Dear Fellow White People: RE Justine Damond Shooting

Dear fellow white people who are shocked and angered by Justine Damond’s murder.
Dear fellow white people who are outraged that a woman was shot by the very police she called for help.
Dear fellow white people who are devastated that a beautiful yoga instructor and bride-to-be’s life was cut short by trigger-happy cops.
Dear fellow white people who are in disbelief an unarmed person would be so carelessly and ruthlessly gunned down by those who are supposed to “protect and serve.”
Where were you?

Where were you when Charleena Lyles was murderer by Seattle police after calling for help?
Where were you when Philando Castle and Sandra Bland, both pillars of their communities, were ripped away from their families and friends by police brutality?
Where where you when literally thousands of unarmed Black folx are murdered by U.S. police?

Dear fellow white people who are demanding “hashtag justice for Justine.”
Dear fellow white people who are appalled that a law abiding person could end up a victim of police violence.
Dear fellow white people who are frantically asking “how is this even possible in my country?”
Why weren’t you listening?

Why weren’t you listening to the cries for justice for Eric Garner, or Mike Brown? Or at least Tamir Rice who was just 12 years old?
Why weren’t you listening to Black and Latin Americans when they told you police violence was a serious and institutional problem that affects all of us?
Why weren’t you listening to Black parents when their young children were routinely terrorized by cops in their own neighborhoods?

If we’re just now getting angry,
if we’re just now paying attention,
if we just now started to care about police brutality.
If we are heartbroken over the death of Justine Damond,
but unmoved by the death of Jordan Edwards.
Please, let’s save our tears.

This is not to say Justine Damond deserved to die. No, she absolutely didn’t.
This is not to say we can’t be saddened or even enraged by her death. No, we absolutely should be.
Nor is this to say that white people have lost the right to be upset over the wrongful shooting of other white people.
And I am sure that Justine was wonderful person who will be missed.

However, we do not get to be outraged over the murder of seemingly wholesome, fair-skinned, conventionally attractive, blonde lady,
while simultaneously ignoring the systemic radicalized violence faced by Black folx, Latin folx, Indigenous folx, and other people of colour.

And as a special note to my fellow white people who are making racist comments about the police officer who shot and killed Justine Damond, kindly go fuck yourselves.
Because I know you’re the same fuckers who say shit like, “all lives matter” and, “stop making everything about race!”
So, sit down and shut the fuck up. You sure as hell don’t get to pretend racism doesn’t exist and then garner sympathy by being a racist piece of shit.

If you would like to read more about this story, I recommend Shaun King’s article on Daily News, “Police brutality jumped a racial fence with Minneapolis cop shooting of Justine Damond” here.

Dear Steve Scalise, Karma’s a Bitch

This article is meant to parody the typical Conservative response to mass shootings. Links to real news sources are posted below.

Early this morning, at a GOP charity baseball practice session, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot by a lone gunman in Alexandria, Virginia. Two members of the Capitol Police, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist for Tyson Foods were also shot. These five injured parties were hospitalized. The gunman, identified as James Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois, was reportedly killed by law enforcement at the baseball field. (Source 2)

Hodgkinson was 66 years old, an entrepreneur, politically active, and leaves behind a wife and daughter. His motives are unknown at this point, although some people suspect me have have suffered a recent mental break. Currently, the only thing we can do is wait for some sort of explanation for this tragedy, and send our thoughts and prayers to the victims. (Source 1)

Rep. Steve Scalise underwent surgery this morning and remains in critical condition. In addition to being the House Majority Whip, Scalise has been an opponent of gun control measures, and also has ties to known white supremacists.

In 2016, Scalise interviewed with CNN’s Jake Tapper and aggressively opposed then President Obama’s new gun control policies, calling them “executive overreach,” and claiming the U.S. already had adequate gun control measures and protections (Source 6). Watch the full interview here:

In 2002, he spoke at a European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) conference about “the most effective and up-to-date methods of civil rights and heritage related activism.” EURO was founded by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and is recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). (Source 3)

Steve Scalise claims he “didn’t know” EURO was a white supremacist organization, nor did he know it was founded by David Duke, and says speaking at this 2002 conference was a “mistake” which he “regrets” (Sources 3 & 4). However, EURO was a well-known racist hate group in 2002 according to a spokesperson for SPLC, and this conference was also on an “Anti-Defamation League list of extremist events for that year” (Source 3).

