An apology, and an (optional) explanation

I don’t generally go in for long explanations, when harm has been done. I did harm, this morning, with some heartfelt but thoughtlessly expressed sentiments and poorly chosen words, which conveyed nearly the opposite of what I intended. I screwed up in about a dozen separate ways, and people were offended and possibly hurt by that. For that, I am truly sorry. Period. Insofar as the apology goes, that’s all that really matters, and no one owes my explanation any attention, if they prefer not to hear it. I fucked up, I’m sorry, and I intend to do all that I can not to fuck up in that way, in the future.

Someone in my Twitter timeline retweeted the following tweets from Yves, regarding the revelation that Sandra Bland was homophobic:

yves

There was a tweet before these two, which apparently had a link to an article that I somehow missed. I replied with the following:

sandra bland mistake tweet

…and was soundly and deservedly reprimanded by three separate people.

Not having read, or even been aware of the article, my response was dismissive, and likely painful for some who read it. I wish I could rewind, and repair that. Stop and read the original tweets more carefully, from a more mindful, less emotional place, and either not respond at all, or respond with a better understanding and more thoughtfulness. Since I can’t, I’ll offer what explanation I can, here. Not as an excuse – I was wrong, and nobody is obligated to excuse that – but merely as insight for anyone who cares to have it. And this will be long. There’s a whole lot that went into the feelings that inspired those badly worded tweets, and I don’t know how to condense this, without losing the essence.

I’ve been really disturbed by this never-ending pattern of media and public response to state sanctioned murder of black men and women, and other people of color, in which the “they were no saint” rhetoric gets trotted out and paraded around every article, every television news feed, every sound bite, every comments section and social media discussion. It makes me physically ill to read, over and over again, the picking apart of every single personal choice, belief, and behavior of the victims of these crimes, as if smoking weed, or refusing to put out a cigarette, or speaking rightful challenge to over-reaching authority, or shoplifting, or being fucking rude, somehow justifies their murders. It’s the same damned thing that I, and other victims of sexual crimes, have to face when we come forward to either report those crimes or seek social support. It’s victim blaming, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter whether or not Sandra Bland put out her cigarette, when the cop told her to do so, any more than in matters what a rape victim was wearing, when some rapist made them his prey. It doesn’t matter whether or not Michael Brown had ever smoked weed, any more than it matters whether a woman had one too many drinks in a bar, if somebody assaults her. It doesn’t matter what the fucking VICTIMS did, before they were made victims, whether the person who victimized them was a rapist or a trigger-happy racist cop. The victims deserve our support. So, the whole not-a-saint thing hits me pretty hard.

Homophobia does, too. It has been a fact of life for me, since I realized I was something other than “normal,” something other than straight, when I was in my early teens. I’ve written, here, about what it was like for me, growing up bisexual in a bigoted, shitpot, southern town, and here, about how some of that bigotry was shoved down my throat, growing up. And here, about sexual abuse, rape, and victim silencing. About hate, racism, homophobia, erasure, shaming, indoctrination, and how all of those things have been a part of my history, a part of how I became who I am, now. If you don’t want to read them, I understand. None of them is an easy read. All of them come with possible triggers, especially for anyone who is marginalized, harmed, and/or oppressed by racism, homophobia, or rape culture. In a nutshell, I’ve faced homophobia for most of my life. I still face it, now. The memories of the ways it has been weaponized against me are still nearly as painful as its current presence. The fears of what that same homophobia, and the usually accompanying transphobia, may do to my teenage, transgender son, are ever-present and often overwhelming, even in the obvious context of my own undeniable white privilege.

Since my unavoidable return to that shitpot town, all of those things, and a sweeping culture of racism that pervades nearly every single facet of life, here, have made me all but a shut-in. I can’t go to the grocery store, without running into someone who bullied me in high school for being bisexual. I can’t stop to put gas in the car, without seeing a handful of bigoted, hateful stickers on cars, or an overblown pickup truck with a full sized confederate flag hanging from a jury-rigged flagpole in the back. Christmas dinner with my family ended with me, my partner, and my child walking out fifteen minutes into the meal, because of the blatant, unapologetic racism in my family’s conversation. My facebook, on June 27th, was FULL of right wing rhetoric about how conservatives and Christians were being oppressed by “that Muslim traitor in the White House.”

Living here, it is utterly inescapable, and for at least a few more years, I can’t leave.

