deal out.
Witness the various DDOS attacks that have been perpetrated upon one of my favorite blogs, Shakespeare's Sister, or any of a number of similar attacks on blogs (both liberal and conservative).
When trolls attack en-masse, they have a different agenda, I believe, than an individual troll (who basically just wants your attention). Troll collectives want to shut you up.
In the strictest sense of the word, these troll collectives aren't really trolls at all -- they're fascists, pure and simple.
Depending on how organized and dedicated they are, they may try a number of tactics -- for example -- from making it so inconvenient for you to manage your blog that you simply give up, to waging an all out hack attack to take your blog or website down completely.
Some of them say that they're just in it for the "lulz", but I don't believe that. I think that they're attempting to exercise power over other people.
You might read that word "fascist" and cringe -- you might think that I'm over-reacting or being hysterical -- but one of the earmarks of a true fascist is that they think that they know what's good and right for everyone, and they do not hesitate to take extreme measures to assure that everyone around them adheres to their understanding of what's "good/right". If you don't agree, they seem to have no moral or ethical questions about whether it's also "good/right" to beat you into submission until you either agree, or disappear.
In other words, a troll may "invite" you to deal with It. You still retain power and responsibility and can choose to do so, or not.
A troll-collective/group of fascists will simply step in and make sure that you either have to deal with them, go underground, or submit completely and just shut the fuck up.
While ignoring an individual troll may (and often will) eventually lead to that troll giving up and disappearing on its own, historical evidence pretty much proves, to me, that ignoring fascism doesn't produce the same result.
So what to do when a group of bullies tries to shut you up? Do exactly what you would do in real life.
- Call in your friends. Let people know what's going on, and ask them to help you out. I strongly encourage you to do this, rather than thinking you're some kind of whiner who "can't take it". Sure, the bullies are going to throw this at you -- ("pussy", "if you can't take the heat", etc.) -- but hell, they're the ones who are moving in en masse -- if they're such big tough hombres, why do they need to batter you as a mob?
- Until your friends arrive, get yourself to safety. "Lock your doors" (shut down your blog, or institute comment verification, or move to "invitation only") and call the authorities -- notify your web or blog host of what's going on, call the police or the FBI if you need to.
- Once you are safe, then start working on how to solve the problem.
- When the problem's solved -- keep on blogging. Remember? -- the whole point of the exercise was to get you to shut up -- Don't shut up.
Which has caused me to ponder why I love that particular blog so much. I read a lot of blogs, and surf a lot of web, on a daily basis. SS is, however, one of the places that I never miss in my daily blog-reading.
I used to think it was the snappy writing, the humor, and the diversity. I think, though, that there is something more that draws me (and, apparently, a bunch of asshat fascists) to that "place". As I've said before, there is the sense of community, but I think it's also a sense of (for lack of a better word) -- "heart", and the fact that the posters there aren't afraid to bring their humanity (hence the wide range of subjects in a given day -- yes, there is liberal political thought, but there is also social, cultural, and personal material -- which brings the bloggers themselves into focus for me).
I think that's what fascists are really afraid of -- not that we'll express our political views, but that we'll do so with conviction, humanity, and passion -- that we will show up as real humans, which implies real power to make real change in a real world.
When I finally truly "came out" as a lesbian, homophobia didn't magically vanish from the world I lived in. But some level of my own cooperation with homophobia did disappear.
My abuse as a child continued for as long as it did through a complex system of agreed-upon silences, including my own. When I stopped cooperating with those toxic, tacit agreements, I began to heal.
At this point in my life, I've observed what happens if you just shut up and submit. As difficult as it sometimes is to keep speaking my truth, the alternatives have never been satisfying, enjoyable, or effective. So I'm not fucking shutting up.
There. That is my final piece on trolls.
As with most things in my life, and especially the things in my life that I initially resist and despise, the trolls have taught me a lot -- my "Lesbian Grand Council" thing isn't wholly sarcastic, as it turns out -- the trolls have, through their efforts, only validated to me how important my favorite blog is -- so important that a bunch of trolls spent considerable time and effort trying to make it go away.
Trolls have re-kindled my activism, and convinced me of how vital it is to keep on speaking up.
Thanks for all the fish!
Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:44 AM
Peculiar Titles and Work Interference
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Sorry folks -- today work interfered greatly with my blog dedication. Once more, I'm passing you on to fun activities, and while I pound away on the last entry in the Trolls series, I thought I'd inform you as to how you may address me from now on:
Tomorrow's my day off, so I'll be finishing up that troll series as I sip a well-deserved beer (or two).
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Marchioness Portlydyke the Radiant of Durdle Door
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:59 PM
Monday, August 13, 2007
I'm working on the next piece of the troll series but real life got in the way.
So, I'm going to simply dangle some interesting bits for you tonight (DO NOT pretend that I said "shiny things"!)
For Cat Lovers:
For Dog Lovers:
For God Lovers:
OK, that should suffice.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:39 PM
Trollz Antidotes: Part 2 -- How to Enjoy Trolls
Sunday, August 12, 2007
(Continued from Part I)
This entire post assumes that you are not going to take the cleaner, clearer "Option #1 -- Starve the Troll" approach, and that you have consciously decided that you want to have fun with a troll.
[Disclaimer: I only use these techniques with people who have proven themselves to be trolls by continuing behavior over time. I recommend that you do the same, lest you become a troll. Fangs, bad breath, eeeeew!]
The key to enjoying trolls is to understand the basic energy mechanics of the troll interaction.
I'll begin with the generic individual troll. This type of troll generally wants one thing: Your donation of time, energy, and attention -- in as large a quantity as it can get it. The more ramped up the Troll can get you, the more energy you are likely to spew it's way. Since most of us don't like to feel "mad" or "scared" or "upset", we tend to discharge these emotions away from us, thus losing that energy. If we laugh (an energy that we generally enjoy), we tend to keep our energy with us. This is the one reason that I would advocate having fun with a troll.
Of course, any self-respecting troll will tell you that they are NOT a troll -- that they've just come for an intelligent discussion of the matter at hand. This pretty much recaps what happens if you dare to believe that:
So, fix this maxim firmly in your head: If you choose to toy with a troll, do not entertain the slightest delusion that you are going to "win" -- the point of having fun with a troll is for YOU to HAVE FUN. As far as I'm concerned, all troll play should include the FEPO disclaimer (For Entertainment Purposes Only).
That said, here are a few fun and entertaining games to play with the average everyday individual troll:
- Give it something shiny to play with. Trolls like shiny things. Shiny things could be links to involved statistical websites (if they are a stat fanatic), fascinating wikis, very long video or audio files (like 30 minutes or longer, and include something like "Be sure to listen in to time-mark 24:35 to get what I'm talking about" in your comment). Send it over for a friendly chat with BlogWarBot, but obfuscate the link with something like "Here, THIS is exactly what I'm saying, but the author is way more articulate than I am."
- For the html impaired, here's a cut and paste for your "troll-fun" file -- simply remove all the asterisks *:
Here, <*a href="http://faultline.org/index.php/site/blogwarbot/">THIS <*/a>is <*i>exactly <*/i>what I'm saying, but the author is way more articulate than I am.
- Play with it on its own terms.
- Play the "Bible Study Game" with Fundamentalist Christian trolls. I generally whip this one out any time a troll cites or quotes scripture. It's really fun, because, as I said before, the Bible can be used to justify almost anything. Don't worry if you don't have a wealth of biblical knowledge -- that what sites like these are for: http://www.biblegateway.com -- you can simply search on a keyword and whip up a delicious biblical pastiche.
- Play the "But That's Not What You Said Yesterday" Game -- Keep a handy note-pad file open while you surf your regular community (one note-pad file for each recurrent Troll), and save the Troll's particularly juicy comments (with date and time included) to that file. When the Troll flip-flops (and they usually will -- especially Trolls who accuse you of being inconsistent), just copy, paste, and voila!
- Start a impromptu Virtual Party/Pub with the people that you think are actually making intelligent discussion on the thread -- invite them specifically, offer them a cordial flask of strong drink or a cup of tea -- and request that they ignore the troll completely as you continue the conversation and sip your refreshing virtual beverages. Here's a template: "Hey! I'm declaring a Party on this thread. /*plumping cushions, tapping the keg*/ _______, _____, _________, and _______, will you join me? Let's go over here where we can't hear the troll." (Warning: this must be very consistent -- you must all then ignore the troll's whining about exclusion, freedom-of-speech, the intolerance of regulars to opposing positions, etc.). Make sure that the party includes lots of good humor and serious discussion.