Scalise continued to defend himself by claiming he has spoken to many different groups with different ideologies, and “when people called and asked me to speak to groups, I went and spoke to groups” (Sources 3 & 4). He also said he did not have a scheduler on staff in 2002, nor did he have “the benefit of Google” (Source 4). It should be noted Google’s internet search engine not only existed in 2002, but was growing in popularity.

In 2014, The Washington Post interviewed David Duke on whether or not Saclise was aware of Duke’s connection to the 2002 EURO conference. Duke said he did not know for sure if Scalise knew “what the conference was,” but that Scalise was asked to speak by “two of Duke’s longtime associates.” (Source 4)

Additionally, Steve Scalise was likely aware of who David Duke was prior to his 2002 EURO conference speech, given a 1999 statement he made about Duke. When interviewed by Roll Call regarding Rep. Bob Livingston’s (R-La) resignation and the possibility of both David Duke and himself filling that newly vacated House seat, Scalise said he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, but is far more viable.” (Source 5)

Sources:

  1. Jose Pagliery, “Suspect in congressional shooting was Bernie Sanders supporter, strongly anti-Trump,” CNN, June 14, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/14/homepage2/james-hodgkinson-profile/index.html
  2. Tal Kopan and Eric Bradner, “GOP House Whip Steve Scalise in critical condition after shooting at baseball practice,” CNN, June 14, 2017,
    http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/14/politics/alexandria-virginia-shooting/index.html
  3. Molly Reilly and Ryan Grim, “House Majority Whip Steve Scalise Spoke At White Supremacist Conference In 2002,” Huffington Post, Dec. 29, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/29/steve-scalise-euro-conference_n_6392036.html
  4. J. Scott Applewhite, “Rep. Scalise: Speech At White Supremacist Gathering ‘A Mistake I Regret’,” NPR, Dec. 30, 2014, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/12/30/373955103/rep-steve-scalise-i-went-and-spoke-to-any-group-that-called
  5. Niels Lesniewski, “What Scalise and Vitter Told Roll Call About David Duke in 1999,” Roll Call, Dec. 29, 2014, http://www.rollcall.com/218/scalise-vitter-talked-to-roll-call-about-david-duke-in-1999/?dcz=
  6. “CNN: Scalise Blasts Obama’s Gun Measures,” CNN, Jan. 6, 2016, http://scalise.house.gov/press-release/cnn-scalise-blasts-obama%E2%80%99s-gun-measures

Liberation through Lesbianism

Image Description: two interlinked female gender symbols, which each consist of a circle with a plus sign attached to the bottom, on a rainbow pride flag background.

First of all, a disclaimer: I’m not lesbian. I’m bisexual, meaning I am attracted to genders similar to, and different from, my own. For me personally this translates into attraction toward feminine and masculine presenting folx. Yet for the vast majority of my sexually active years, I mostly had relationships with men – mostly straight, cis men. (No, this does not mean I “used to be straight,” because sexual behavior does not determin sexual orientation.) The reason for this is because it was honestly eaiser. We live in a hetero-normative society, so hetero-normative relationships are easier to enter and sustain. They’re not better or healthier; there are just more opportunities to be in one. My current, and most serious, relationship to date, however, is with a woman. Sure, I hooked up with women in the past, but those never turned into anything serious. So, having a female significant other is a new experience for me. 

It hasn’t exactly been a Hollywood movie where I date a girl for the first time when I go off to college, she reveals the wonders of the glorious vagina (note: not all women have vaginas), and I find sexual liberation. Nor did I ever expect anything like that. In fact, it’s always felt remarkably normal. But over time I have slowly noticed some differences between being in a committed relationship with a man and being in a committed relationship with a woman.

For one, I’ve felt less pressure to make myself look “hot.” Yes, we find each other attractive, but I don’t worry about her making rude little comments about my body. Instead of, “eww! Why do you have a random long-ass hair on your back? Lol,” it’s, “hey babe, you have a random long-ass hair on your back. Do you want me to pluck it for you?” And while our behavior toward each other’s bodies might not work for everyone, there’s no denying she is less critical of my body then men typically have been. She understands women’s bodies aren’t perfect – probably because she has one – but that doesn’t disqualify our bodies from being beautiful. 

However, the two most significant differences I’ve noticed between being with a woman and being with a man are (1) a lack of gross entitlement in my partner, and (2) a far lighter demand on my emotional labor.