So, I turned my facebook, where my friends are family and what few locals I didn’t have horrid associations with, from before, into a platform. Nearly every day, I comment on other posts, trying to simultaneously maintain composure, and fight against the all encompassing culture of hate-infested, cis-hetero, christian, white supremacy that permeates everything. I post educational things about the history nobody taught us in school, the one in which slavery was literally the ONLY real reason for the Civil War (and that, alone, is usually a brick wall), about how community policing, as we know it, has always been inherently anti-black, about how Jesus never condemned homosexuality, about how love between consenting adults is never either a sin or a crime, about how transpeople deserve the right to not be murdered by bigots, about how people of color deserve to live in a place where the police aren’t the enemy.

I have NO community, in real life. Aside from the two other people who live in my house, I have a sister and a former stepmother I barely see, and one old high school friend, with whom I find I have less and less in common. My father and extended family refuse to see their unconscious racism, transphobia, and homophobia, so I don’t feel safe in their presence. There is literally nothing to do, here, no place to go, that isn’t at least a 45 minute drive, which doesn’t involve associating with dangerously hateful bigots. I’m disabled, so travel isn’t something I get to indulge in, much, even just to the nearest city.

In the last two years, over and over and over again, I have either lost friendships, or chosen to dissociate myself from people who refused to see their victim blaming, predator enabling behaviors were a problem. So the vast majority of people I knew, people from my former home whom I considered friends, are no longer a part of my life. And that one former high school friend I mentioned? He’s a white, cis-, gay man. Recently, he was here, visiting, and dropped the phrase, “playing the race card,” into a conversation about politics. It was kind of the last straw, for me. I’m basically a hermit, now.

See, bigotry has been a fact of life, for me, ALL of my life. I am always the most upset and offended by that bigotry when it comes from someone who is also marginalized and/or oppressed by the current status quo. Hearing my gay friend express something so blatantly racist was enraging and devastating. The one person I believed I had, here, the one person I thought was more evolved, and beyond all that bigotry, had just revealed that he wasn’t. It felt, as it always does, when that happens, like a betrayal.

Oppressed people actively participating in or perpetuating the oppression of other people is the one thing I simply can’t ever wrap my brain around, can’t ever stop feeling astonished and hurt by, when I hear or read it. It rips into me like a dull knife, every single time.

What happened to Sandra Bland, even though we don’t know all of the truth, yet, was horrific and inexcusable. I’ve argued with idiots about this until I could barely speak. Idiots who trot out that ridiculous line about how, if she’d just obeyed the nice white policeman, she would have been fine. Idiots who spout the suspicious evidence of marijuana in her system as proof that she was to blame, somehow. Idiots who are just exhausting, and pretty much everywhere I go. I’ve argued until I wept, in frustration with them, and in utter despair of our culture as a whole. I haven’t been able to march. I can’t go to where the protests are, but I’ve been working towards educating other white people about the white supremacist reality of present day America, nearly every single day since last August.

So, when I saw that Sandra Bland was homophobic, it felt like a kick in the gut, on a day when (for a host of unrelated reasons I won’t even get into, here) my guts had already been pummeled. My initial emotion was that same sense of betrayal I felt when my friend revealed his racism. Then, a little bit of anger, and the return of that overwhelming sadness and despair for what our culture is, despite the fact that it’s the 21st century.

If the people I know, here, discovered this, they would undoubtedly use it as a sort of gotcha. They would use it as yet another reason why they think I’m wrong to believe that her death was not fucking okay, or in any way justifiable. They would do this, even while believing that I, and my son, are fundamentally less worthy, as human beings, because of our sexual orientation and gender identity.

And all those things were swirling in my head, as I realized that it didn’t matter whether or not she would have fought for me, or for my son. She did not deserve to die, alone and unjustly imprisoned. When I said that “homophobia isn’t a lethal offense,” I did not mean that directed homophobia doesn’t kill, because it absolutely does. I know why that seemed dismissive, and it is entirely the fault of my own hastily worded reaction. I only meant that her being homophobic was not reason enough to justify locking her up and taking her life. When I said what I did about her not having the opportunity to learn and grow, I said it from a place of someone who was raised to hate, raised to be racist and bigoted, and learned better. Someone who, through life experience and age and seeking knowledge and understanding, overcame some busted beliefs that were carefully cultivated in my young, formative mind. Someone who believes that we all have the capacity to overcome our broken and damaging conditioning, to become more empathetic and humane and caring towards one another, no matter our lot in life.

If someone had killed me, when I was a few years younger than Sandra Bland, I would never have been shown my internalized racism, either. I think that unjustly depriving someone of that chance is every bit as tragic as killing someone more socially enlightened, more empathetic to the ways in which people unlike themselves are oppressed.

