White People Using Blackness and Anti-Black Racism Analogies For Their Experiences Is NOT Intersectionality
Who is the oppressed person that deserves to be heard? Who is the one where the seriousness of the oppression, discrimination, injustice and bigotry that they face should be centered and spoken of above all? Regularly this is posited as a White person. While those not ignorant nor willfully ignorant about race know that Whites do NOT experience racism, they know that Whites can experience other forms of oppression (i.e. homophobia, transphobia), while still having White privilege. Their Whiteness guarantees that though they may not be centered in the mainstream, they are in the margins and whenever an “example” of the margins is needed.
In my essay The Impact Of White Privilege On Womanism I mentioned:
Let’s think about who is the face of each oppressed and/or political group: Gay - cis White man, lesbian - cis White woman, queer - cis or trans White person, bi - cis White woman, usually presents femme, trans - White trans woman, atheist - White man, poor - if “reedeeming” and in need of “deserved” help - White woman, fat and body positivity - White woman with “curvy” weight distribution, disabled - White man or White woman (as on many websites and platforms), anti-classism - Whites, and ones who ignore intersectionality at that, sex workers movement - White women (I’ve seen White women who are sex workers admit this), feminist presence on any platform - White women, reproductive rights - White women; the word “woman” itself - White women.
This centering creates a dual-edged sword where Whiteness is used to infer that White people within the margins are more important than people of colour in those same margins, but that same marginal space where other forms of oppression that aren’t racism exist is then used to shield critique from how Whiteness is centering them. Then people of colour who experience some of the same oppressions AND racism are again disregarded and silenced. Worse, racism, especially anti-Black racism with a Black example then becomes the “go to” oppression to use as a rhetorical device in order to infer how “serious” another form of oppression is for a White person, or at times other non-Black people of colour. In the same aforementioned essay, I mentioned:
By co-opting knowledge that we produce and experiences that we have, Whites who are oppressed (not for race of course, but other facets of their identity) then use us to “prove” the seriousness of their oppression, because everyone is comfortable with Black people sitting at the bottom. It’s why “even Black people" type of statements are made by Whites when declaring some sort of oppression that they shouldn’t experience because "even Black people" don’t, in their view.
I recently expressed some thoughts behind this on Twitter as well because regularly "as bad as racism!" statements or analogies are used where Black people, Blackness and anti-Black racism are treated as rhetorical devices only for the purpose of emphasizing the seriousness of a different form of oppression. Regularly how Whites experience that form of oppression—not to highlight how someone Black experiences the racism and the other form of oppression—is why this comparison is made. This comparison where Black people are reduced to rhetorical devices—to “add depth” to an essay/issue etc. on a different form of oppression for non-Black people and especially for White people—is not what intersectionality is.
I recently saw a post that could not explain how fatphobia impacts someone’s perception of attraction and “preferences” without invoking "well not dating Black women is racist, so…" Why was this necessary? I mentioned on Twitter:
Why can’t people discuss fatphobia’s impact on attraction without “well not being attracted to a Black girl is racist” as a rhetorical device? Some fat women are Black but this is not why such an example gets used. It’s because Black bodies/lives are always used as ground zero for oppression-related rhetorical devices. I am sick of other types of oppression that people cannot discuss without a Black body as a reference point to “prove” the seriousness. Using “well it’s as bad as anti-Black racism!” to discuss another oppression is not intersectionality. This would be anti-Blackness actually and it’s antithetical to intersectionality since saying “___ oppression is as bad as racism!” erases the fact that some Black people deal with both.
The Daily Beast invoked Blackness as a rhetorical device ("Alec Baldwin is essentially showing up to a Civil Rights rally in blackface") when discussing Alec Baldwin’s transphobia, as if the topic alone cannot be discussed as seriousness without pretending that the racism that Black people experience ended, and now oppression of White LGBTQ people is the only real issue. Once again Blackness is just a flowery metaphor versus lived experience. I mentioned on Twitter:
Why can’t Alec Baldwin’s transphobia be discussed without Civil Rights metaphors? Some trans people are Black but that’s not why The Daily Beast did it. The bottom line is that Black bodies are used as ground zero for oppression. People think using the Civil Rights Movement or racism metaphors makes their issue “serious.” When the reality is transphobia on its face is serious. It doesn’t even require journalists going “It’s as bad as racism! Ooo extra bad!”