My girlfriend does not act entitled to my body. She doesn’t assume I will have sex with her whenever she wants. She doesn’t assume I will do all the cleaning and house work even though we both work full time, and she certainly doesn’t expect me to clean up after her. She doesn’t pressure me to be friends with her friends, or demand I take her side in a debate. She doesn’t act entitled to every minute of my time, and think my entire universe revolves around her needs. She knows I’m always there for her for the important stuff, but she’s also aware I have obligations to other people and myself.

This substantially lessened demand on my emotional labor now that I’m with my girlfriend actually just hit me today. I was reading an article about how men expect the women in their lives to manage their emotions for them, and I was like, “that’s spot on! I used to have to do that all the fucking time! But now I don’t… Why is that?” The reason is twofold: One, I actually don’t have a ton of men in my life these days. I was never one of those people who only had female friends; I just kind of hung out with whomever I clicked. But lately, I just don’t have a lot of guy friends. Maybe it’s because I’m not in college anymore, my office is all women, and there aren’t that many dudes in my circle. Or maybe it’s because my tolerance for sexism and men’s bullshit has shrunk to miniscule ammounts, so all my male friends decided to bail rather than confront their sexist behaviors. I don’t know.

Reason number two should be pretty obvious: I’m no longer romantically or sexually involved with men. Therefore, the interactions I do still have with men are far less intimate. For the first time I am able to hold all the men I know at a distance if I so choose. And you know what? It’s been pretty great. Yes, I still experience harassment and abuse from male clients, male relatives, male acquaintances, and even male stangers. But when I go home at night I get a break.

I no longer come home to someone I have to mother, coddle, or play therapist to. I am no longer my significant other’s emotional landfill where they dump all their negative emotions and unprocessed feelings, expecting me to magically take care of them. I am no longer an emotional punching bag on which the man who claims to love me can take out his anger. I don’t have to worry about brusing my girlfriend’s fragile male ego. I can be direct with her, and that’s so refreshing. 

All this is not to say my girlfriend is faultless, but when she’s being an asshole I can tell her, “hey, you’re being an asshole,” without fear of having to deal with an angry display of male dominance. And can I be completely honest? I feel incredibly free without men. I didn’t realize how heavy the burden of performing emotional labor for the men in my life was until I wasn’t carrying it around anymore. I can’t say I particularly miss having men in my personal life. I deal with enough abuse from male clients at my job. Just today, I had a client throw a bitch fit because I was talking to my boss for a minute while I was on the phone with him. Never mind I had already given him 20 minutes of my time listening to him ramble incoherently, like always. Never mind that he wasn’t saying anything at that time. Never mind I was talking to my boss. Never mind he regularly talks over me, ignores me, and hangs up on me. He got shitty because someone didn’t prioritize his delicate man feelings and dared to refocus their attention off of him for a moment. Then he took that anger out on me and my boss. This is what men do, and I certainly don’t miss coming home to that.

When I studied feminist philosophy, I learned about something called “Political Lesbianism,” which essentially argues the solution to our patriarchal society is for women to simply abandon it and cut themselves off from men (or perhaps cut men off from women). Aside from the obviouse feasibility issue, Political Lesbianism is a branch of Radical Feminism that I have found to be particularly welcoming to Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Often, cis women holding this ideology don’t view transwomen or transfeminine folx as “real” women. Political Lesbianism also de-emphasizes the importance of intersectionality and solidarity with other social justice movements. It’s more of a, “fuck you, I’m leaving” mentality, than my preferred, “fuck this, let’s join forces and dismantle this unequal society” mentality. 

While I don’t believe Political Lesbianism is the solution to our patriarchy problem, I am starting to think part of the idea might be applicable to my personal life and the personal lives of many queer feminine of center folx. When I’m asked if I would consider ever dating men again (for now, let’s ignore the biphobia in that question), I say no. Obviously, I don’t plan or want to end things with my girlfriend. But beyond that, I am really enjoying not dealing with men, their entitlement, and their demand for my emotional labor.

An Open Letter to my Father: What I Never Bother Saying 

dear-dad

Image Description: the words, “Dear Dad” written in the bisexual colors of pink, purple, and blue on a dirty piece of white lined paper.