- Play Troll Bingo -- there are a number of great issue bingo cards out there -- including rape apology bingo, fat hate bingo, libertaraian troll bingo, etc..
- Acknowledge the Troll's service to the view that it opposes. If the troll has truly outdone itself, offer it an award:
If you aren't that gifted with photoshop, there are also some handy-dandy images here that are great for troll fun.
The first rule of Troll Enjoyment is Have Fun! The second rule is Be Creative! Go wild!
There are also exciting group games that you can play:
- Put the Enterprise into self-destruct mode if the troll is very persistent. (It's worked for Captain Kirk several times). Let other regulars know that when anyone types "Destruct sequence 1, code 1-1 A." Another commenter will respond: "Destruct sequence 2, code 1-1 A-2B." A third will respond:"Destruct sequence 3, code 1 B-2B-3." A fourth will respond: "Destruct sequence completed and engaged. Awaiting final code for one-minute countdown. The commanding officer would then state: "Code zero zero zero. Destruct. Zero." From that time forward, everyone leaves the thread for the next 15 minutes. In haloscan, have everyone close their windows, so that the comment thread shows evacuation procedure. Upon return, ignore the troll. Yes, this takes some coordination, but it's really fun. If you're the owner of the blog, you may be able to close the comment thread. Have an agreed-upon rendezvous point if you do this. If you want to know my secret rendezvous point, you have to leave a comment here -- and it's still at my discretion whether I reveal the rendezvous point to you or not.
- Have an anti-troll device that you can hand out to regulars. (This is that exciting invention that I've been working on.) Presenting:
Just hand out the 4Ls in the thread, /*employing 4Ls in five, four, three, two . . . */ and enter a pure arena of blissful troll-silence. Then, simply move ahead with the topic! Share them with your friends!
A word of warning. Sometimes, when you are playing with a troll, you may actually find that they become so outrageous that you lose your temper. (That just happened to me a few moments ago.) Do not panic. Simply dedicate that rage. Use it. Use it to change the world. Don't let the asshat have it. Tell It that you are ticked, irritated, mad, angry, or raging, and tell the Troll, calmly and clearly, that you intend to use that energy for transforming the world. Thank them for the extra sauce for your activism.
Some of you may find this entire screed just too much to digest. No problem -- there's an easier, softer way to play with trolls. When they start up, simply type these words:
"I'm very sorry, but I told you -- I'm not allowed to argue with you unless you've paid."
Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:00 AM
Trollzy Antidotes -- Part the First
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Regarding Trolls: I told you they was tricksy. I told you they was false.
OK. That about sums it up. My work here is done. /*dusting off palms*/
Oh, don't get all knicker-twisted -- of course that isn't all of it.
I'm going to take you through the Portly Dyke step-by-step program of troll-handling. Basically, it involves 3 basic activities:
- Assure that you are actually dealing with a troll, rather than a person who may simply be ignorant on the issues (and therefore, who someday may actually come to enlighten you, and/or be enlightened, through the process of intelligent, respectful conversation or dialogue).
- Once you have assured that you are actually dealing with a troll, make a clear decision about how you want to deal with the troll. (See below)
- Once you have made a decision about how you want to deal with the troll, STICK the FUCK to your approach!
Let's start with step 1. How can you know if you're actually dealing with a troll?
There are some tell-tale signs. I listed a few in my first post about this, but here those basics, plus some more:
- Asks lots of questions, never really answers any. Then, demands that you answer their questions, even though you have already answered their questions.
- Spouts unequivocal statements that are wildly speculative, but includes no facts to back up the statements.
- Acts like an ASSHAT
- Uses the phrase "I love cake" without proper context and/or irony.
- States "I just like being contrary for its own sake" (h/t Moira)
- Claims that they're not a anti-(fill-in-the-blank), but rather, anti-(fill-in-the-blank) (h/t Emily)
- And the list goes ON and ON and ON
Sorry to be so vague about this next bit of advice -- but essentially, you're going to have to rely on your own mad google skillz, your intuition, and your experience in determining whether a troll is a troll is a troll.
However -- I do have a suggestion -- in general, I advocate using an age-old native american women's tradition (especially when you are participating in a blog/board community where you have ongoing experience).