So, yes. I will continue to demand answers and accountability from the people responsible for Sandra Bland’s death. Her homophobia didn’t make what they did to her less unjust, and my support for that doesn’t hinge on what her attitudes towards me may have been. I don’t say that for anyone other than myself, though. It is completely understandable and justifiable for other LGBTQ people to wish to withdraw their vocal support for that particular cause, in light of this information, and I don’t judge them in any way. For me, her death didn’t remove homophobia from the world, or even my little sphere of it. It just denied her the chance to gain experience that may have shown her a better way to be.

So, I will still  say her name. Sandra Bland may never have been my friend, if we’d met, but what was done to her demands justice, and she should not be forgotten.

Again, if you’ve made it this far, I am so very sorry that my language was dismissive, offensive, and/or harmful. I can’t promise never to screw up again, but I promise to try harder to be more conscious of my words, rather than spewing complex emotions into thoughtless 140-character blurbs. And now I’m off to find the article that inspired all of this, and learn how to do better.

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Why I Need Feminism

I have recently started spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter. A year ago, I would have believed that to be a waste of time. A year ago, I was uninformed.

Twitter, largely thanks to the efforts of Black Lives Matter activists like  Johnetta Elzie, DeRay Mckesson and Zellie Imani, has become the active, vibrant, effective hub of social change. It’s strange to say, but I sometimes feel like I didn’t really grow up, didn’t really mature in my own feminism, until I found Twitter. Sure, I sort of understood my own white privilege, but I didn’t really know even a third of the racial history of this country. I believed in intersectionality, but I had not quite internalized it.

Twitter changed that, 140 characters at a time. Not to mention all the links to mind-blowing, mind-expanding studies and articles, op-ed pieces and blog entries. It also introduced me to a host of amazing people who are doing some very difficult, often thankless, sometimes risky even to the point of possible death, activism work.

Aside from the cat pics and joke memes (which, let’s be clear, I enjoy more than I should), Twitter has mostly been a feeling of community I’ve missed for a long time. It has given me something I thought I’d lost, before: a place to talk about my personal feminism, without feeling like I was constantly under attack. A place to learn from other people, without feeling completely disconnected from the teachers. A place to debate, where the trolls can fairly easily be dismissed (at least, they can for me; I know others’ experiences haven’t been that at all) by the simple click of a mouse.

And there are the question tweets. Mostly, the questions aren’t original. Often, they’re things I’ve seen a million times, and just haven’t bothered to address or answer, for myself. Simple questions, with maybe not-so-simple answers.

Tonight’s simple question, from Feminist Gals an account created mostly (from what I can tell) to educate teens and college-aged adults about feminism, was this:

Why do you need feminism?

I responded twice, and I’ll include those answers, here. But there is so much more than I could put into tweets, even if I filled that text field over and over again, all night long. I decided to start a living, updated-as-necessary list of all the reasons why I need feminism.