[TW: references to emotional abuse and queerphobia]

A few months ago I finally told my father and mother I am bisexual. Not surprisingly, their responses have less than decent. I’ve known for years there is no hope for my mother. I could explain how I know this but that would take far too long, so I’ll save that for another post. Just believe that I know my mother better than you, and I know she’ll never accept any of her children, least of all her queer, bisexual child. However, I allowed myself to hope my father might one day come around. I didn’t think he would go with me to bi pride events or buy himself a bi flag t-shirt that reads, “proud parent,” but I hoped he would get used to who I am and develop a “live and let live” approach at some point. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly obvious that will never happen.

Upon first breaking the news to my father, he was clearly displeased and asked several inappropriate questions. His actions proceeded to go downhill from there. Most recently, he sent me some unsolicited opinions on what he does and does not find disappointing about me. He wanted to let me know that while he is not disappointed in me per se, he is disappointed in my “lifestyle choices.” However, he reassured me that he does love me in spite of the whole bi thing, and that I could see how much he loves me if only I stopped focusing on the negatives in our relationship and focused instead on the positives. After his other recent stunts that I don’t particularly want to get into right now, I’m done. I’m over him. He’s just not worth my time anymore. He doesn’t get it and never will, so I won’t bother explaining to him how offensive and problematic his comments were.

But if I thought he would listen to me for once, I would say: Telling your child you love them despite not liking, accepting, or even tolerating a significant part of who they are is not love. That’s called emotional abuse. And if that’s the only form of “love” you’re capable of giving, I’m really not interested. There are much better people in my life who actually love me and who are worth my time. So, excuse me, but I’m not exactly heartbroken over not having a close relationship with you. You, the father who abused my mother and sister in front of me when I was little. The father who has regularly made sexist and queerphobic comments within earshot my entire life. The father who yelled at me, blamed my mother, and refused to get me professional help when you found me trying to down a Costco-sized bottle of benadryl at 13. The father who slammed me into walls. The father who literally laughed in my face when I confronted you about your abusive behavior. The father who still continues to gaslight me. In fact, I am a much healthier person for not really having you in my life.

And please believe me when I say I’m not going to suddenly run home one day and tell you I forgive you and know that you always loved me. There’s nothing to forgive because you won’t change or apologize. Forgiveness requires some sort of reconciliation. To be honest, you seem to lack the ability to perform any sort of meaningful self-reflection that is required for mutual acts of reconciliation. Instead, I am moving on with my life and surrounding myself with decent people who love me for me; people who love all of me. (That’s how real love works, FYI.) And based on your behavior toward me, how exactly am I supposed to know that you love me? I’m sure you think you love me, but that doesn’t mean anything. Love has to be given in a way that can be received. Metaphorically throwing your self-centered version of love at people and assuming it will stick is not an effective or equitable method of conveying love. I would even believe you “love” me as much as you are capable,  but again, that doesn’t mean much to me when that “love” is twisted, selfish, abusive, and manipulative.

Your queerphobia, hatred, and inability to convey healthy love to your children are your own problems, not mine. It isn’t my job to justify your bigotry, ease your conscience, or make you feel like you’re loving me appropriately. I don’t owe you my love or understanding when you believe I, your own child, shouldn’t exist because of who I happen to be attracted to. I don’t owe you my time or affection simply because you gave me half my DNA. I don’t even owe you an explanation for why I don’t want to be around you. I don’t owe you shit. And I’m not going to sacrifice my emotional well-being to make you feel better about yourself.

If you ever decide to work through these issues, great. Professional therapy is a wonderful tool that I utilize myself. But I’m not interested in having a relationship with you. I’m not bitter; I’m simply done. If we need to conduct any sort of business together, I will be superficial, yet civil. But I will not listen to your excuses, nor your sad little pity parties about how I don’t acknowledge your shitty version of love.

Thanksgiving Dinner with my Abusers 

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), "Freedom From Want," 1943

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom From Want,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” March 6, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

As I sit in the corner of my parents living room this Thanksgiving my hands are shaking and I’m fighting back tears.  For some people the holidays are a wonderful, family-oriented season, but for others, like me, the holidays are an especially difficult time of year. It’s the time of year when some of us are forced into confined spaces with our abusers, and we have to pretend to be happy.

Of course, the holidays aren’t the time to discuss the fact my parents are abusive. They’re the time for forgiveness, “letting go of the past,” and loving your family no matter what they’ve done… At least that’s what my sister tells me. After all, let’s not ruin our Thanksgiving family dinner with the truth. Maybe she doesn’t want to be reminded of the abuse she suffered. And that’s totally fine, no one should force her to relive their abuse. But it’s really invalidating to be told that I need to “move on,” to stop “dwelling in the past,” or that I’m just being bitter and resentful whenever I mention my parent’s abuse.