In some first-nations peoples, if a woman came to sit in council with other women, and she bitched about something, and then received advice from the other women, everyone would sit and listen/receive, then advise/counsel. The second time the woman came and bitched about the same thing, she would receive further counsel. However, if the woman came back a third time, bitched in the same way about the same thing, and had not acted upon the action that had been recommended, the other women in the circle would not say anything to her. They would, very respectfully and quietly, simply get up, move the circle over a few yards, sit down, and continue the circle. This, in the teaching I got, was called "moving the circle". It is not a message of "we hate you and you are bad" -- it's a message of "we've said everything we have to say to you -- what you choose next is up to you."
So, for me, one way to identify a troll (read "energy vampire") is to offer my opinion/answers/responses once -- twice -- and when they come back a third time with the same crap, I move away. Usually. Unless I'm just having fun and fucking with their heads (never a really good idea, I've discovered).
Step 2 -- Having identified a troll, how are YOU going to deal with it?
The topic of the "best" way to deal with a troll has been a subject of some debate. The conventional wisdom is "starve it to death" (which I generally concur with) -- don't answer it, don't respond to it, glance by its comments as if you have smelled a lethal lentil fart and move on to fresher air. In my opinion, once you have identified an individual troll (one that is not associated with a troll-mass), this is a good strategy, in my opinion . . . . . . UNLESS . . . .
You may post or comment on blogs or boards where the owner has an honest intent to allow freedom of speech (what a concept!) -- this blog is one of those. Yes, I do use "comment verification" (which some of my commenters despise -- -- and I don't blame them for despising it -- but hell, it does slow the process down, and prevents auto-bots from spamming my blog from afar without even bothering to take the time to get here, think for the moment it takes them to type in the verification, etc. -- before spewing complete dreck).
You may be frustrated by the fact that a blog author/administrator allows certain posts and comments to continue to exist upon their blog/board -- you might scream "Ban them! Burn them! Remove those trolls and their vile drivel! You're only giving them a platform and more exposure!" -- but think about this: If a blog moderator extirpated every entry you made that ever pissed them (or other people) off, how could any discussion of any remotely difficult topic continue in the blogging community?
Also -- Consider that the very presence of a troll's absurd and/or extreme statements may actually support your argument/stance via demonstration. That is one of the things that I appreciated about the One True Thread (h/t to Phydeaux fer that name, and no, I am not going to link to it again, for psychically hygienic purposes -- check this post for a link to the One True Thread) If anyone ever wanted a clear demonstration about the thriving existence of misogyny in present-day society, the comments from trolls on this thread prove it, for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt. (As we at the Lesbian Grand Council like to say -- "Thanks for all the fish!")
In my opinion, there are, basically, two pretty solid options when dealing with an individual troll:
- Ignore the Troll. Starve the Troll. Don't respond to It at all. Ever. In Any Way. However -- if you don't have the emotional or mental discipline to accomplish this, then:
- Have fun with The Troll (I'll be putting up a whole new post tomorrow on "How to Enjoy Trolls"). If you choose this second option, then, BY GOD -- CHOOSE IT! Don't entertain regrets later. Understand, from the get-go, that you are engaging with an irrational creature that wants your attention, and donate that attention passionately in a way that is truly enjoyable for you. If you don't have the emotional or mental discipline to accomplish this, then return to option 1!
IME, an individual troll is generally someone who simply wants to affirm their existence by elucidating the response/reaction of others -- any others -- no matter what that response/reaction may be. I believe that individual trolls are sitting at their computers (all alone and feeling blue) and that they desire some outside validation that they still exist. I actually experience compassion for this, because I will confess that I love it when I open my browser in the morning and there is a comment on my blog, or someone has responded to a comment that I made elsewhere. However, I have a strong preference for connective and expansive feedback (even if this is feedback where someone is saying something that doesn't necessarily "agree" with my point of view -- as long as it is proffered in a manner which invites me to connection, I feel glad to connect). Trolls seem to want any response, whether it is connective or not -- like a child who is willing to throw a tantrum in order to get their parent's attention (whether positive or negative).
So, dealing with an individual troll by the starvation tactic listed above as option #1 is, I think, the most effective approach. Sort of like ignoring a child as they throw a tantrum (regardless of how much embarrassment you may experience as you stand in the cereal aisle at the local grocery while they do it -- and yes, I've been there, done that).