I need feminism…

  • …because before I was old enough to legally buy a drink in a bar, I’d been molested for five years, gang raped while on a vacation, abused by two different partners, and roofied and raped at a party where I had one drink.
  • …because my family didn’t believe I’d been molested.
  • …because I chose a boy I didn’t really care about, to lose my virginity, so that the grown man who was molesting me wouldn’t take it from me, without my consent.
  • …because virginity has become so commodified in our culture, I actually believed I would lose value as a human being, as soon as I was no longer a virgin.
  • …because from the moment I had sex with that sweet boy, I was labelled a slut.
  • …because my best friend at the time was also gang raped, that night, and blamed me for it. Because she and her friend beat me in a parking lot for not saving her.
  • …because I was taught to question and doubt the validity of my own lived experiences, by people not believing my accounts of them.
  • …because of gaslighting.
  • …because, when I told my boyfriend (at the time) about being raped, he blamed me for it, and immediately explained how he would leave me, if I pulled away from him the next time he tried to kiss me or initiate sex.
  • …because I was still so unsure of my own value as a human being that I stayed with him, anyway.
  • …because my sexual orientation has been dissected, ridiculed, picked apart, and even been deemed imaginary or non-existent, since I was outed in high school.
  • …because not all of that came from straight people.
  • …because a high school guidance counselor told me that I shouldn’t be “shoving it (my sexual orientation) in everybody’s faces, when I spoke to her about the bullying.
  • …because I was quietly steered away from the hobbies and careers I wanted, when I was young, because of my gender.
  • …because my childhood religion taught me both that I was the source of all evil, and that my only legitimate purposes on this planet were to make babies and take care of them. And men. To take care of men.
  • …because my emotions, even when their expression is both logical and appropriate to the situation, are often used to discredit my words. I am neither hysterical nor oversensitive.
  • …because I had an easier time getting booze at the liquor store, when I was a teenager, than I did getting birth control.
  • …because I grew up believing that women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex.
  • …because all the heroes in my books, movies, and TV shows were men and boys, beyond Nancy Drew.
  • …because I was taught all about all the things I was supposed to do to keep myself from being raped, without ever hearing a thing about consent.
  • …because my male friends and cousins were never taught not to touch me, if I said no.
  • …because I was never taught how to set boundaries, or even that I was allowed to do so. In fact, I was made to accept kisses, hugs, cheek-pinches, and to sit in someone’s lap, even when I’d said I didn’t want to do so.
  • …because parents are still forcing their kids to accept touches and physical affection from people who make them uncomfortable.
  • …because, until I was in my late twenties, I believed that if I “led a man on” to a certain point, I owed him sex.
  • …because girls – and more importantly, boys – are still being taught that lie.
  • …because too many people believe they are entitled to my attention, time, respect, affection, body, and intimacy.
  • …because girls are still made to choose their clothes for school based upon whether or not the boys might find them “distracting.”
  • …because the vast majority of legislators making policy and funding decisions about women’s health in the US are male.
  • …because I’m afraid to post face or full-body pictures of myself online, due to the possible commentary.
  • …because my clothing does not indicate consent
  • …because my alcohol consumption doesn’t, either.
  • …because one in five women will be raped in her lifetime.
  • …because 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are molested as children
  • …because our country provides those child victims with neither justice nor adequate treatment for their trauma.
  • …because a child victim of sexual abuse is almost twice as likely to be sexually assaulted or raped, later in life, as someone who was not molested as a child, yet there is no ongoing support system.
  • …because children almost never lie about sexual abuse, yet are rarely believed.
  • …because women almost never lie about rape, yet are rarely believed.
  • …because police officers often interrogate reporting rape victims as if they were the criminals…
  • …and only about 3% of rapists ever see the inside of a prison cell…
  • …and victims are revictimized by the court system, during trials…
  • …and by their communities…
  • …and by the media…
  • …yet too many people, when told by a woman that she was raped, refuse to believe her unless she goes to the police.
  • …because people like RooshV and Donald Trump exist.

And that’s all I’ve got the spoons to type, right now. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I will be back.

Why I Won’t Continue to Argue With You

I am a socially aware person. Which, if labels are to be trotted out, most often translates to “feminist,” “Social Justice Warrior,” “liberal hack,” “slacktivist,” or “Feminazi scum,” depending entirely on the beliefs of the speaker. With the exception of “feminazi” – which is utterly absurd and particularly hateful because no feminist or feminist group ever imprisoned and tortured and killed millions of human beings for their differences – I wear each one with pride. I know what they mean, what they’re intended to mean, and that the resentment behind them often indicates the frustration of the ignorant with inevitable social progress.

I didn’t just jump on this “bandwagon,” as so many opponents would call it, on a whim. I didn’t become this shining example of a “SJW” overnight. I got here through a very logical progression of questioning, seeking answers, and finding knowledge. It was an almost organic evolution. It was growth, and growth doesn’t happen without impetus, or all at once.

plant watering

It started when I was very young. I remember playing basketball in the Carolina summer heat, with my cousins, who were mostly boys. The hotter it got, the more shirts came flying off, to be discarded next to the red clay “court” in the backyard of the cousin who led the games. I was about six or seven. I hadn’t been taught anything about the differences between girls and boys, let alone about sex or sexuality. I got hot, too. I took my shirt off, too. And it was no big deal to me, or to the half dozen boys with whom I played. I took my shirt off, and ran around with the same sweaty, dirty abandon as all the other kids, and nobody cared. Until my father came running outside, red-faced and yelling. What the heck was I thinking??? What was the matter with me? He yelled and made me put my shirt back on, and go home, but he never explained why. From that day forward, I knew that girls couldn’t do everything that boys could do. That girls would get into trouble for things about which boys never had  to think twice.