The anxiety I experience whenever I’m around the individuals who abused me (and still abuse me to a lesser extent) is a valid response to past emotional and physical trauma. Needing to express my feelings is not the same as being “bitter” or “dwelling in the past.” It’s not like I sit around in a dark room every day thinking up ways to hurt my abusers. Nor do I talk about the abuse I experienced to every person I know. In fact, I tend to suppress my emotions more than most people.

Invalidating my response to abuse is itself a form of abuse. But honestly, I’m used to my entire family doing this. From my siblings, who were also abused growing up, telling me to “get over it,” to my parents telling me I’m crazy and imagining their abuse, invalidation is par for the course around here.

Invalidating comments from family aside, holidays can still be incredibly traumatic for those of us who were abused by relatives (or anyone else who regularly shows up to familial holiday functions). Having to smile at your abuser(s), fake affection for them, refrain from making any negative comments, and bottling up my emotions are also forms of abuse. I am forced to quietly relive past harms, and I must pretend everything is fine and dandy – including the fact these people are abusers.

The neighborhood pedophile is even having dinner with us because my mother is having an affair with him (everyone knows this, including my father, but we don’t say anything). It doesn’t matter he used to come into our yard and look in the windows at me any time I was home alone as a young teenager. And it doesn’t matter he used to tell me to “come give daddy a hug” and force himself on me. No, it would be rude to bring that up. Instead, I hold his hand while someone says a prayer.

Some people might wonder why I go along with family Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it me easier to say “fuck all of you?” Why don’t I just go somewhere else for Thanksgiving? Well aside from the fact I don’t really celebrate U.S. colonization and theft of Native lands, no, it wouldn’t be easier to just remove myself from family functions. My family would hold that against me for years. They would try to guilt-trip me, or berate me for being a bad daughter and a bad sister. They would say I’m stuck in the past, I’m an angry person, and that all my hate toward them will make me ugly. They would punish me for years by any means available, including putting down the family pets (I’m not kidding, my mother did it once before), withholding financial help if I need it, and being emotionally abusive every time we interact. People who are abused repeatedly often go into survival mode because it’s the only thing we can do. We comply with the abuse because we know fighting it won’t make it stop, it will just make things more painful.

So, what’s the point of this? Where’s the happy ending? Unfortunately, there isn’t one.  I have done things with my life and grown as a person. I’ve traveled, I’ve gotten a college degree, I have friends, etc. I even went to therapy. But holidays will never be easy.

The Privilege of Post-Terrorism Support & Sympathy

Paris overshaddowing beirut

Image Description: A photo of street in Beirut after most recent terrorist attack. There is a crowd of people, rubble, blown up cars, signs and banners, and Lebanese flags. There is a photo of an eye with the pupil the colours of the French flag with the Eiffel tower in the middle overlaid on the photo of the street in Beirut.

My Thoughts on the Paris Attacks and on Terrorism in General:

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest sympathies with everyone impacted by the recent Paris attacks. The pain and fear Paris residents are experiencing is very real, and I by no means wish to invalidate or minimize that. I believe violence (except in the case of self-defense) is always intolerable, and there is absolutely no justification for terrorism.

I say all this because I know some people will be angered by what I’m going to say next. They might claim I don’t care about the Parisian victims. They might get defensive, claim they care about all victims of terrorism, but say Paris is just the most recent site of grief. They might argue that because the Paris attacks are such a fresh wound, this isn’t an appropriate time to focus on other cases of terror-based violence. So, I want to be clear that I do grieve for the loss of life and devastation in Paris, and I’m not excusing or minimizing terrorism or any other form of violence. And that is all I’m going to say in defense of my grief for Paris; anyone who doesn’t believe me can sod off.

The international support for France, and Paris specifically, after the terrorists attacks by ISIS was quick to appear and far-reaching in the western world. People rushed to tweet about their solidarity, change their Facebook profile picture to a a photo of the Eiffel Tower or French flag, or post an artsy “Pray For Paris” banner on whatever social media sight they favour (or use Google Translate to say “Prier Pour Paris,” which may or may not be correct, if they want people to know they really care about Paris). People all over the west are holding candlelight vigils in the name of France, Paris, and those who died. France’s neighbors and allies are supporting them politically as they drop 24 bombs on Syria in one night (Brumfield et al. 2015). Western media erupted with outpourings of sympathy for France, condemnation of terrorism, and demands for their own leaders to take action against ISIS. The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian, all the major news publications, and some local ones are talking nonstop about Paris, reporting on every detail, expressing their shock and grief. Even a certain well-known hacker group has declared cyber-war on ISIS because of the Paris attacks. (I could make a lot of jokes about this cyber threat on ISIS, but I don’t really want to get hacked by an angsty member of that group who randomly stumbles across this 9 months from now at 2 am.)

