Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who gets to be unbiased

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.
So, there have been a few cases now and I feel moved to rant... err, I mean comment. 

During the eternal meandering of the proposition 8 trial it was revealed that judge Waker was gay. And the haters were up in arms, frothing and furious! We can't have a gay judge decide that case! He'd be biased! How can he possibly be fair!? The whole case must be scrapped and re-decided with a fair (straight) judge!

And then we have a case of a gay prison inmate on trial for attacking a prison guard – the prosecution is quick to remove a lesbian from the jury. Uh-huh.

And of course, they're not isolated cases, nor for that matter, are they limited to one country. It's not limited to one marginalisation for that matter. There's a pervasive idea that to be unbiased you have to be privileged. Simply because we are GBLT, we are inherently biased. We cannot be trusted to be fair, to make reasoned decisions, to be anything other than self-serving and selfish.

Now, question question –  why are straight people never considered inherently biased because of their straightness?

I mean, I think it's a fair question considering how much of our life, our rights, our existence is in the hands of straight people – how we, as a society, seem to  think straight people have the right to make decisions over our lives. 
It's the predominantly straight voters we repeatedly expect to vote on whether we get equal rights or not.

It's the predominantly straight judges we repeatedly expect to decide whether we our families are worthy of protection, whether we can lose our jobs, our homes, our children.

It's the predominantly straight officials who decide whether GBLT people fleeing persecution can stay in relative safety or whether they will be sent back to the country they ran from. They also decide what hoops they have to jump through – whether they read “gay literature” useless and ridiculous phallometric testing and the most ridiculous, prejudiced, insulting and plain asinine questioning.

It's the predominantly straight juries and judges who decide how much our bodies, our safety, our lives are worth when we're attacked, beaten and killed.

So, why don't we question the bias of all these straight people? All these straight folks deciding our lives – do we get to question whether they are capable of making these decisions fairly, without bias? Do we get to remove straight folks from these decisions? Do we get to say “actually, only GBLT people should be making this decision”? Because, y'know, I'd kind of like that.

Because, y'know, I think we've got considerably more reason to suspect straight bias than ever we have given straight people reason to think us biased. I've got pages and pages and pages of reasons to believe straight people are biased. Gods, we have pages of law, libraries of history and a whole lot of blood telling us all sorts about straight bias.

Yet we're the biased ones? We're the ones who can't be trusted to make the decisions, the judgements? Judgements about our own lives, I might add! Yet we can't be trusted to make them? We must trust the “impartiality” of straightness to know what's best?

I think not.