This racist dehumanization where Blackness and anti-Black racism are solely rhetorical devices is often dated as well, or in other words it’s written as a memory of the past as if racism ended and “new” oppressions took over. Speak of how fatphobia impacts people’s perceptions of attraction where Blackness is a rhetorical device solely to imply “seriousness” but meanwhile Black women are the ones regularly treated as scorned, unbeautiful and unfeminine, and while the face of a lot of fat positivity remains White? Where not just being a Black woman but having coarse hair, being dark and/or fat is treated with scorn? This would not be the place to add exception for Lupita Nyong’o’s fame. I’m talking oppression not exceptions. And much of beauty politics themselves is not only White supremacy but actively anti-Blackness as well where even if a woman is not White, the “at ‘least’ not Black” clause often applies. Speak of transphobia where Blackness is a rhetorical device solely to imply “seriousness” but meanwhile racism and transmisogyny let alone misgendering means the most dire poverty and violence for Black trans women? This would not be the place to add exception for Janet Mock’s and Laverne Cox’s fame. I’m talking oppression not exceptions.
This is why Blackness as a rhetorical device, as an analogy only to imply something White-centered (or non-Black centered as at times non-Black people of colour also make false equalizations to emphasize something that they experience [while excluding actual Black people] versus emphasizing that seriousness on its own) is also serious is clearly anti-intersectional and dehumanizing. While it is true that White supremacy cannot exist without a ground zero for its oppression (and the “antithesis” of Whiteness itself) and that area is regularly Black bodies and lives, that “ground zero” is a reality greater than a metaphor meant to re-center Whiteness. It is our lives as Black people.
Comparing things to anti-Black racism while purposely ignoring the intersectional experiences of Black people implies people understand racism. Many do not. Instead of a thorough explanation of the particular oppression in question, many non-Black people and especially White people rely on "it’s as bad as racism for Black people and that’s all ya gotta know" as an analysis of some other form of oppression. This not only leaves people uninformed and resentful (since many people don’t care about what Black people experience anyway) but it establishes a plethora of false equalizations that obscure the truth of intersectional experiences of Black people. Worse, some non-Black people of colour will refer to this hypervisibility for the sole purpose of dehumanization that Black people experience as “power” that Black people have instead of challenging the White supremacy and anti-Blackness that creates this highly visible dehumanization for Black people versus invisibility for them.
Black scholarship—especially Black women’s scholarship—is regularly used by non-Black people, and especially by White people, to erase Black people. This use of Black experiences to highlight Whiteness plus another form of oppression is just another example of dehumanization and eventually erasure and oppression through caricature. For how long will anti-Blackness be mistaken for intersectionality?
Why Won’t They Listen?
Why won’t they listen to me? I need time to process information, especially emotional ones. Why won’t they stop and let me process the information before demanding me to change? Why won’t they let me be me and do things the way I need to do them? I am not selfish. I am not only thinking about myself. I think about everyone else’s needs long before I think of my own needs, but there are times that I have to think of myself. I have to care for myself and do what is best for me. If the caregiver is not well, the people being cared for will not be well either.
Why don’t they have faith in me? I am fully capable to do what needs to be done, but I have to be allowed to do them. Why do I have to prove over and over again that I am capable? Is it because I don’t respond in the ways that they want me to respond? Is it because I am a very honest person? I have been told that I share too much, that I get too “hyper” over things, and that I “obsess” over things. I appear “hyper” because I get really excited about certain things. I share because I love to share new knowledge and I need to verbally process things. I don’t “obsess” over things. I have specific interests that I focus a lot of attention on, because it is calming. If I seem to talk about one thing over and over again is because I am having trouble processing and I sometimes get stuck in a feedback loop. I have to express myself in some way because I feel like I am going to burn up inside if I don’t. I have to get it out because I feel like I am either going to implode (shutdown) or explode (meltdown).