I was also only seven years old when my family taught me to be a racist, and only about ten when I started to question that belief system. I found that I had a drive to learn more about other people, about how they lived in this world we shared, about how their experiences in that world were different from my own. I visited the school library. I read everything they had that related to my questions, then moved on to the county library. I talked to people. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t, like me, white and protestant, at the time, but I asked questions, anyway. The answers I got were… dissatisfying. My parents and my preacher gave me biblical justifications for racism. So, I read the bible, cover to cover, for the first time. What I found was that the Bible doesn’t justify racism, yet it repeatedly urges us to love one another, regardless of our differences. I asked my teachers. Only one had an response that didn’t amount to a lackadaisical shrug of the shoulders. She pointed me in the direction of some amazing literature written by black authors, about their experience in this world. I devoured every one. Armed with this knowledge, I started questioning people, again. My parents eventually just shushed me with the equivalent of Because we said so. Now stop pestering us. My preacher brushed me off the same way.

I had encountered the first revelation of growing up: The grown-ups didn’t know everything, after all. They weren’t infallible. They could be wrong. But I’d also learned something of the utmost importance. I didn’t have to settle for their non-answers. There was a whole world out there, full of answers. I just had to find them for myself.

library

The next stage of this growth was related to sexuality. In a church where they managed to justify racism with bible verses, it’s no surprise that homosexuality was also sternly frowned-upon. This was problematic, for me. See, I was in kindergarten when I developed my first celebrity crush – on a woman. I was in first grade when I had my first real-life crush – on a girl. I later developed crushes on boys, too, both in real life and on TV (Doogie Howser, anybody?), but by then, I knew I was… different. I’d never associated my differences with “The Gays,” then. That’s how they were always referenced. Implied capital letters, and sneery italics in my head. The Gays. Also occasionally known as HommaSECKshuls. I didn’t connect the descriptions of those people with the difference I knew existed between me and other people, because of the way those people were described. Immoral. Sneaky. Dishonest. Sleazy. Perverted. Dangerous. Likely to molest small children and family pets, and steal the family television, while they were at it. I knew that wasn’t me, and hadn’t yet connected those labels to who I was.

I was in my teens before I knew what lesbian meant, and the first time I heard the word bisexual I was a freshman in high school. And it fit, for me, in a simple way that nothing else ever had. That was when the derogatory use of The Gays and HommaSECKshuls connected, in my mind, with me. This time, though, I knew it may be dangerous to ask questions of the same people. I knew where to find answers, and went looking. What I discovered was that there was no logical reason for anyone to hate or fear or abuse other people, based solely on their sexual orientation. I also discovered a need to hide. To conceal who I was. Until I couldn’t, anymore. Until I accidentally outed myself to my school and my family. I’ve since discovered that a prejudice against bisexual people exists in more than just the straight community. Like the other prejudices I’d discovered, like all prejudice, it is illogical. I know this not only because I happen to be bisexual, but because I did with that what I always did, when faced with such things; I educated myself.

It’s the method I’ve developed, over the course of a lifetime, when faced with beliefs that don’t make sense to me, for understanding those beliefs, and developing my own. Research, questioning, debating, reading, and learning as much as I can. Informing my opinion.

So when I encountered such concepts as privilege, institutionalized racism, rape culture, misogyny, transphobia, and patriarchy, I approached those in the same way. I talked to people who knew more than I did. I talked to people who believed those things, to understand where those beliefs, however problematic, originated. I researched. Fortunately, by this point, I had access to all the information I could ever want, via the internet. I read academic articles, first-hand accounts, editorials, and blog posts. I devoured research studies and statistics, conducted and compiled by everyone from accredited universities to the Department of Justice to the Census Bureau. I ordered non-fiction books about the prison industrial complex, and civil rights battles, about the struggle for LGBT rights, about the ways in which US society is predisposed to actively disadvantage and oppress women, minority races, immigrants, and LGBT individuals. I read first-hand accounts and historical documents about protests and movements, the reasons they happened, and the motives of both those involved and those opposed. I participated in debates with other people who were seeking answers to the same questions. I sought out knowledge and understanding. I informed my opinion.

Which brings me to the point of this whole thing, far too late for a TL:DR warning. I do not disagree that everyone has a right to their opinion. You have the right to believe whatever you like. But we’re not talking about the existence of fairies in a J.M. Barrie story, here; your belief does not make a thing true. You can’t clap your hands loudly enough for racism or misogyny or homophobia to be a logical response to the world. You can’t generalize your personal feelings or experience, as a single human being, to all of humanity.

