Saturday, December 4, 2010

Drop It Like It's Hot

 Morning everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.  What makes Womanist Musings great is the wonderful community that we have built together.  Please consider this your weekly reminder about the open guest posting policy.  If you have a piece that you would like to share please send it via e-mail to womanistmusings (at) gmail (dot) com.  Please include a three line bio and an image that you would like associated with your work.  Remember the more people that we contributing posts the more varied the topics of conversation will be.  As always I would like to thank the regular contributors for adding their voice to the blog.

 Below you will find a list of posts that I found interesting this week.  Please show these bloggers some love, and when you are done, don't forget to drop it like it's hot and leave you link behind in the comment section
Indian-American Hindu group stirs a debate over yoga's soul
I'm White but I'm Not a So-Called "White anti-Racist" Like Tim Wise & Co.
feminist heroine
Fighting the Black Anti Abortion Campaign: Trusting Black Women
Unpacking the Cis-Hetero Knapsack 
Not Your Mom's Trans 101
Isn't that Love?
Overcoming the Noble Savage and the Sexy Sqaw: Native Steampunk
I Had to Pray to Stop What Was Coming
Fat-Com: Is That A Thing?
Adult, LGBT and Homeless?  Few of us care
Is The Decline of Black Males in Black Churches Affecting their Abilities to Create a Counter Frame
no brown hobbits allowed
Les Sapeurs: Gentlemen of the Congo
Celebrating Our Racist History Is Racist
What Do Foreigners Think Of Sarah Palin?
Southern Plantations Weren't So "Romantic" For Blacks
If the Airport is a Police State, What is the Ghetto?4
Harry Belafonte's Love for Racial Justice - and Radical Muppets 
What I've Learned From Living With HIV
Gender Disparity in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Feminism and Being a Housewife
Time to Start Profiling White Christians
And She's Cute Too
White Trash Blues: Class Privilege v. White Privilege
Let He Is Who Is Without Sin
Today's dose of casual sexism
My Breasts, My Children, My Self

  

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Friday and The Question Is.........

Before I get into this week's question, I thought that I would remind everyone please submit a book that they are interested in discussing on a deeper level in the Womanist Musings book reading club.  The book that gets the most nominations is the one we will go with.

Okay, this week I thought we would talk about pet peeves.  What action, behavior, or sound really gets on your last nerve.  I cannot stand it when someone makes sandwich and does not wipe up the crumbs.  Is it really that hard to wipe up the crumbs?  And my second and third respectively, is being forced to listen to music repeatedly and the sound of Styrofoam being rubbed against anything.  Okay your turn.

On Treasuring Difference


Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.
 
This weekend I went away to another city to see an old friend and to mainly get away from a busy routine. As always, it seemed I didn't feel like I left Mumbai back at all, it seemed everywhere I went, a tiny part of the city followed me around with the same malls, coffee houses and other signs that point out Capitalisation is here to stay. I can't say I was too surprised when I heard the discussions on Difference out here too, after all they are quite commonplace in Mumbai, where being cosmopolitan is more important than being political, where we cherish Difference with a fetish. It's funny -- where funny is the new painful -- how strong the rhetoric of "let's celebrate our differences" can be heard from so many corners of our country, especially in the light of the 'Kashmir Issue' India is trying so hard to placate. I remember my geography texts having at least once chapter on 'Unity In Diversity' in any given year, where we'd learn that though we come from so many languages, born into a myriad of dialects and religions, we ultimately have to live with each other in peace and solidarity. On a Glocal platform, as Dusty People of one of the "biggest democracies in the world", Difference is a buzzword to use for us -- and in our place if you don't remember a politically convenient correct term -- where Difference becomes A Good Thing, within parentheses of course. Lately even in feminist discussions the idea of a 'politics of Love' is a recurring one, and I can say it does sound appealing at first, to love through discrepancies and asimilarity. But when we probe a little further into this uber vague concept of 'Difference', big gaping cracks show up that cannot be ignored.

“Why I Love America” By Kola Boof

Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.”  She blogs at Kola Boof. com

 I don’t know of any Americans who’ve ever spent most of their day bent down on the ground trying to catch mice to eat. I’ve certainly never had to do it.  But in North Korea, some five hundred thousand people live in Concentration Camps.  They are families imprisoned for nothing more than questioning the government or failing to properly worship the official “God” of that nation—President Kim Jong-Il.
 