But they don’t understand. They don’t want to listen to me. They want me to be like them. So this is what I hear from the words that are said to me: Don’t talk about your feelings; keep your private life to yourself. Don’t tell people your problems; they are not really important anyway. You are so high-functioning, it can’t be that bad. Your sensory issues aren’t really a big deal. Your words are not important. You only think about yourself. You are being ridiculous. You are too sensitive. You are too emotional. You are too much. You don’t think like us so it is your fault that we can’t communicate. You are autistic, you can’t understand.
Some of the things I wrote above have actually been said to me by family members, some of them have been implied by the same people. I don’t understand why I am thought of in this manner. I am a human being with real emotions. I feel just like everyone else, sometimes more. Why are my needs not as important as others? I am willing to compromise, find middle ground, a balance where we all can live in an environment that is conducive to everyone. However, this may be naïve thinking on my part. How do you create an environment where everyone can be comfortable when someone like me is seen as less than a person or not really an adult or expected to be just like everyone else?
I know that people care about me, but they do not understand how hurtful the language they use around me is. Words are very powerful. I have lived most of my life not having a voice and doing and saying what I thought everyone else wanted me to do or say. Much of the time the words I used were not my words. I would scream in agony inside my head. Why couldn’t people see how much pain I was in, how much I struggled? I can only think that they saw what they wanted to see - a well-behaved, quiet child that had good academic standing.
I continued portraying this image as I grew into adulthood. It was only after my diagnosis and encouragement from a great advocate (who I also consider a friend) that I was finally able to find my voice through writing. What I type now are my words, my real words. Writing has helped me develop the words I use in spoken language. I am using my real words now, advocating for myself verbally and in written form, yet they still won’t listen. What do I have to do to get them to listen to me?
This ^ every word, and beautifully said!
Another stop-motion video! :D
Strange things are afoot at the ASAN WA January social… Brains that move across the floor, crayons that draw things on their own, a double-unicorn, and… Pinkie Pie?
(Photo by Rostam.)
Anthems of Hope: An Interview with QTPOC Art Activist Amir Rabiyah
Nia: How you identify?
Amir: Being hella mixed: Arab, Native (Cherokee), Irish, Spanish, German, Scottish, queer/trans/genderqueer, disabled, low-income, though I come from a mixed-class background, poet.
Nia: What do you do for a living?
Amir: I’m disabled, so I rely on a variety of resources to get by. Some help from community, state assistance, family, some independent contracting teaching gigs. It’s quite hard living with severe pain and illness, and being mostly home-bound to make ends meet.
Nia: Do you see yourself an artist?
Nia: What kind of art do you do?
Amir: I write poetry, non-fiction, and some fiction.
Nia: Do you consider your work political?
Nia: In what way?
Amir: I’m interested in writing from my own margins, in how different identities blur, press up against each other, cross other, run parallel. I’ve written a lot about war, since my family fled that, lived through it, inter-generational trauma. I write about being mixed race, disability, class, gender and sexuality. I write about the silences, silence as survival and as suppression. I also write about resilience because it takes a whole lot to survive in this world that is trying to erase you or misrepresent you. So I try and write about the beauty I see in myself too, and in my communities. Sometimes I write things that have a range of emotions, other times little anthems of hope.
Nia: Do you feel that higher education has helped you in your career as an artist?
Amir: Yes, in the sense that I got to develop a more fine-tuned skill in writing and editing. No, in the sense that there was a lot of drama, and uninterrupted oppression that went on in those classrooms that were exhausting. And student loans, seriously not worth it.
Nia: Where do consider yourself in your career as an artist?
Amir: I consider myself an emerging artist. I’ve shared my work publicly quite a bit, and had my work published in anthologies. But I haven’t published a book yet. Plus, I like the word ‘emerging’ because it allows room for growth, and I want to always be growing and challenging myself as an artist and writer and human being.
Nia: What has your journey to this point in your career been like?
