Orphan At The Family Picnic
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Let me begin by saying: Yes, we've made progress.
When I was born (and until I was in my early 20s), I was, by virtue of being a big old dyke, "mentally ill", according to the DSM II.
When I was 14, I still had to wear a dress to school, because I had a vagina -- even though no one was supposed to know about the whole vagina thing, except Mrs. Stains (unfortunate name, that), my phys ed/health teacher who was, apparently, the only person in the entire world who was actually authorized to use the word "vagina" out loud.
By the time I was 28, Wisconsin had become the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
So, yes -- we've made progress.
However, as this campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has unfolded, in a time when I think I should be all up and shouting "Progress!" because we (finally) have a black man and a woman vying for the nomination -- two historic "firsts" -- and we might actually have a Democratic president for the first time in this millenium -- I've realized that lately, I feel a bit like the orphan at the family picnic.
In many ways, I've actually been grateful that the process has exposed the underlying race-hatred and misogyny that I believe is alive and well in our society -- I think that having these destructive forces rear their ugly heads and become more exposed is probably helpful in the long run, if painful in the short run.
The danger of excusing "underground" racism/sexism/homopobia/classism is something I've written about many times, and exposure is probably the only way a culture in denial is ever going to really deal with the fact that we remain a society shot-through with institutionalized racism, sexism, homo-/trans-phobia, and classism.
There have been many, many discussions on the internet about the various racist and sexist tactics used during this nomination process.
I'm glad. I want those discussions!
I've noticed, though, that there really isn't much talk about LGBT rights these days. Sure, all the Democratic candidates say that we shouldn't be beaten up, or harrassed -- 'cuz that would be . . . you know . . . wrong -- but of the original candidates in the Dem race, only two supported full marriage rights for LGBT couples -- Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.
You know -- the weird ones -- the camera-starer and the UFO chaser.
In the course of various "political" discussions I've had in the past few months, I've been told, literally (by "progressives" no less) that it's "too soon" for gay marriage, that I should be patient, that if I feel concern about a candidate associating with a known homophobe, that I'm being "overly-sensitive", that I need to suck it up and vote the Party ticket even if I feel disenfranchised, and pitch in to help to put a Democrat in the White House, because they are going to be my only hope of change, etc., etc., etc..
If I put on my Political-Savvy Brain Modifier, all of those things even make sense. In a way. Sometimes.
But if I put on my Institutional Memory Stimulator, and dig into my Current Lifetime Experience Archives, I seem to remember that most things didn't actually change because disenfranchised people politely folded their hands in their laps and did as they were told.
The DSM II was changed because people (like me) started coming out, and refusing to cooperate with the code of silence, and refused to wear the mantle of shame that had been standard operating procedure for "How to Be Queer" up until the mid to late sixties.
The dress code at my High School was changed because a bunch of girls just stopped wearing dresses. They refused. They were threatened with expulsion. But pretty soon, there were enough of them that expelling all the offenders would have resulted in a an all-boy prom . . . . . and we couldn't have that, now, could we?
The State of Wisconsin passed anti-discrimination laws because there were some pushy, insistent, persistent queers who just would not STFU (to be fair -- it is possible that the majority of the straight populace may have been so busy watching the Packers and eating cheese curds that they simply didn't notice that the queers had taken over).
So, being told to shut my trap, mellow out, lighten up (yes, someone told me to "lighten up" yesterday, about the queer stuff) sounds to me exactly like: "Lie back and think of England."
At times, I've felt loathe to bring up the whole queer thing, what with all the meaty discussions of racism and misogyny that I believe actually DO need thorough discussion -- but that's when I start noticing that I feel like an orphan at the family picnic.
You know. No one wants to throw you out -- after all, you look too much like them -- but no one really wants to claim you, either. Everybody knows that it sucks to be you, but they're not really sure what to do about that. So here, kid, have a buffalo wing and some potato salad. Just don't expect anyone to be whipping out the old adoption papers.
Now, I could almost (I said, almost) understand this in the General Election. It's pretty easy for the Republicans to break out the old "Oh noees! S/He's friendly with teh Homoeees!" (Which they are probably going to do in any case, come the GE) -- but this nomination race is a race between DEMOCRATS! -- you know -- the people who are supposed to be all about Teh Freedom and Teh Equality?