And yes, in North Korea, it is required that the people worship their leader as a religious God.  He is also President for life and within the network of the North Korean government’s concentration camps overrun with children these families wither to bones, are worked to death and literally hunt for mice and insects to eat on the floors and grounds.  The death rate is very high.  Another three million North Korean citizens are dying or have died due to a severe famine that has crippled that nation because of their God-Dictator leader and his refusal to spend foreign aid on the citizens.  Another three hundred thousand North Koreans have committed the nation’s second highest crime—they have escaped across the border to China; a crime punishable by death.  And to my shock, the Chinese government captures most of these “illegal aliens” and refuses them “political asylum” knowing full well that by returning them to Korea—they are handing them over to be executed.  These runaways are often whole families or women and children.  Without a second thought, they murder thousands of innocent children each year in North Korea simply because their parent tried to escape the horrible conditions of the country.

These hellish realities exist in many countries, including my own birth country, Sudan, where we have genocide, slavery and unbelievable religious and sexual persecution.  In the Congo, Somalia, Mauritania…government sponsored evil and corruption never ends.  And it’s for these reasons that I often feel “guilty” when American citizens and fellow political activists sit around talking about the evils that America commits.

A Random Act Of Culture

A Choir surprises a food court



It moved me to tears and I hope it brightened your day

Unpacking the Cis-Hetero Knapsack

 I'm a 23 year old Sinhalese woman in Minnesota by way of Dubai by way of Sri Lanka. I am a Womanist, and part of my womanism is figuring out how to be in solidarity with my transnational sisters worldwide. I'm a daughter, a sister, a partner and a writer. I'm a brown girl who knows Shakespeare by heart and devours anything Toni Morrison. I believe in radical, revolutionary living and loving.  I blog at Irresistible Revolution.

**this post is dedicated to my friends S.B, S.R, J.B, and M.B who daily inspire me with their courage, humor, warmth and allyhood. And to my brave, brave little brother, D**

Recently, the boyfriend and I were discussing white privilege and family dynamics in multiracial families. Our discussion culminated with us both reading over Peggy McIntosh's article on unpacking the knapsack of white privilege. At the end of her list, she talks about how writing down her privileges, enumerating them systematically, made them unavoidably, viscerally real to her. And so I started thinking, what privileges do I walk around with, encoded in my body, that are invisible to me? What follows is a result of this rumination. I decided to unpack my knapsack of cis/hetero privilege, and do it in a public forum so I can remind myself to always be accountable to the words I'm publicly attesting to. The list was intended primarily to enumerate my cis privilege, but of course it's almost impossible for me to separate my cis identity from my heterosexuality. So here goes:

1) I can openly, freely declare my identity as a woman and not be questioned/ harassed/ laughed at/ threatened

2) I can choose sexual partners in the assurance that they are comfortable with how my genitalia "corresponds" to their expectations of my gender presentation

3) I don't ever have to think about the life-threatening consequences of disrupting the expectation listed above

4) If I wanted breast augmentation/ reduction, lyposuction, botox, vagina-lift, or laser hair removal, I will not have to go through mandatory evaluative therapy beforehand

6) Most of the procedures for enhancing femme, cisgender identity (like those listed above) are fairly affordable and widely provided by physicians

5) My form of gender identity is not listed as a disorder on the DSM of the American Psychological Association

6) I can indulge my particular aesthetic need for feminine apparel 24/7, 365 days of he year, in any social or private setting

7)I can have my pick of gynecologists without worrying about their reaction to my genitalia

8) I can go to most hospitals/ doctors reasonably assured that my genitalia won't count against me

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Can creative love truly replace romantic love?

Nia is a regular reader and commenter at Womanist Musings.

By creative love I mean the genuine love, inner fulfillment and deep contentment that one can achieve through traditional creative endeavors or professions, whatever they may be (e.g. art, music, writing, acting, architectural design, etc.). These are just a few of the examples that come to my mind, but creativity is NOT limited by any means to those fields.) 
 
Can an all-consuming creative love be just as great as that other great love that we are told from young we should all aspire to achieve – romantic love in the form of bonding with a life partner? 
 
I believe that creativity is something one can learn or acquire, even in later life. I don’t believe that some people are born more creative or talented than others.  You hear this a lot, but it is not true. More often than not, it just happens that these particular people were either encouraged, or they stumbled upon or were always around a particular creative field from a very young age, so it just appears that they were always talented or creative.  
 
Growing up I always envied and admired those in my age group who just seemed naturally gifted at playing a musical instrument, or were good at dancing, painting, etc. I was never good at any of those things and just assumed I was not meant to be a creative person. 
 
So perhaps it is because I found my creativity relatively late in life, but pursuing creative endeavors gives me an inner joy and happiness that I have never experienced before. Nothing makes me feel happier and more at peace than when I pursue a creative project. I spent a long time trying various things (lingerie-design, creative writing, cake decorating, photography, gourmet cooking,) but always gave them up quickly because they didn’t fulfill me and sometimes would even frustrate me. 