At first glance, this international support and sympathy might seem admirable to some folx. After all, isn’t it a good thing to have compassion for other people who are suffering? We might not be be French or live in Paris, but we care about the victims and their loved ones because they’re people too and we care what happens to them as global citizens, right? Yes, of course compassion is a good thing. But where was the mass international post-terrorist attack support for the people of Beirut last Thursday (the day before the Paris attacks) when 43 people were killed and 239 were wounded by an ISIS terrorist attack? (Wellman 2015) Or last April when at least 147 people were shot and killed in an assault by al-Shabab militants on a university in north-eastern Kenya (BBC 2015)? Or every day in Syria where a civil war has been raging for four years in addition to the “helpful” airstrikes from western “allies” that, at best, only destroy the country’s infrastructure. A total of 210,060 people have died in Syria over the past four years of war; that works out to be approximately 144 people a day – many of them civilians (Ahmed 2015). In fact, France is launching airstrikes over Syria now in response to the Paris attacks. Where are the candle light vigils for the Syrians who will likely be killed in those attacks?

None of those places received anywhere close to the same level of media coverage and international support as Paris did after terrorist attacks. And this is the norm; the western world largely ignores terrorism – which happens daily – until it happens to them. The global hierarchy places western life, specifically white, christian western life above the lives of Black and Brown folx living in countries we [westerns] don’t views as significant, autonomous players in international politics.

This double standard of support, sympathy, and even the recognition of incidents of violence as terrorism is problematic in several ways. First, it allows the west to ignore terrorism – the terrorism that we often fund, politically back, or are otherwise complicate in – in “insignificant” regions that harms “unimportant” Black and Brown people. The U.S. (and other western countries) like to think of ourselves as the world’s protector. We claim to have zero tolerance for global injustice and talk about our supposed duty to protect any week kids getting bullied by bad guys on the world’s metaphorical playground. (In reality, the U.S. is more like an abusive big brother who barges into their younger siblings’ bedrooms, uninvited, to fix problems which we often created in the first place.) Yet we ignore the daily violence and terror faced in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, Somalia, and Nigeria because they’re unimportant to us. But when places like France are attacked, we’re deeply saddened and outraged. This allows us to oppose terrorism when it’s convenient and beneficial to our own interests, and turn a blind eye to – or even promote or engage in – terrorism at other times.

Second, this double standard prioritizes the life of white westerners over the lives of Black and Brown non-westerners. Beirut was attacked the day before Paris was attacked, but how many people did you see posting “Pray for Beirut,” or a Lebanese flag? In fact, Facebook didn’t even offer a Lebanese flag filter until a few people started pointing out how offensive that was.  Much of the west remained unaware Beirut had been devastated by a terrorist attack for days because they were only focused on Paris. Even when folx found out about other attacks, their reactions were… muted?… at best. To put it more bluntly, reactions to terrorism in non-westerns places were/are callus. We [westerners] either expect terrorism to regularly occur in places like Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, etc., and view it as an inevitable fact of life, or don’t care about those cases of terrorism because they’re so far removed from our own lives. And whenever someone mentioned Paris shouldn’t be given more media attention or international support than Beirut (or any other non-western country affected by terrorism), many westerns grew defensive about their one-sided sympathy for Parisians. “We supposed care about Paris?! We can care about more than one thing at a time!” For one, of course we’re supposed to care about Paris, so long as we also care about other cities devastated by terrorism. Two, that’s the whole point: we don’t actually care about multiple things at one time, but we should. We should care just as much about everyone affected by terrorism. And we should prioritize those who suffer the most from terrorism, which happens to be Muslim, Middle Eastern, North African, and some Southeast Asian folx – not white people.