I am glad to discuss any of those topics, at great length, and mostly without rancor. They’re a particular passion of mine, and we all love to talk about the things that inspire that passion. What I am not willing to do is give an uninformed opinion equal weight to one that is based on a lifetime of research, study, growth, and learning. If you haven’t spent at least some tangible amount of time and effort learning about these things, chances are pretty good that I know more than you, about those specific topics. If you want to learn more, to inform your opinion, I will be happy to point you in the right direction to do so. To a limited extent, I will even be happy to teach you, myself. What I will not do, though, no matter how often or how loudly you rail, is let you shout down those years of hard-earned understanding with your gut feeling, your very deeply tinted personal lens, your unfounded and uninformed beliefs. What I will not do is engage with you, when you don’t want to learn, when you aren’t interested in understanding, when all you want to do is be right, without any basis in fact, without any research, without any logical basis for your determination of rightness, at all.

My refusal to discuss those things with you doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t like you. That I think less of you, as a person. It simply means that, until and unless your opinion becomes informed, I recognize the pointlessness of engaging with you on those topics. Doing so would be like inviting you to play soccer, when you’ve never played, then agreeing to play by the rules that you make up as we go along, and further agreeing that doing so makes perfect sense. It would be absurd, counterproductive, and demeaning to all the other people playing who took the time to learn the rules and practice, before that game began.

You do have every right to your opinion. I also have every right to refuse to discuss opinions that are uninformed, with people who refuse all attempts to learn.

not listening

Love thy Neighbor?

June 26, 2015, is a day that will live forever, in the minds of many Americans. For some, it will live in a rainbow-colored glow that isn’t likely to fade anytime soon.

1024px-Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies

I was personally overjoyed. Until last year, I honestly didn’t believe this was a thing I would live to see. I hoped that it could happen in my children’s lifetime, but I never really dared hope it could happen in my own. I spent much of the day, long into the night, and even a sizable portion of the next day reading stories, sharing joy, and just sitting in awe of the new reality.

I don’t know if you know me, but I was that bisexual girl who was outed in high school. The one who was incessantly bullied, mostly by people who justified their hateful behavior with a misunderstanding, or misinterpretation, of their religious text. I can say that because I was raised Christian – Independent Baptist, to be precise – and I know Bible better than most. I don’t believe in it, anymore, and haven’t in a very long time, but I know it. I read it, cover to cover, more than a couple of times – which is more than most Christians can say. And I’ve never ceased to be amazed and disheartened by the things people will do to one another, in the name of their God. Specifically, in this case, the Christian God. I’ve never stopped being baffled, bemused, and disappointed that they could cling to such ignorant and harmful hatred, and use that as their excuse.

I’m sure some of you are confused. You believe what you’ve been told, what you’ve been taught by people you know and trust. People, like pastors and parents, to whom you turn for guidance. It’s difficult to hear that the things they’ve been teaching you may be wrong, or that they may be mistaken. For the purposes of this post, even though I don’t believe in the Bible as anything other than a work of fantastical historical fiction, let’s just assume it is, instead, historical fact.

Many people who use Biblical verses as justification for their judgment and /or hatred of homosexuality reference Leviticus. In chapter 18, it states, You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. In chapter 20, we have If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

There are several problems with using this verse to back up your argument. One, it is being taken entirely out of context, and context is important. The context of both quotes was one of a list of rules for the children of Israel, specifically one tribe, the Levites. It didn’t apply to anyone else. It was a code of behavior meant to separate them, to distinguish them, in their purity, from other indigenous peoples. The punishment for committing any of those acts was simply being ostracized from that tribe.

The most popular biblical tale used to condemn homosexuality comes from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Again, context matters. The sins that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t sins because they were homosexual acts. They were sins because they were rape. Biblical scholars largely agree that the cities were burned because of a lack of charity, a lack of care for social injustice. They were greedy, lazy, didn’t care for their poor, and tried to rape guests in their cities. The fact that the guests were male wasn’t even a part of the issue, and the person who actually ended up being raped, the night of the story, was a woman offered by Lot, to appease the roving band of rapists.

More importantly, these two instances were in the Old Testament, which became nothing but a history book, the moment Jesus was resurrected. This is the central tenet of the Christian faith, that up until that point, man lived by law, and after that point, man lived by grace. Yet it’s a thing so many Christians want to forget, in order to keep hating, judging, or condescending to anyone who isn’t straight.

The only reference regularly used from the New Testament is in the book of Romans. It comes in a list of “unrighteousness.” That list also includes such things as envy, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, haughtiness, bragging, and disobedience to parents. None of these things is distinguished as better or worse than any of the others. It should also be noted that the entire book was a letter, written by a man, to a very specific group of people – the Romans.