But for a while now I have been fully immersed in several creative ventures.  These projects have allowed me to find my creative side, and have opened up a world of possibilities I never thought imaginable.

In short they make me happy, and I also feel a sense of accomplishment that FINALLY I am good at something. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. The times when I feel lonely or despondent that I haven’t found “that special someone” yet, when I go back to working on my projects that feeling is always replaced by a sense of happiness deep down inside that is hard to describe. Alice Walker once described this feeling as “unspeakable joy”. 
       
I like to read about the lives of women who had wonderful creative careers, often against the odds, women like Coco Chanel, the children’s writer Beatrix Potter, the actress Diane Keaton. These women never married or had children, but they seemed to be quite happy and fulfilled. Maybe I am guilty of romanticizing, but part of me has always loved and been intrigued by the notion of being a renaissance-type woman like these women. 
 
I have never had a long-term romantic relationship or been in love, and I guess that to a certain extent finding my creativity is a substitute for that – and one that I don’t regret. But I have recently been fortunate enough to meet a very nice person who I know if I gave him the green light would be quite happy and willing to enter into a serious, long-term relationship.

When I do imagine being with a significant other, this person has most of the qualities that I am looking for. He’s a solid and decent guy on every level – and that’s what I want at this stage in my life – I’m not looking for the fairy tale or to be swept off my feet. 

Yet, I don’t feel that same deep, inner sense of joy and contentment at the prospect of being partnered and in a relationship that I feel when I am involved in my creative projects.   
 
Besides society’s overall expectations, there is sometimes an added pressure on women, and recently it seems black women in particular, to be married or partnered; we are told that this is what you should ultimately aspire to achieve, even if you have a fulfilling life or career. 
 And if you’re not married or partnered, the assumption is that you are undesirable or couldn’t find a good enough man……
 
And of course my well-meaning friends tell me that I should grasp the opportunity to have a serious, long-term commitment with this man, because the odds that I will meet someone like him again are next to none. 
 
Single heterosexual women, and especially black single heterosexual women, are always being told that there are not enough good men out there. And I will admit that a large part of me has bought into the fear also. Part of me fears that as I grow older, will my creative passions wear off, and will I then look back in my old age with regret that I missed that opportunity to spend my life with someone? Is fear of the unknown and of being alone a good enough reason to give up what currently makes you happy? 
 
In my very late thirties, I wonder is it that I waited too long or that it took too long for me to meet someone who I would genuinely be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with? I have always been a bit of an introvert and quite content to do stuff by myself, although at times I have felt lonely. But now I worry that this has created a new type of selfishness and inability to compromise that would be hard for me to erase. As I get older I find it harder to compromise in certain areas. But I feel that as human beings we should be more open and selfless, and perhaps that means doing so in my creative life too. 

 I do not really believe in the concept of a “soul-mate”, this notion that through divine ordinance you are destined to meet someone “just for you” and that there is “is someone out there for everyone.”  

But I do believe that it is natural for human beings to want to bond with a “significant other”  and to be partnered. Whether this is partly society’s influence on me or a genuine, biological instinct or both, I am not sure. I listen to other women who say they could not imagine life without their partner and/or their children and I think I can imagine exactly what they must mean, and how that must feel. And I sincerely believe that there is a whole set of creativity in being someone’s life partner and/or being a mother too.
 
So perhaps there really is nothing like it in the world. 

By creative love I mean the genuine love, inner fulfillment and deep contentment that one can achieve through traditional creative endeavors or professions, whatever they may be (e.g. art, music, writing, acting, architectural design, etc.). These are just a few of the examples that come to my mind, but creativity is NOT limited by any means to those fields.)
 

Can an all-consuming creative love be just as great as that other great love that we are told from young we should all aspire to achieve – romantic love in the form of bonding with a life partner?
 

I believe that creativity is something one can learn or acquire, even in later life. I don’t believe that some people are born more creative or talented than others.  You hear this a lot, but it is not true. More often than not, it just happens that these particular people were either encouraged, or they stumbled upon or were always around a particular creative field from a very young age, so it just appears that they were always talented or creative. 
 

Growing up I always envied and admired those in my age group who just seemed naturally gifted at playing a musical instrument, or were good at dancing, painting, etc. I was never good at any of those things and just assumed I was not meant to be a creative person.
 