Third, this double standard excuses western nations from taking responsibility for their contributing rolls in the rise of international terrorist organizations. The U.S. is not the only western nation who has contributed financially, politically, and militarily to international terrorism. However, I’m going to use the U.S. as an example. The U.S. funded the mujahideen (who were groups of religious extremist guerrilla fighters) in Afghanistan to fight our proxy war with Soviet Russia in the 1970s, because OMG! Communism! The war devastated Afghanistan’s infrastructure and political system, leaving the country unstable and vulnerable to violent authoritarianism. Infighting broke out between the different factions of the mujahideen. No longer financially backed by the United States, some of them sought refuge in religious fundamentalist schools in Saudi Arabia. The Taliban was born from these fundamentalist. The Taliban proceeded to destroy Afghanistan’s social and political structures, terrorize the Afghan people, and rule the country with an iron fist. By the late 1990s, the brutality of the Taliban had reached nearly all of Afghanistan. Afghan folx were certainly experiencing terrorism (and still do), but the west called this terrorism a civil war. There responsibility for Afghanistan’s perilous situation was thus removed from the shoulders of the west and places squarely on Afghanistan as a country (and their people), even though the State of Afghanistan didn’t start the proxy war with the Soviets. But because we don’t call it terrorism, but a “civil war,” we [the west] can remove ourselves from our role in this terrorism.

Finally, this double standard paints certain forms of terrorism, especially state-sanctioned domestic terrorism, as another form of  violence or mere tragedy. When we only acknowledge acts of terrorism as terrorism if they are committed in a western country by non-western groups, we erase the experiences of those victimized by less stereotypical terrorism. For instance: given that so many Black Americans (and other people of colour, espcially Native Americans) are killed by police under suspicious or outright brutal circumstances, what do you think people of colour in the U.S. feel every time they must interact with law enforcement? Terror? This is definitely a type of terrorism; it’s state-sanctioned terrorization of a particular group of people. Or what about trans and gender non-conforming folx? Over 20 trans women alone were murdered in the U.S. so far in 2015 (Kellaway and Brydum 2015). According to Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports, a trans person is murdered approximately every 3 days worldwide (Balzer 2009). Additionally, trans and gender non-conforming people face threats of abuse and harassment daily. Too many socially and politically marginalized folx have to live in fear of harm or death. If that’s not terrorism, I don’t know what is.

These one-sided reactions to terrorism and double standards in the way we [westerners] conceptualize terrorism have real world consequences. Namely, those most regularly and severely affected by terrorism go largely unnoticed by the powerful west, which allows the terrorism committed against them to continue. Terrorism and violence are always horrible no matter who it happens to, but westerns do have the privilege of sympathy, international support, and the recognition of being ‘real’ victims of terrorism.

Sources:

Ahmed, Beenish, “Syrian Refugee Puts Paris Attacks Into Perspective In One Simple Sentence,” ThinkProgress, 2015, http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/11/15/3722379/paris-refugees/

Balzer, Carson, 2009, http://www.liminalis.de/2009_03/TMM/tmm-englisch/Liminalis-2009-TMM-report2008-2009-en.pdf.

Brumfield, Ben, Tim Lister and Nick Paton Walsh, “French jets bomb ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria; few may have been killed,” CNN, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/middleeast/france-raqqa-airstrikes-on-isis/.

Kellaway, Mitch and Sunnivie Brydum, “These Are the U.S. Trans Women Killed in 2015,”  Advocate, 2015, http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2015/07/27/these-are-trans-women-killed-so-far-us-2015.

“Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault,” BBC, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32169080.

Wellman, Nathan, “One Day Before Paris, There Was a Massive Terrorist Attack the Media Ignored,” US Uncut, 2015, http://usuncut.com/world/beirut-this-terrorist-attack-didnt-get-any-media/.

The Dark Side of Repealing the “Bathroom Bill”

Image Description: A person with short black hair, wearing a red hoodie, and standing in front of two public bathroom doors - one with a female symbol (left) and one with a male symbol (right). Text Reads: Under the female symbol it says,

Image Description: A person with short black hair, wearing a red hoodie, and standing in front of two public bathroom doors – one with a female symbol (left) and one with a male symbol (right).
Text Reads: Under the female symbol it says, “get yelled at.” Under the male symbol it says, “get beat up.”

In the wake of the death of Houston’s Human Rights Ordinance (HERO) – for a little background on HERO and it’s demise click here – lots of people have been talking about trans folx and public bathrooms. Essentially what happened is a bunch of religious bigots successfully advocated the repeal of HERO because they don’t think trans or genderqueer folx should be able to pee in whatever public bathroom they feel most comfortable. They seem to think that, because they base their transphobia on their religion, they get to impose their transphobic beliefs on other people in public spaces. Yes, this is ridiculous as it sounds. And yes, it’s incredibly sad these people were successful in killing an ordinance that extended protections in housing, employment, and public facilities to people of all sexual and gender identities just because they wanted to control where trans and genderqueer folx pee, take a shit, fix their hair, or make an offering to the porcelain god after pounding one too many jager bombs (drinks may vary, end result does not).