Amir: I’m thankful that I have survived, that I’m alive. This journey to be where I am today hasn’t been easy. For me, my art is deeply connected to my growth and transformation as a person. So there have been times where I wasn’t writing stuff down on the page, I couldn’t write, either I was blocked or it was too painful, but things were being birthed inside of me. I think that the connections I’ve made with writers of color have given me the strength to go on, to keep writing. Places like VONA, Voices of Our Nations, a writing residency for writers of color really changed my life. People were accepting of me not only as a mixed person of color but also being queer and trans. It was one of the first times I felt that. Without those moments of acceptance, I think I’d have just given up on writing and publishing my work. I would have just thought it was impossible. So I guess my journey has been both hard and beautiful. I went through so many years in Oregon in isolation, feeling so out of place. Once I left, I found more support. I’m thankful for the spaces that have nurtured me, and told me you can do this, as well as challenged me to go deeper, and to be vulnerable. In a way, I also know that those years of isolation have made me truly appreciate the spaces where I can be whole. When you don’t have a place that you can be yourself, and then it’s given to you, it’s a shock, but an amazing feeling. It’s why I started teaching my own writing workshops hoping I can create spaces for queer and trans writers, where they can feel supported.
Nia: Where do you want to go from here?
Amir: I want to publish collections of poetry. I’m working on a few manuscripts right now. I’m also co-editing an anthology called Writing the Walls Down with Helen Klonaris and I’m really excited about that. I’d like to continue to do community-based workshops when I can, and also some low-residency teaching. I enjoy teaching creative writing, and the low-residency format would give me the opportunity to work from home, and travel a little bit. I really want to feel more financially stable, and be able to sustain myself with doing what I love, while also taking care of my health.
Nia: Do you worry that you may face identity-based challenges in getting to where you want to go?
Amir: Yes, although the worry is different than it used to be. I think about seven years ago, after moving to the Bay, I was still recovering from living in Portland, Oregon. It was really difficult living in a city that was not culturally diverse, and that I felt a great deal of hostility from just existing. On one hand, it made me not take for granted the opportunities that I did get to connect with other queer and trans people of color trying to create change with their art. On the other hand, I had internalized so much shame, and so many messages that I could not exist as a whole person, with all of my identities in relationship to my art. I thought that it would be impossible. Now that I’ve experienced rejection, hardship but also support and affirmation, I’ve realized that positive things can come out of identity-based challenges. For instance, sharing a piece of writing that is raw and vulnerable and really connecting with people, sometimes people that I would not have expected. Those moments keep me pushing forward, and worrying less about those challenges.
Nia: How do you measure your success as an artist?
Amir: That’s been a difficult and tricky issue for me. Being disabled, I can’t go out and work, or promote or push myself in the way that folks who aren’t disabled can. I see a lot of folks talking about all the things they did in a day, and all the back to back gigs, and projects, and production. I struggle because I have to create and work in a totally different way. I struggle to not compare myself to folks who aren’t sick, to capitalist models of success. These days I’m writing a lot from bed, sometimes I use talk to text technology. I try to measure myself as an artist by what did I learn today, what moved me, what transformed me. It takes me a long time to craft a poem that I feel is ready to send out into the world. I move slow. My work is accepting myself as I am. I’m always running into those voices and narratives that tell me I should have a steady job, should be producing more. But many of those ideas don’t serve me, because I’m sick. My success is that after all I’ve been through, I’m still trying towards thriving to heal my body and trauma, I mean doing some intense work, that kind of scraping at the bottom of the floor work, I see that as success. I say all of this, because I cannot separate all of that work with myself as an artist, because it all shows up on the page.
Nia: Do you feel supported as an artist here in the Bay?
Amir: Yes and no. There are ways in which I’ve felt really held here in the Bay, especially when I first moved here. There are more shows and spaces that are QTPOC-centered here in the Bay than in Portland, Oregon. And that has been exciting to be a part of. But as my illnesses have progressed, I’ve felt less supported here in the Bay because I can’t go out a whole lot, or work much outside of the house. I think that so many people are really busy here in the Bay, making ends meet. As someone who is an artist, but also disabled, I’m finding it hard to get the support I need because even in QTPOC community ableism and classism gets in the way. I can’t keep up with the pace of life here, so I’ve created my own pace and way of being. But the result of that, is some isolation from community.
Nia: What do you think it would take for more artists to be able to make a living off of their creative labor?