So perhaps it is because I found my creativity relatively late in life, but pursuing creative endeavors gives me an inner joy and happiness that I have never experienced before. Nothing makes me feel happier and more at peace than when I pursue a creative project. I spent a long time trying various things (lingerie-design, creative writing, cake decorating, photography, gourmet cooking,) but always gave them up quickly because they didn’t fulfill me and sometimes would even frustrate me.
 

But for a while now I have been fully immersed in several creative ventures.  These projects have allowed me to find my creative side, and have opened up a world of possibilities I never thought imaginable.

Trans Hate Speech in Blog Land

To me the creating a blog is empowering.  Blogging has the ability to give voice to those who have traditionally been silenced in the mainstream. A blog can cover any topic that you can imagine; it only requires dedication on the part of an owner to blossom and grow. When I first started WM 2 1/2 years ago, I had no idea that it would grow to become a wonderful community. On occasion, as a community we have to deal with a troll invasion, but we have successfully fought back to ensure that this remains a safe space for marginalized people.

Anyone can be a blogger and it is this fact that makes people often seek to delegitimize the work that is done on the internet.  There is so much good work being done in the sphere of social justice. Simply reading blogs and comment sections has been a huge source of education for me.  There are those however, that use this wonderful new medium to spread hate, and it is these blogs that I wish to talk about today.

On several occasions I have called out various blogs for repeated posts that in some way harm marginalized people.  I believe the two I speak most regularly about are Bossip and Sandra Rose.  As a WOC, it disgusts and shames me to know that these blogs, while claiming to be simple gossip blogs, use whatever privilege they have to demean others on a regular basis.  Just recently, Rose wrote a post about a trans man who is playing professional basketball, that can be described as nothing less than cisprivilege gone rampant.  I didn't write about it at the time, because quite honestly, I didn't want the stress of yet another blog war. Though stress greatly impacts my fibromyalgia, I am well aware that it is a reflection of my cis privilege that I was able to walk away, while bloggers like Monica of TransGriot took her to task.  At the time, I discussed the issue with friends, searching for some solution to deal with the constant transphobia that I read every day.  I thought about writing GLAAD, but then was told that they really don't handle blogs.  I let the issue rumble in the back of my head until I received a message from transgender yahoo group that I belong to, detailing yet another blogger attacking the trans community. It seems that his major complaint is that the LPGA has changed its rules, to allow trans women to play:

Swastika's and A KKK Snowman

I know that incidents of overt racism always make you so-called liberal race allies feel good about yourself, but every once and a while it is necessary to give them attention, if only to make the point that there is nothing post racial about the world we live in.

No, your eyes did not deceive you, that is a KKK snowman.   It was built by a White supremacist with a history of racist behaviour.  Apparently, nothing can be done about this sculpture, though it basically represents a threat to people of colour.  The sole purpose of the KKK, is to maintain White supremacy and they have proven repeatedly, that they are more than willing to committ violence.  They constitute a terrorist organization, but unfortunately since it is a group of White terrorists, there is no big push to talk about the threat that they pose.  Silly me, terrorist are Brown and wear Muslim garb, they certainly cannot be God fearing White folk - or at least that is what the media keeps telling us.

It seems the big concern is that his sculpture was holding a noose.  Hey, what's the harm in a KKK snowman in a White supremacist state right?  The fact that it is located very near a school and that children will walk by it everyday is a bonus.  At least they will all learn from a very early age that Whiteness has its privileges.  And you thought that history isn't relevant today.  All those years learning to praise a rapist president, have helped Whiteness to appreciate the necessity of getting White children to believe in their superiority at a young age.

There are times when psychological intimidation just won't cut it.  How are people of colour truly to live in fear of Whiteness ( I know that Whiteness spreads the lie that people of colour commit the majority of crimes, but bear with me), if the good ole boys don't follow through with their threats.  It's the little things like dragging us behind cars, false rape accusations, occasional physical assaults and murder by the police that really keep us in line.  We already know that there are two justice systems when it comes to asserting ones rights, so why would White men be terrified to break the law?

Should Children Wear the Hijab?

WoodTurtle is a Canadian Muslim feminist currently using her extended maternity leave to explore developments of Islamic feminism in the Western and Muslim world.  As a woman who wears the hijab (owns several abayas and a niqab monogrammed with her initials in pink, sparkly sequins), she writes frequently on genderized Islamophobia. She also works toward dispelling myths and stereotypes about women in Islam for both Muslims and non.

Eryn has decided to wear the hijab.

She's at a lovely precocious stage of mimicry where she will throw diapers into the dustbin and wave 'bye-bye' to my makeup as she flushes it down the toilet. She cleans the floors and the windows with the kitchen towel. She brushes her hair with her toothbrush, puts her shoes on backwards, knows how to access YouTube and dusts her grandfather's foot powder on everyone's feet.