Troll-Mass Events (DDOS attacks, 4chan, etc.) seem, to me, to be something else entirely -- they seem to be engaged in an effort to affirm the strength or reality of a community, whether real or imaginary. Notice, in the One True Thread, how many times the trolls try to imply the multitudinousness (is that a real word?) of their community, and the exponential energy of their "group" -- they threaten dominance -- often by any means available. These trolls, in my opinion, are not seeking simple "reaction" to prove to themselves that they continue to exist -- they want to elucidate a sort of submission from others that validates their sense of "might" as a perceived community.
The first part of this scene from Breakfast Club comes to mind:
The irony is, I'm sure, from what they say (Oh, the femnsts R ohprssin me!) that the members of the troll-collective that I recently encountered would think of themselves as Bender, and me as Vernon, while I think of myself as Bender, and them as Vernon.
But -- hmmmm -- let's think about that for a moment. They claim that they are many, and claim that they have power (Vernon and the establishment of the school) and I claim that I am one and claim no power over them (Bender, the outcast). They represent oppressive power that has been in place for many centuries (Vernon), and I am the emerging thought daring to rebel (Bender). Hmmmmm.
It's all sooooo relative, nay? Because this same clip contains fat-phobic, sex-phobic, misogynist, classist, etc., etc., etc., content. Plus the added goodness of a description of child-abuse that is similar to that which I endured. "Did I stutter?"
OK -- I'll be back tomorrow with Part 2 "How to Enjoy Trolls", and Later, with Part 3 --"Troll and Troll-Collectives -- Distinct Strategies".
Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:33 AM
Well, isn't that WEIRD! My post on trolls brought out the first trolls I've ever had on my blog!
That's so WEIRD!
I know that I really, really, really promised that I'd be back with my antidote today, but it's not done yet.
I've been busy dealing with real life in the last 24 hours. What a refreshing concept!
For those of you who care to, please send some prayers/good-vibes/whatever you believe in -- to Phydeaux -- who is having a kitty-wandering-off experience. I've experienced this, and it sucks. I'm sending you big hugs, Phydeaux!
For those of you who have been watching, or were involved with, the One True Thread over at Shakespeare's Sister (I will not link to it here -- it's kind of like He Who Must Not Be Named, I think) -- I imagine that you are, like me, simply recovering. My best advice is: Lots of nice, hot baths (unless you are sweltering in hotter climes -- in which case, lots of nice, cold drinks and cold compresses) -- a thorough "brain rinse" (read something by Robert Frost, watch an episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, or chant something something like "People are really good at heart") -- and a brisk walk outside.
I must admit that the finale of that debacle left me feeling simply sad, sad, sad for the people who were posting the dreck at the end. What a lonely and desperate life they must be leading. I'm sad about that, to this moment.
I want to thank each and every one of you who have commented here on my little tiny blog. And I am experiencing great gratitude that I "know" you, if only in the tiniest way, through your words.
And to Namechanged -- well, I've been wrong before, so I'm not too worried. Here's to your oncoming daughter!
Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:17 AM
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Today, I stood troll duty on a 500+ comment thread [update: Current Count 1225] Yes, it was exhausting (but also kind of fun, seeing how it was my day off and all). Yes, it was disgusting (because . . . .well, it's disgusting at times).
I leave this thread feeling only inspiration for a project I've been considering for a while now:
The Absolutely Fool-Proof Troll Antidote.
It's a far-fetched dream, I admit -- but in some way, just considering it has me feeling like Madame Curie. It's like the Holy Grail, Shangra-La, and Coronado, all wrapped up into one.
Downside: It's going to take me a day or two to invent it. Bummer.
Upside: It's a great topic for a QOD!
So, please readers, discuss (I will be listening and incorporating) -- what is the first sign that tips you off to a troll?
Some that I already have are:
- Asks lots of questions, never really answers any.
- Spouts unequivocal statements that are wildly speculative, but includes no facts to back up the statements.
- Acts like an ASSHAT
*putting on my "inventing" hat, drawing the blinds*
(update: Read On About the Inventionz)
Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:39 AM
Be Right Back
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
I got like 45 minutes of sleep last night (I don't even want to go into the details now -- too tired). So I'm hittin' the hay early and I'll post early tomorrow AM.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:17 PM
Finally -- Sunday School Comes in Handy!