Amir: In order for artists to be able to make a living off their creative labor, I think that there needs to be a radical shift in what mainstream society views our work. Capitalism is very product focused, and much less process oriented. This makes it difficult for artists to make a living, because process is a huge part of creating. It could take weeks, months or years to create a body of work. I think the living in the United States and being raised primarily by Arab immigrants, who were very focused on “making it” or the perception of “making it”, that really influenced me. For a long time I felt like I had shamed my family in not being able to “make it.” Even though I have chronic health issues, and am disabled, I still push up against my own internalized ableism.
Unless we totally get rid of capitalism, which doesn’t seem possible at this moment, we first have to shift or at least engage with the messages we have internalized living in the United States as queer and trans artists of color. We have to remind ourselves and each other of our worth, and the necessity of our voices and art as cultural work and resistance. Once we start doing that, I think we have to keep supporting each other in getting funding whether applying for grants, or grassroots community fundraising, or creating our own organizations, or holding regular events. There are lots of possibilities. I think that in the arts world in the United States there is often so much competition, to the point that it is unhealthy. It’s often about who got this over who. While I think a small amount of competition is okay, it is exhausting, and it is actually not sustainable.
Winning $1,000 in a writing contest once isn’t enough. How can we work together as queer and trans artists of color to build? We need to build. Imagine if we really had a strong network. While I want mainstream society to change, and there to be more funding in the arts, I also don’t want to wait around for the government to decide our voices are worthy. We are worthy now, we have bills to pay now. We have art to share now.
Amir Rabiyah is a queer and two-spirit writer currently living in Oakland, California. Amir has been published in Mizna, Left Turn Magazine, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion and Spirituality, Troubling the Line: Trans and Gender Queer Poetry and Poetics and more. Amir is currently working on a collection of poetry about mixed identities, disability, survival, and rebellion. www.amirrabiyah.com.
Is Masculinity Always Privileged?: A Transman’s Experience with Intimate Partner Violence
by Mauro Sifuentes
I am a queer and trans non-profit professional of color (mixed-race) who works at an organization in the Bay Area of California that focuses on crisis intervention services for domestic violence survivors. My skills are best put to use doing prevention work; I spend a lot of time working with youth in public schools and other settings to have conversations about interpersonal and community violence, and I also do my best to open up space in collaborative agency meetings to discuss the particular issues that queer and trans youth and adults face. All of this work is important to me today because of the ways that domestic/intimate partner violence (IPV) has affected my own life.
Before getting into my own story, I would like to provide a bit of context for queer cultural and political spaces in the Bay Area. Many are putting a lot of effort into rethinking relationships to privilege and accountability, which is quite possibly one of the most difficult tasks a community can take on, especially during an era of ‘post-‘racism that also continues to ignore myriad institutionalized -isms that hugely affect people’s lives and their ability to thrive, including but not limited to ableism, immigration issues, transphobia/cissexism, homophobia/heterosexism, among others. A mantra I have seen many queer people take up, especially many masculine-of-center queer people, is that “Masculinity is privileged/femininity is denigrated,” in attempts to address institutionalized sexism.
I think that as a starting point, this can be an important realization for many who have not questioned structures of sexism and binary gender, as well as performances of gender. Being mindful of how our language, bodies, and mannerisms take up space in various settings is crucial in our efforts to support others in using their voices to speak on a variety of issues that have been silenced, both historically and in present organizing efforts. I also believe that drawing binaries like this out of context can also be very dangerous. Many progressive queer people are looking for scripts so that they can be good allies; these scripts often rely on reductive thinking that marginalizes other people still, but this marginalization is now grounded in a sense of political progressiveness and moral righteousness, making it even more difficult for the margins-of-the-margins to voice their experiences and concerns.
To illustrate the problematics of relying too heavily on the trope that “Masculinity is privileged/feminity is denigrated,” in all moments, I want to share my own story in order to continue a conversation that feels as though it is just beginning. Though I understand that trigger warnings can be helpful tools in order to let others know when content might be very difficult, if not harmful, I often experience their insertion as jilting and heavy-handed. I’m a queer, trans person of mixed-race experience who has experienced physical, verbal, and emotional violence, not only from intimate partners, but from strangers as well. I don’t want to sanitize my story with too many warnings. It is simple enough to say that the re-telling of these events might be most traumatic for me, and it is my hope that these words might be held carefully in a community invested in thinking about all forms of violence experienced by its members, difficult as that task may be.