When I grab my shawl and prepare for one of the daily prayers, she crawls to the prayer area and starts moving her hands to her ears in takbir. She'll then cup her hands in front of her face in supplication and place her forehead to the ground in prostration. When I've finished praying, she'll sway from side to side as I chant Arabic recitations. Then she'll "ask" for her hijab.

In one of her many sensory discovery boxes, I have scarves of different colours and textures -- so I'll let her pick one out. Once I've wrapped it around her head, she'll look appreciatively at herself in the mirror, kiss her reflection and promptly take it off.

The first time she did this, I beamed and praised her. The second time was just as cute as the first. I really didn't think anything of it, except that her cherubic cheeks looked so darn cute poking out from the scarf's cowl. The third time we were praying with the Hubby, and before the prayer began he handed the scarf to her and said, "Here sweetie, put on your hijab." I stopped cold and about a hundred red flags went up in my mind.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah


I just learned that today is the first day of Hanukkah and I would like to take this time to wish all of the Jewish readers a wonderful holiday.  

Little Boys Like To Pretend To Cook

November 18th, was my little Mayhem's fifth birthday.  I am pleased to report that he got exactly what he wanted for presents: new karate gloves and toy cookware.  Mayhem, much like his older brother, has always been fascinated with cooking. He is always quick to offer his help, and has quite the picky discerning palate. Below you will find a picture of Mayhem's current prep area.


This past weekend he wrote his Christmas list and right at the top of the list was a new kitchen to go with his pots and pans, followed by more toy food and a microwave. That's right, my boy wants an operating kitchen so that he can make as many fancy meals as his imagination will allow.  So far I have been served countless cups of tea, along with eggs and french toast.  In his mind, this collection of toys is the restaurant that he plans to own when he grows up.

The unhusband and I have begun to think about our Xmas shopping and high on the list is a kitchen for our little jr chef.  The first store that I checked was Toy R Us.  Considering that the ability to cook is a necessary skill to be able to survive unless one wants to eat at a restaurant for every meal is it really wise to place toy kitchens in the girls section.  Oh, I get it, cooking is domestic duty when it is done for subsistence so of course it falls under the category of girls toy.

Alicia Keys, Your Digital Life Sacrifice on World AIDS Day is a Bad Publicity Stunt


Allison McCarthy is a freelance writer

Alicia Keys sacrificed her digital life to help save millions of real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. That means no more Facebook or Twitter updates from her until $1,000,000 is raised to buy her life back.

Keep a Child Alive (KCA), co-founded by Leslie Blake and Alicia Keys, aims to provide "first class AIDS care through doctors, nutrition, testing, transportation, and treatment for opportunistic infections, which are all necessary for anti-retroviral treatment to be successful. KCA also provides the care and support to keep orphaned and abandoned children safe."  On Monday, the Digital Life Sacrifice campaign, initiated by Alicia Keys and supported by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Usher, among others, plans to bring awareness to World Aids Day by having celebrities signing off all Twitter and Facebook feeds until $1 million has been raised for KCA.  This is a seemingly noble and altruistic effort; however, the celebrities plan to feature "'last tweet and testament' videos and will appear in ads showing them lying in coffins to represent what the campaign calls their digital deaths." 

Dr. Laura Schlessinger Returns






Dr. Laura is the type of person whom I wish would find a little a glorious black hole and simply disappear. She has a history of homophobia as well as racism.  Dr. Laura recently quit her syndicated talk show after protest arose when she used the N word 11 times during a call in which and African American woman was complaining about the racism displayed by her White husband and his friends.  Why this woman chose Schlessinger of all people to reach out to is beyond me.

I must admit that I was absolutely thrilled when she reported that she leaving her show because she felt that her free speech rights were being impinged upon by listeners who had the nerve to call the station and her advertisers to complain.  In an interview with Larry King Schlessinger had this to say:

Yes, but I don't have the right to say what I need to say. My first amendment rights have usurped by angry hateful groups who don't want to debate they want to eliminate.  So that's why I decided that it was time to move on to other venues, where I could say my peace and not have to worry that sponsors and families are going to be upset, radio stations are going to be upset, my peeps as I call them are going to be upset.

 At the time I wrote that Schlessinger is not interested in free speech.  What Dr. Laura truly desires is the ability to spread her hate speech without having to care about it effects others.  No one interrupted her show during her hateful tirade to tell her about the damage that happens to Black people every time the word nigger is uttered by a White person, on the contrary she was allowed to go on a racist tirade with the only intervention coming from the Black woman she was assaulting.