The fact that most of the candidates (with the two quirky exceptions) haven't really made many strong statements about LGBTQ rights (except under direct questioning or as ass-covereage) during the run for the nomination troubles me . . . . a lot. [Update: As I was writing this, Hillary Clinton's interview with the Philadelphia Gay News was brought to my attention -- and yes, I consider that a strong statement in support of LGBTQ rights.]
As someone pointed out in a comment thread about candidates who are connected with known homophobes: "to make excuses for our candidates when they turn their backs on genuinely progressive issues---just because we've been flogged and fatigued into a place of fear and desperation---is to accept the ultimate Republican framing."
I think that maybe that's what troubles me. I seem to remember a time when truly progressive candidates were more unapologetically and vocally supportive of LGBTQ rights -- in fact, some of them actually pointed to this as one of the ways that they stood out from the crowd -- but it seems to me that the past 15 years of extreme right-wing Christianist pushback has put the fear of the fundies into our so-called progressive candidates (I believe that both the front runners are, essentially, moderates -- maybe even leaning-to-the-right moderates in some areas).
And that troubles me, too. The "political realities" for these two historic candidates almost mandate that they appear publicly moderate -- the old "fold your hands in your lap and wait your turn" thing being brought to bear -- but if I'm honest with myself, I think that, even politically, it's a mistake.
I think we need to be starting at our broadest, highest ideals, not starting from some luke-warm middle place in the hopes of acceptance. Because in the shell-game that is politics, it's very likely that there will be compromise from that broadest, highest vision -- so why start with something so diluted that it is sometimes virtually indistinguishable from conservative thought?
I often wonder: How can Hillary Clinton, a woman who's had to fight every step of the way to get to the place she is, and Barack Obama, a person of color who's had to fight every step of the way to get to the place he is -- (I believe that they both probably had to deal with a lot of shit to get where they each are, regardless of any current advantages they may have in terms of power and wealth) -- how could either of these people not understand that change comes only when oppressed people stand firm, talk back, and refuse to cooperate with the systems that are oppressing them. How can they not know this? Did they forget their own journeys?
It's at about this point in my ponderings that I often find that I just have to slap myself awake again. I mean, it's not as if I sit around everyday, all day, chanting "I'm queer, I'm queer, I'm queer." Most of the time, I don't even think about it -- I just go on living my life -- until I run into some reminder of homophobia, or I notice that teeny, tiny tick mark being made in my brain when I hear a speech that says something about "all people, regardless of race, creed, color, or class" . . . . but there's nothing about sexual or gender orientation.
For me, the entire situation brings up various spiritual dilemmas -- as a person who adheres to the concept that everything I manifest in my life is perfect -- even the stuff that may not look perfect at the moment -- I bring myself again and again back to a state of equilibrium when I get all wrought up about things political and social.
It is at these moments that I train my focus on the larger scope of things, and the smaller scope of things, attempting to remember that the political drama of one country on one planet looks much different from the stars that are shining outside my window, and from the viewpoints of the insects that are just beginning to hum lazily in the yard. I remind myself that politics is, in many ways, a form of Junior High Drama -- what is hot and bothersome today will be all but forgotten by next week, and that someday, as my friend John says: "This will all be history."
I'm really not sure where I'm going with this post. It's just that I noticed that orphan-y feeling coming up now and again, and I wanted to get it out of my head. I don't want to deny that part of me that sometimes feels as if it's standing outside in the cold, peering in through the window at the happy family gathering around Christmas dinner. I suspect that there is something informative and useful for me in that yearning.
Ah! Wait! Now I've got it! (I just knew that if I flopped around in my own language long enough, I'd get to the point.)
I don't want to wait anymore. It's a simple as that.
I don't want to scrape away at the mountains of ignorance with my needle. I want radical transformation. I don't want to be "reasonable" and "realistic", because I think the way most people in the status quo are living is not really well-reasoned, and the reality that is created by just accepting the same old shit isn't a reality I want to live in.
I want basic human rights and respectful treatment for everyone. Right now.
Because it's the only reasonable reality -- the only thing that makes sense for humans.
The only way that we all get to come in from the cold, and sit down to dinner.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:00 PM