I explained all of that to illustrate a point: I don’t disagree with you because I don’t know any better. As a matter of fact, I do know, and know well, what the Bible does – and does not – say about sin and homosexuality.

I also know that Jesus, the man who is the basis for the entire faith, said the following:

  • He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…
  • It is not what goes into a man from outside that can make him unclean. It’s what comes out of him that makes him unclean.
  • But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.
  • If you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
  • Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

You could say I’m conversant with Christianity. Much like Inigo in The Princess Bride, though…

inigo-montoya

So, for the last two decades of my life (and for others, many decades before that), people have been treating me, and many other LGBT people, horribly. They’ve gone out of their way to bully, insult, demean, degrade, judge, injure, and even kill us. They’ve fought with the tenacity of bulldogs with bones, to deny us simple rights, like the right to marry the people we love, regardless of gender, and the right to equal protection, under the law. We could be fired from jobs, denied health insurance, denied the ability to visit ill and dying partners in the hospital, denied the right to shared and equal custody of children, denied the right to adopt children, denied the right to simply be listed as next of kin on a death certificate. There was no logical, non-faith-based reason for this to be so, yet these denials have been consistently, continually a part of governmental policy, and even codified law. Because of a misinterpretation of a religion whose two main tenets are grace and love. If you can’t see the irony in that, there’s a problem.

Finally though, finally, we’re really starting to make progress as a nation. We’re getting back to our foundation, our constitutional roots. This country was founded, to a large degree, on religious choice and equality. We’ve struggled to get it right, as evidenced by a host of social ills, from slavery to healthcare, which we’ve been notoriously slow to address and repair. But they’re still our foundation. The separation of church and state is indisputable law for a reason. Our government isn’t supposed to take its cues from religion, religious leaders, or gods of any stripe. It’s finally beginning to right that wrong.

Yesterday, on Facebook, a woman I know from high school posted a status, which I will paraphrase, here. She wrote that her feed was full of disappointing comments, from both sides, whether it was those of us who were crying tears of joy, or those who were ranting and railing against the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. She urged those reading to stop trying to be right, or incite anger, to encourage one another, and “love thy neighbor.” The words, I’m sure, came from a good place, and were intended as nothing other than an entreaty for people to be kind to one another. I’m not angry with her, and I don’t think any less of her, really.

I do believe she’s being a bit dismissive, and not seeing the big picture.

Yes, those of us who believe that a person’s sexuality should not limit their basic human rights were given a huge victory, last week. To add to the overuse of an overused metaphor, we won a very important battle. The war, however, isn’t over.

In 28 states, employment discrimination laws do not include sexual orientation as a protected class. In three others, while sexual orientation is protected, gender identity is not. This means that, while LGBT people may now marry whomever they choose, they could still be legally fired from their jobs for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and would have absolutely no legal recourse. Only 22 states protect us from being evicted from our homes, or denied housing, based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Only 32 states have laws that will classify a crime as a hate crime, based on sexual orientation, and 14 of those do not include gender identity. Transgender individuals are still prohibited from enlisting in military service. Transgender, intersex, and sexual orientation-specific training is not a requirement for medical professionals, so we can’t even reasonably expect decent treatment and an understanding of our health issues in the context of our lives from our healthcare providers. Only two states, and the District of Columbia, have banned the abusive and demeaning practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” and parents in the rest of the country can still force their children into what amounts to an indoctrination camp, designed for the sole purpose of denying them the most basic right to their own identity.

Again, none of these shortcomings is supported by any legal, medical, or scientific logic. The only reason these issues are issues is religion, and religious people, having undue influence over legislation.

We’re probably going to be pretty celebratory, sure. We may not be going out of our way to be nice about it. Can you really blame us? We’re still in the trenches, still being told that we are somehow less human, because of who we love, or how we identify. We’ve been meeting hatred and oppression with love and kindness for a very long time, and we triumphed, for once. I feel that asking for an overabundance of civility in our celebration is, in short, unreasonable.

We gained some ground, with our “neighbors,” but we’re still having to stomach an awful lot of dehumanizing behavior. We’re still struggling to take hold of a host of basic human rights that you, my kindhearted friend, are able to take for granted.

So I ask that you forgive us, if we’re not “loving our neighbors,” just yet. They’re still taking dumps on our lawns.

fence

The Direction of Shame

Shame is an emotion with which we become familiar at a very young age. It’s used as a tool, in everything from parenting to education to employment to business to healthcare to social media.

A small child learns about a parent’s displeasure, and begins to associate the language, tone, and nonverbal language of disappointment or condemnation with (hopefully) maladaptive or dangerous or unhealthy behaviors.