When Dr. Laura announced the end of her show I was happy. This after all meant that one less hate filled bigot on the air, it seems however that my celebration was premature.  Dr. Laura is returning to the air on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Being "Colorblind" is not the answer


I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality 


I have come to the realization that we all have certain prejudices impressed upon us by this white supremacist society. I strive every day to dismantle racism, but I have to admit that I bring to the table certain ideas of how a person will act based upon the ethnic community to which they belong. I think the important thing is to REALIZE that these impressions ARE NOT REALITY, but are rather images enforced by a society controlled by white supremacy. I cannot help having certain thoughts, however, I can control what I do with those thoughts.

When I find myself thinking something that is prejudicial, whether negative or positive, I stop to question myself as to WHY I am having such thoughts. I stop and remind myself that each human being is an individual, and while members of different ethnic groups may have certain customs, those customs are not better or worse than customs of other ethnic groups. Those customs do not define every member of the group, nor do they define the group as a whole. Sometimes I think that I am everything I fight against because I have these impressions occasionally, but I realize that to HAVE these thoughts is not necessarily harmful, but to NOT DO ANYTHING TO CHANGE THEM is. If I have certain ideas about a person based upon their ethnicity, I force myself to re-examine WHY my thoughts have gone in that direction, and think of ways that I can counter the thought process.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Covenant House Texas- Not A Home For Trans And Intersex Youth

This is a guest post from the ever fabulous Monica of TransGriot

The Covenant House location in Houston opened its doors on June 27, 1983 and has been around in the Montrose gayborhood for over 25 years.   It claims on its website that it has counseled, mentored, educated, inspired, transformed, and healed thousands of lives.

Unless you happen to be transgender or intersex.

Covenant House was begun by a Franciscan priest back in 1969, and founded as an organization in New York City in 1972.

Lady Gaga recently gave Covenant House a $20,000 donation for their  work with LGBT youth, but judging by how they handle things in Houston, you'd be hard pressed to give them a passing grade for the way that Covenant House-Texas deals with Houston area transgender and intersex kids..

Over the last few years the anti-trans attitudes injected into the Vatican hierarchy by Father Urbano Navarrete and Dr. Paul McHugh are entrenching themselves in the Roman Catholic Church and trickling down to the flock and its faith based service organizations.

It seems that one of those service organizations that has been affected by the faith based transphobia is Covenant House Texas    .

Cristan Williams of the Transgender Foundation for America and Houston City Councilmember Jolanda Jones have been disturbed about the ongoing reports of under 21 people who have attempted to access the services of Covenant House Texas.

They have either being turned away or if they are admitted, encounter less than respectful treatment .

One of the young trans people denied services by Covenant House Texas, Cinnamon (Kendrick) Perry, ended up a few days later on the Remembering Our Dead list.
 
Perry was shot to death July 20, 2003 by someone in a passing car as she walked down the 1200 block of Lovett Street.  The location where Perry died is tragically blocks from the Covenant House Texas facility located at 1100 Lovett St.
Perry told Cristan Williams before she was killed that 'They said they won't take people like me."
When Williams was investigating why Perry was denied admission, according to a post on the TFA website, CH staff member Victor Hay explained to Cristan that the reason CH withheld shelter services from an 18 year old HIV+ transgender person (Perry) was because CH is a faith-based organization and as such, could not house transgender people for fear that 'the transgender person might snap and rape the biological women'.
Excuse me?  

That's unacceptable because Covenant House Texas gets federal funding via the Houston City Council, which means that  some of the tax dollars trans Houstonians pay go to funding anti-trans and intersex discrimination  

If you think it's just transpeeps who get no respect from Covenant House Texas,  intersex people are also being rejected and disrespected by CHT staffers.

A meeting was held June 11, 2010 at Covenant House attended by Cristan, Darin Quintero, TFA Board of Directors Vice-President, Councilwoman Jolanda Jones and her aide, Houston Covenant House Director/CEO Ronda Robinson and Josephine Tittsworth with the NASW-TX GLBT Equity Committee.

It was called to address the concerns the Houston trans community had about this increasingly intolerable situation.   Director Robinson admitted during this meeting that Covenant House has no policy whatsoever concerning protecting GLBT youth and that equal treatment is discretionary for staff.

Robinson also promised that by July 19, 2010 CHT would provide the Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) with Policies and Procedures as it applies to Intake, Assessment, Placement, and Discipline regarding transgender youth and a follow up meeting would be scheduled to discuss solutions to the ongoing discrimination problems at Covenant House Texas..

One month later, Councilmember Jones sent this letter to Director Robinson about the glacial paced response of CH-Texas towards fulfilling the promises made to her and other attendees at the June meeting.. .