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
OK, I have a confession to make: Not only was I raised as a Christian, which meant that I was forced to attend church every Sunday until I was confirmed at age 13, at which point it became my choice whether to attend church (which I did -- Missouri Synod Lutheran -- I even became the church organist for a time), then I became a "born-again" Christian at age 19 (at the urging of my first lesbian lover -- yeah, that's weird, but it gets weirder), and to this day, I actually have a soft spot in my head for the teachings of Jesus -- you know, the real teachings, like "Love one another", "the meek shall inherit the earth", "suffer the little children to come unto me", etc. -- THAT Jesus? Remember him?
Later in life, I explored some of my less-known religious heritage -- like the fact that my father's fore bearers (who had converted to Bible Baptist a long, long time ago) were actually practicing Jews at one point . I studied Hebrew because I wanted to know what the Old Testament really said, and because I was curious to know what my genetic ancestors had been reading (and so that I could converse in some halting way with a friend in Tel Aviv). Throughout all these wild and woolly forays, I was a dyke-dyke-dykey dyke, since I knew from 12 years of age that I was a big old queer.
So, I know the Bible (Old T and New T) pretty well. It was drummed into my head at "Vacation Bible School" while I sprinkled glitter onto my tongue-depressor crosses at age 5, it was railed at me from the ornate pulpit of my midwestern church throughout my "formative" years, it was crooned to me by my lesbo-lover after a vigorous session of muff-diving, and three bibles still inhabit my book-shelf to this very day:
- My confirmation King James Version
- An NIV gifted to me by my sister when maybe she thought I might actually repent and be saved --the fly-leaf inscribed "The covers of this bible are red -- it's hoped that what lies between them will be" (Isn't that cute?) -- AND
- A gigantic interlinear Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic version (the only one I open now). It is large enough to qualify as a deadly weapon.
Until today, though, I hadn't really understood the Cosmic Plan for all this biblical absorption. Now, I have seen the Light, and Grokked the Purpose --
It was all part of the Creator's Divine Intention to Make Me Ready! . . .
. . . to deal with internet trolls.
On a couple of blogs that I read regularly, there have recently been recurrent appearances of comment trolls who spout things like: "You would all be fine and learn to love our glorious president if you just let the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christs into your hearts and minds! . . . . . . Until you do, you suck."
It took me about two weeks to put it all together, but finally, G-d's Grace broke through to me -- I realized that I had been selected -- little old me -- to carry the Good Book into troll territory -- to recall all that I had studied and pondered over, and to hurl it with wild abandon under bridges everywhere -- yes, I have found My Way . . . My Path . . . My Dao.
So today, I began responding to my favorite "Holly Bibel" Troll simply by thanking it for reminding me to turn to the one source of real answers -- The BIBLE, and then citing an appropriate Bible verse for the situation at hand with the troll.
Luckily, the Bible has all the answers that you need -- no matter what position you are seeking to attack or defend.
Need to protest a war? Just try: Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
Need to defend a war? Well, just a couple of chapters back, we have: Matthew 24:6
"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."
See -- how cool is that?
It's like there's just one book that you can answer ANYTHING with -- Are you excited yet?
But wait, there's MORE!
The Bible is like the Popeil Pocket Fisherman! You can justify or denigrate nearly everything with this single volume! Self-righteousness and cosmic one-upsmanship has never been so easy!
You may be saying: "Hey Portly! I wasn't as privileged as you -- I didn't get a thorough, brain-numbing education in Bible studies from the time I could walk! I don't really understand the Bible -- it all seems so long and complex! How can I quote scripture if I'm taking it out of context and not really sure what it means?"
Don't worry -- the biblicul trolls you might deal with don't seem to understand it either -- they use the Bible this way all the time -- and if they can take a single passage, separate it from its entire surrounding text, and use it to browbeat another human being -- so can you!!
In all seriousness, I do think that the real Jesus rocks. He was a social activist (he advocated and intervened for the poor, down-trodden, and even whores) -- a rebel (which is probably why they killed him, unfortunately) -- anti-establishment (f*ck you, Pharisees! Rich people who care for no one else -- you're not gettin' into my heaven!) -- the real Jesus was a fucking radical.
So, maybe I'm a true Christian after all.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:54 PM