I was in a relationship with a queer, self-identified femme woman. During the course of our relationship, there were many warning signs that I chose to ignore or push back against. Verbal mistreatment via name-calling and other insults. My hormonal transition began during this relationship – before I knew it, my body had become a battleground and a perceived betrayal. What I had not realized is that this self-proclaimed feminist partner of mine had chosen to hide from her own intense experiences of sexism by choosing queer partners, seeking solace from interactions with men in pursuit of her belief that sexism ended where her relationships with men did. What we often fail to see is that the internalized sexism we learn, as both women and trans people, comes with us wherever we go and we have the imperative to work through it in ways that don’t perpetuate cycles of violence. As my body began to change as a result of testosterone injections, I became the target of her rage. My body was beginning to scare her, in appearance and strength. As I was gaining confidence, I was able to stand up for myself in arguments in ways I had not before, which was written off as me aspiring to oppressive male privilege, ignoring that my identification with “male” was minimal and fraught. Frustrations mounted and her attacks shifted from verbal to psychological to physical, overlapping and reinforcing one another. Through this all, I refused physical retaliation.
The vulnerabilities I had expressed before I chose to transition and those I experienced early on were used against me in unfathomable ways. I was told that as a genderqueer-presenting person, I was more attractive as a partner, and that she had “the best of both worlds,” but now that I was more male-presenting, she was “doubly screwed” because she 1) could not push back against me like she would a cisgender male partner and 2) she had to take my experiences as a trans person seriously, and she did not want to have to do that. Another variable in this dynamic was race; my former parter was a white, feminist, queer, femme woman. When the physical violence and psychological abuse became too much for me to handle, I sought help from friends we shared as a couple. These friends were also a couple – a couple of color, composed of a queer woman and a mostly-straight man.
I now know that how they responded to my pleas for help are couched in reductive thinking about gender and race. These friends did not believe me, which fed into a pre-existing narrative that male or masculine people cannot be victims/survivors of IPV, a trope that proliferates in the professional literature on and responses to IPV. Additionally, within social categories, white women are often viewed as the least violent, where as men or masculine people of color are readily assumed to be the perpetrators of violence, especially violence against white women. My status as a queer and trans person did not come into the equation. These friends, rather than keeping my confidence, threatened to tell my partner that I was reaching out for help, putting me once again in harm’s way, as I feared retaliation for breaking my own isolation.
It brings me an immense sense of gratitude that I was able to reach out to other people outside of my immediate circle, acquaintances who came to my aid and helped me feel empowered to make the choices that I needed to keep myself safe, physically and psychologically. I also know that because of the particularities of my circumstances, I was very lucky to receive that support. Many male or masculine-presenting queer people and people of color rarely seek out or receive resources and support when experiencing IPV. A dominant narrative that only women and feminine-presenting people can experience this form of violence has seeped into queer and trans spaces as well; most organizations are not trained or set up to respond to these groups of people.
Here I return to my initial statement about refusing the trope of “Masculinity is privileged/Femininity is denigrated” - this understanding of gender dangerously invisibilizes the struggle of many trans masculine people, especially people of color. The ways that trans feminine people experience violence and discrimination can often look very different than the way trans masculine people experience discrimination. I also must admit the messiness of the categories, and that not all people who identify as a trans woman/MTF experience themselves as feminine, just as not an people who identify as a trans man/FTM experience themselves as masculine. Though this topic warrants its own in-depth analysis, I will say here that our cultural fixation on policing the gender of those who are male or are deemed as ‘supposed’ to be male (trans women) is so intense and violent, and this fixation also allows for increased political visibility, media attention, and support for academic inquiry. People who are on a trans masculine spectrum are largely missing from the public eye, especially trans masculine people of color. We need to cultivate much richer horizontal alliances across trans communities, where those who do not experience violent targeting speak up on behalf of those who do, just as those who receive more attention can also be sure to bring up the concerns of those community members who are less visible. These alliances must cross both lines of gender, as well as race.