On November 24 Covenant House-Texas finally ended their stonewalling silence as board member Andrea N..Moore sent a message to Cristan asking for another meeting..   .
 
Council member Jones' response to Moore and Williams' e-mail exchange pretty much sums up our  view as to how serious Covenant House Texas is in wishing to deal with this still festering situation..

Fat Girls and Feeders

I have always been fat, though because of my illness this is the fattest I have ever been. Being a fat woman in a sizest society is extremely difficult.  For many women, beauty is the only avenue to a very limited form of power and we are taught from birth that our value lies in how attractive we are to the opposite sex.  Fat women are continually ostracized and treated as diseased beings who need to be shut in their homes.  It is common for people to express disgust at a fat woman for daring to leave her home.  I can completely understand why it must feel thrilling when someone is excited by your body rather than repulsed.  Fat pornography or fetish pornography as I call it is growing daily.  There are many men who are indeed attracted to a larger size women, but some have a very nefarious agenda.


Feeders are abusive people and though some claim that the relationship is an equal one, the emotional abuse involved in a feedee/feeder relationship negates any agency on the part of the fat person involved. Feeders call themsevles FA's, or fat admirers, but this label is quite honestly a misnomer, because they don't admirer fat women, they fetishize them. 

Spark of Wisdom: Concern Trolls, White Knighting and Fierce Allies

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.


I have seen a lot of various stripes of allies who fit into all of these groups that I have seen raging here and there and everywhere – and I think that's good because these need some severe attention – especially when it comes to working through the thorny issues of allies and supposed allies and the various problems that can come from various people wearing/using the label. Which is good, I think there's a lot of things that have been badly glossed over for a very long time. But I also think in some cases we're creating confusion and reactions from the first 2 may be causing problems with the last. So, I'm going to ramble! (You know I have to)

Concern Trolls

Concern Trolling annoys a great deal. Sometimes it's a legitimate, albeit ignorant, and well intentioned but foolish response. And sometimes it's just prejudice with a flimsy cover.

The problem is that Concern Trolls tell marginalised people how they should think and feel and act – and often comes with paternalistically telling marginalized people what they should do (even acting against marginalized people's interests for their own sake).

I've seen Concern Trolls tell GBLTQ people not to push for rights for fear of backlash. I've seen them argue against removing DADT because it will expose gay troops to bullying. I've had Concern Trolls tell me where I should go, how I should dress, cut my hair, to be more “butch”, not to babysit my little nieces, a thousand things I should do - all for “my own sake.”


Marginalized people know their own lives best. Marginalized people do not need instructing how to navigate the isms they face. Marginalized people do not need to be patronized and controlled. They do not need shepherding or parenting by privileged people who think they know their lives better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

“Black Feminists and Tyler Perry” By Kola Boof

Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.”  She blogs at Kola Boof. com


Right now a lot of “Hate” is being aimed at Tyler Perry by Black feminists who feel he destroyed Nzotke Shange’s landmark play “For Colored Girls.”  While I was disappointed with Tyler’s movie version myself (mostly for the same reasons that writer Bassey Ikpi and our own Renee at WomanistMusings expressed disappointment)—I need to make it clear that I could never hate what Tyler Perry does and the reason is this:

Since when in history have so many Black Actresses ever been employed in films at the same time?  He literally casts 12 to 20 Black Female Speaking Parts in every movie he makes!  This ranges from the STAR to the small “Nurse”, “Bank Teller”, “Veterinarian” roles.  Perry’s movies show us non-stop images of beautiful Black women. To the contrary of what is often reported, there are also an awful lot of loving Black couples in Perry’s films.

Unfortunately, the villain of Perry’s movies is always an abusive Black man, usually dark skinned.  This of course becomes all that anyone talks about—Perry’s so called hatred of Black men.  In this latest film, “For Colored Girls”, for instance, there is only a single positive Black male portrayed in the film (Hill Harper).  I found that problematic because I don’t feel that men should have been in the film period.

In my fantasy of Kola Boof’s version of “For Colored Girls”…it would be a merged remake of two films…1939’s “The Women” (all female cast starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell) and from the 1970’s…”A Clockwork Orange.”  I would have set the film in outer space with each Black woman being on a different planet…”Lady on Red Planet”…”Lady on Purple Planet”…”Lady on Green Planet.”  The abusers would be sexualized Alien Monster Images (Half-Man muscle-bound negro-faced SLOTHS with flowing golden hair).  And from there I would have strictly used Nzotke Shange’s poems to tell this story of these Black Goddesses who at the end of my movie would converge on Planet Earth; swooping down in fits of colorful flight; defiant, wounded & willfully triumphant.  They would all have “natural hair” and the final poem would show them walking down a city street looking like regular Black women survivors.  Like the play.