People have since found various ways to ridicule this mentality. Some trans folx are posting selfies on social media of them using the [legally] “correct” bathroom to document the awkwardness of having to use a bathroom they don’t really belong in. Example: Michael Hughes, a trans man, has been posting his uncomfortable-for-everyone-involved visits to the women’s bathroom.

Image Description: Michael Hughes, a white trans man, wearing a baseball cap and an orange t-shirt taking a selfie in the mirror of a public women's bathroom. There are two feminine-presenting people in the background looking awkwardly at Michael.

Image Description: Michael Hughes, a white trans man, wearing a baseball cap and an orange t-shirt taking a selfie in the mirror of a public women’s bathroom. There are two feminine-presenting people in the background looking awkwardly at Michael.

Along the same lines, Kelly Lauren, a trans women, posted a picture of herself dressed to the nine in a men’s bathroom with the caption, “Houston, do you REALLY want me in the same restroom as your husband or boyfriend?”

Image Description: A photo of Kelly Lauren, a white blond trans woman, in a red dress standing between several masculine-presenting individuals using urinals in a men's public bathroom.

Image Description: A photo of Kelly Lauren, a white blond trans woman, in a red dress standing between several masculine-presenting individuals using urinals in a men’s public bathroom.

While such mockery does highlight the lack of logic behind movements to prevent trans and genderqueer folx from using the bathroom they want, it also makes light of the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good mocking of bigoted ideology, and comedy is a great method of social critique. However, only focusing on the absurdity of these transphobic views about bathroom usage ignores the very real threat trans and genderqueer folx face when they are forced into unsafe places, like the wrong – excuse me, “correct,” – bathroom.

Trans women and feminine-presenting genderqueer folx are especially at risk for harassment and abuse in all situations, even public ones. According to a 2012 NCAVP report, 53% of anti LGBTQIA+ homicides were of trans women (Giovanniello, 2013). While homicide may be the most extreme form of violence, trans women and feminine-presenting genderqueer folx experience disproportionately high rates of violence and abuse in general, including sexual assault. (Please note: I understand other groups, like disabled folx and people of colour, also experience high rates of violence; I’m just talking about trans and genderqueer folx right now.) If you don’t believe the threat of violence to trans women and feminine-presenting genderqueer folx is extremely high, please read this Mother Jones article here, titled “It’s Incredibly Scary to Be a Transgender Woman of Color Right Now,” or check out Google here, and do a little research of your own.

And who are the most likely perpetrators of this violence? (If you don’t know the answer, you should probably stop reading and go educate yourself.) Those in power. And what large group of people holds the majority of power in our society? Cis men. (Not all cis men! I’m a cis man and I’ve never killed a trans woman! There, I’ve said it for you, now shut up with the #notallmen-style comments.) Tans women and feminine-presenting genderqueer folx in Houston are being forced into confined spaces full of cis male strangers. Spaces which, despite the name, are not very public. Spaces people typically enter alone. Spaces that are often at the back of the bar or store – away from witnesses. Spaces that are unavoidable. Spaces that everyone should be able to use safely and comfortably.

So, yes, it is laughably absurd that some people think those with particular gender identities should not be able to pee where they feel comfortable. And yes, it is disheartening to see hate extend to even the damn toilet. But the more pressing issue here is safety. Forcing trans women and feminine-presenting genderqueer folx into a rather secluded space with people who, statistically, may very well pose a serious threat makes the otherwise routine act of taking a piss a risky endeavor. Repealing HERO is dangerous for the trans and genderqueer people of Houston. And those who repealed it are callous toward that danger.

If you would like to do something to make a difference for trans and genderqueer folx being forced into potentially dangerous situations every time they need to pee, take part in the #I’llGoWithYou project. For more information on it, click here.

Sources Cited:

  1. Giovanniello, Sarah, “NCAVP report: 2012 hate violence disproportionately targets transgender women of colour,” GLAAD.org, 2013, http://www.glaad.org/blog/ncavp-report-2012-hate-violence-disproportionately-target-transgender-women-color