It is also my hope that non-trans queers can support these relationships within trans communities without imposing binaries and hierarchies on our experiences. We all need support in thinking through the complexity of our realities, and telling marginalized communities to be silent simply because they are masculine-presenting is immensely harmful, as well as violently reductive. The ways that I have experienced myself as a masculine trans person is incredibly different from other presentations of masculinity. How I have struggled to be entitled to my gender presentation warrants thoughtful reflection instead of knee-jerk criticism. I acknowledge the ways that I move through the world in certain moments with increased ease, as my own feminist imperative; I also know that I am a short transgender man of color with no interest in engaging in certain politics of masculinity. In many contexts, masculinity is not the only vector of analysis that can account for how I will be privileged or not.
I want to thank people for reading, and to give my apologies for not writing about this topic in a way that is more beautiful or literary. It has taken me three years to find even these meager words and I’ve avoided recounting my experience in a more public forum precisely because of the way words feel inadequate and lifeless when discussing my experiences of violence. Coping looks catatonic in this moment, but is hopefully not entirely in vain. Perhaps avoiding more robust language is a retreat from expectation, a distancing of myself from the need to make an experience presentable or palatable by turning it into something beautiful. I am committed to continuing this conversation as a community member as well as a scholar – currently, I’m pursuing academic research into the ways that transgender people have been represented across time in scientific and social research in order to better understand both the current predicament we often find ourselves in, as well as the ways binary gender often goes unquestioned even through confrontations with people who defy easy categorization.
I bring forward this conversation in hopes that it can continue and to provide a framework for addressing these issues (sexism, racism, alliance, hierarchies, legitimacy, IPV, queerness, etc.) with a little more thoughtfulness and compassion, and to practice a refusal of easy directions and analysis when it comes to building alliances across difference. There are many queer communities of color grappling with these important questions of how to be in relation to one another and support one another, and I can only hope that this adds something useful to those discussions.
For questions/comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask Culture and Guess Culture
“One of my wife’s distant friends has attempted to invite herself to stay with us, again,” writes the exasperated owner of a prime 2 bedroom apartment in New York City in this Ask MetaFilter question. “She did this last March, and we used the excuse of me starting a new job and needing to do x, y, and z as well as the “out of town” excuse for any remaining dates. This got us off scot-free, but we both knew the time would come again… and it’s here. We need a final solution.”
He goes on to list two different possibilities he can think of for getting this woman to stop asking for free room and board. The first is a little white lie, something about their keys being hard to duplicate. The other is to be vague, to say something like “Sorry, that isn’t going to work for us” and hope she doesn’t ask why.
The first few answers give this poster very direct advice: Just say no. No need to give an explanation, it’s her who’s being rude by asking. Others give him advice that was probably more like what he was expecting: other ways to be vague like claiming that it’s “One of those random `Life in NYC things.’”
Another thread of discussion popped up around whether or not the woman asking for a place to stay was being rude. Some posters couldn’t understand how simply asking to stay in someone’s apartment was rude, while another went as far to say that putting someone in the position “having to be rude and say no” was rude in and of itself.
It is into this context that user tangerine contributes this answer:
This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.
In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.
In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.
All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.
If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.
Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)
Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.
As you read through the responses to this question, you can easily see who the Guess and the Ask commenters are. It’s an interesting exercise. (#)
After this comment many users, including the original poster himself, began to use these terms in discussing the issue. And why wouldn’t they? Ask Culture and Guess Culture describe two valid yet opposing ways of interacting with the world with very little value judgment given to them. Framing the argument as such was a stroke of utter genius by tangerine, broadening the perspective of many who participated in the discussion and adding to the general lifebuzz.
As an Autistic, I’m firmly an ask culture person, whereas my parents (especially my Mom) and sister are guess culture people. My access need for direct communications (due to being Autistic) conflicted mightily with their sense of propriety. It was traumatizing for me because I couldn’t ever have become proficient in my own family’s guess culture, let alone become proficient in other families’ guess culture (in the same way that, being Blind (partially sighted) meant that I couldn’t ever have become proficient in driving a car). Yet they constantly expected me to conform to their way of doing things and I was always in the wrong with them because I just couldn’t.