No…Tyler Perry is not talented.  No…he is not the best person to tell our stories.  But the fact is, just that his art FOCUSES on Black women and “TRIES” to half-way give us a Public Face (one that I like way better than BET’s hatred of black women)…I can’t completely betray his efforts with scornful hate and dismissal.

As Pearl Cleage said the other day, if it were not for Tyler Perry, the Book/Play version of “For Colored Girls” would not currently be in the Top 10 on the New York Times Bestseller list and selling another million copies.  Tyler Perry did that!

I suspect that his being gay (presumably gay) is partly why some Black women feel it’s OK to dismiss him and I know that his attack on the EGO of Black male privilege is an even bigger culprit—as Black women are notorious for betraying people who actually love/defend us over the all elusive Black men who don’t give a shit about us or our condition.

For some reason, we as Black Feminist Critics forget that “Love” and how it’s shown is not perfect.  People show love the best they know how.  And in Perry’s case, those who feel that Perry is simply exploiting Black women’s experiences need to seriously think about that.  Because I don’t feel that is what he does.  I feel he is showing his love for us and the only hand he has for displaying that is his own hand; not ours.  A lot of feminists get on my nerves when they expect people acknowledging us to be perfect.

On the streets, we stay supporting Kanye West, Piss Puffy, Kid Cudi, Michael Jackson…and what have they done really to create and perpetuate black female images in their art? Think about it.

The Limitations of Tim Wise

I have been very critical of Tim Wise for quite sometime now.  To be honest, I must admit that much of my judgment of his work was based solely on interviews that I had seen, as well as reading various posts on his website.  I recently decided that perhaps my judgment of him was a bit strong, and so I set about to challenge this understanding by reading, White Like Me: Reflections On Race From A Privileged Son.

As a Black woman, I am very aware that I am not Wise's target audience, in fact, he seeks to exploit my experience for his own financial gain, rather than to deeply educate those that read his books.  My number one criticism of Wise, is his continual essentialism regarding a Black identity. Even though I understand his book was meant to be a 101 primer to those not aware of how Whiteness and indeed race operates in the U.S., his inability, or perhaps outright failure would be more accurate, to include an intersectional approach reduces what it means to be of color in a North American context.  Black people belong in various categories: we are disabled, TLBG, poor, wealthy, educated, TAB, religious, non religious, male and female, gender queer etc,.  To make a definitive description of how Black people experience race, without explaining that such marginalization quite often multiplies oppression is not only irresponsible, it erases members of the Black community to present a single mendacious narrative. One really glaring example is the complete erasure of trans women of colour that die each year.  Race absolutely effects who lives and who dies, and yet Wise, to my knowledge has yet to raise this issue.

Food As A Passport To Remembering Abuse (Trigger Warning)



Kateryna Fury is a 26 year old New Mexico native that works for equality for all, with a writing focus that deals primarily with disablism. She is currently working on writing several audio plays, a book, and blogs regularly at TextualFury. She lives with her two cats, who constantly break all the rules and encourage her to pet them and play. When not satisfying her kitty overlords she writes, and writes, and writes some more!


Pumpkin pie is soft and creamy. It is the only Thanksgiving day food, that I can eat without becoming ill. Mashed potatoes are also fine, but they must be different than the recipes from my family dinners. Turkey - I can barely type the word. I can barely say the word. I will not eat it. I have been forced to eat it by people using my vulnerability against me, and I react to it with a mental allergic response. It is not somatic but the PTSD triggers hard and fast.

This is what I expect of Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, I remembered something that gave me a sense of relief. Today as I continued to process the revelations, I am left staring down the barrel of my gender identity issues. I have had gender identity challenges my entire life, they are based in my autism. Many autistic women face challenges due to accusations of decidedly unfeminine behavior, and I have not been exempt from this sort of attack. This is the root of the numerous incidents of sexual abuse that have dominated my life and the cause of the demise of an semblance of my childhood. I was prostituted to ministers and the supposed holiest people I know at the age of three, raped by my father, and then raped at gun point by a high school boy, who didn’t understand that I was triggered when I stabbed him with a fork at school, because he put his hand on my shoulder.

I have testicles AND ovaries. I once tried to cut off my breasts to become a boy. I have never really appreciated my femininity. Because I am intersexed physically, I am aware there is more to this. Maybe if my mother had eaten, I would have been a male child. Maybe not. I do not consider myself to be of one gender, however, I feel neither male or female.