How Ableism Creates the Idea of “Special” Needs, and Why It’s Harmful
I’m a disabled person, and I also work at the Disability Services Office at a college.
Not very long ago, a professor rushed into our office flustered and angry because
1. She had a blind student in her class.
2. She asked us how we planned to communicate graded papers to her student, since her habit was to write corrections on printed papers.
3. To which we replied, “Just send her an email instead of writing your corrections on the printed paper.”
How DARE we burden HER with so much extra work? More about how busy she is. More about how that gives an “unfair advantage”. (???) More on how could we possibly expect her to make such a drastic accommodation, which wasn’t fair to her or her other students.
How many emails do you think you send to your sighted students every semester? Dozens? Hundreds? How many classes of 25+ students do your teach every semester? How do you communicate with them?
This problem was entirely created in this professor’s mind by her own assumption that anything a disabled student could need was unacceptable, and a waste of her time.She returned to our office to complain several times over this.
She threw an actual tantrum over something she did for her non-disabled students every single day without even considering it.
Because “everyone knows” disabled people, whatever we might need, that need is too much. It’s a burden on abled people. It’s “unfair to everyone else (read: non-disabled people).
Many disability activists say things along the lines of “our needs aren’t more, just different”. Well, I have to say that even when are needs are the same, they’re still, apparently “too much”.
Omg, effing *this*!!!!! If I had a dime for every time someone has pulled that attitude on me…
Autism Speaks or Hitler #3
As stated before: these quotes have not been altered other than redacting the subject, changing the grammar/flow to match more (Nazis had a strange way of speaking), and the numbers (which are redacted). One is from the Autism Speaks website, and the other is from a Nazi. Reblog with your answer or send me an e-mail at email@example.com and I’ll tally the correct amount of guesses and divide it by the total.
“As the number of [them] in this country continues to rise, now is not the time for [us] to take a great leap backward.”
"I hope to see [it] completely obliterated."
The answer will be posted tomorrow
Autism Speaks or Hitler #2
As stated before: these quotes have not been altered other than redacting the subject, changing the grammar/flow to match more (Nazis had a strange way of speaking), and the numbers (which are redacted). One is from the Autism Speaks website, and the other is from a Nazi. Reblog with your answer or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tally the correct amount of guesses and divide it by the total.
“we [need] to meaningfully address the scope of this enormous problem and the social and economic burdens it places on our nation.”
"the [epidemic] today [is] no longer a ___ problem: it is…a world problem."
The answers will be posted the day after.
This one I don’t actually know, but I could make a guess, based on Autism $peaks constant efforts to grow. E.g.: I’ve recently learned they’ve got their hooks into Canada, now. So, without cheating with Google, I’m going to guess the second one is Autism $peaks: “the [epidemic] today [is] no longer a U.S. problem: it is…a world problem.”
These quotes have not been altered other than redacting the subject, changing the grammar/flow to match more (Hitler had a strange way of speaking), and the numbers (which are redacted). One is from the Autism Speaks website, and the other is from Hitler. Reblog with your answer or send me an e-mail and I’ll tally the correct amount of guesses and divide it by the total.
These are in the context of reducing the numbers of mentally-ill/people mental disorders and their impact/perceived impact on society:
“The construction of a [treatment center] costs ___. How many houses at ___ each could have been built for that amount?”
“There is no national plan to build a city for [these people]. So let’s…consider [their growing numbers] in this great country. Do we have a plan for them?”
I was thinking we’d do an easy one first. Sources will be provided tomorrow with the answer.
Okay, I happen to know this one, but I won’t say. :D (big grin)
UPDATE: The Petition is at 117! Let’s get it up to 200 at least, if not all the way to 500!
Kyla wants to talk to the CEO of Sprouts to explain why Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for Autistics. Doug Sanders, CEO of Sprouts, is currently a major sponsor of Autism Speaks. Kyla hopes to help change that.
Sign her mother’s petition, My autistic daughter has something to say to Sprouts CEO, and help make it happen!
(If captions aren’t working, you can see Kyla’s video message with captions on Amara as well.)