School-age children are shamed for their antisocial or dangerous or disruptive behavior every day. Names are written on the board, or behavior cards are “turned” from green to yellow to red, as publicly visible indicators of whether or not the children have been well behaved.

Employers will often post notices, or send out memos, naming the people who, for instance, haven’t completed their work by a specified deadline.

Businesses post signs that draw attention to impolite customers who talk on their cell-phones while conducting transactions, and employees are told to ask offenders, in front of other customers, to step out of line until they’ve finished their conversations.

In each of these cases, shame serves a purpose, both to the individuals, and to the social groups in which the shaming takes place. Individuals learn about unacceptable behaviors, and that engaging in those behaviors can lead to scrutiny and discomfort. The social groups benefit when the individuals behave in the ways that are most beneficial to the group, as a whole.

Of course, that isn’t the only way shame is utilized. It is all too often treated as a weapon. Slut shaming implies that women who enjoy their own sexuality, on their own terms, are somehow dirty, immoral, and lewd. Body shaming plays on the insecurities of other people, with digs at their worth as humans, based on some physical characteristics.

And, of course, there’s victim shaming. This is a form of weaponized shame that targets people who have already been harmed by the behaviors of others, based on a nebulous and unconquerable list of dos and dont’s, shoulds and shouldn’ts, and personal strategies generalized to entire populations. It comes in so many different flavors, it puts Baskin-Robbins to… well… shame.

At its base, victim-shaming is placing the onus for feeling bad about what was done on the person who was acted on, rather than the person acting.


As they are the most common target (or, at least, the most commonly targeted victims I’ve seen), all of my examples will be focused on abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or rape victims. Also, I will be using gender-specific pronouns. This does not mean that I believe that onlywomen are victims of rape, abuse, or victim shaming, or that only men are rapists or abusers, or that people who identify with something other than binary gender roles cannot be either, and is only used for the sake of (relative) brevity (HA!) and simplicity.

  • She wore something that exposed too much skin.
  • She was walking alone at night.
  • She was walking alone during the day.
  • She was in a bad neighborhood.
  • She was in a frat house.
  • She was in a dance club.
  • She was at a bar.
  • She didn’t practice the buddy system.
  • She had too much to drink.
  • She was in a relationship with an obviously bad person (because “good” people don’t do these things, and it’s really easy to tell the difference without long-term acquaintance).
  • She was too dependent on him.
  • She was too independent, which threatened his masculinity.
  • She was too meek, and let him walk all over her.
  • She was too outspoken, which was antagonizing to him.
  • She presented a front of a happy partner/spouse to everyone else.
  • She complained too much to everyone else about the relationship.
  • She smiled at him, which means she was giving off the wrong signals.
  • She didn’t smile at him, which means she was being rude.
  • She was too friendly with him.
  • She wasn’t friendly enough.
  • She rejected him.
  • She didn’t overtly, or explicitly, reject him.
  • She didn’t leave after the abuse started.
  • She tried to leave, and it made him angry.
  • She allowed herself to be alone with him.
  • She didn’t explicitly say “no.”
  • She didn’t say “no” loud enough.
  • She didn’t physically fight him off.
  • She didn’t physically fight hard enough.
  • She didn’t learn self defense, beforehand.
  • She antagonized him into escalating the violence, by fighting back.
  • She didn’t have pepper spray, a taser, or a gun in her handbag.
  • She shouldn’t have been carrying a weapon he could take away and use against her.
  • She didn’t report the abuse/rape to law enforcement.
  • She didn’t report the abuse/rape soon enough.
  • She didn’t get the precise timeline and/or every detail letter perfect, in the midst of processing the trauma, so…
  • She was exaggerating/lying when she reported to law enforcement.
  • She didn’t cry or seem visibly distressed when discussing the abuse/rape.
  • She was overly dramatic/overly emotional when she discussed the abuse/rape.
  • She got over it too fast.
  • She didn’t get over it fast enough.
  • She didn’t process it the way x person thought she should.
  • She refused to share details with uninvolved people.
  • She aired too much dirty laundry.
  • She won’t shut up about what happened.
  • She won’t talk about what happened.
  • She won’t shut up about the other people who are suffering the way she did.
  • She doesn’t do enough to protect other possible victims.
  • She’s focusing too much on the people who do bad things to others.
  • She won’t move on with her life.
  • She’s a “perpetual victim.”

Whew. That was depressing to type. And exhausting, both mentally and emotionally. What’s worse, that is by no means a comprehensive list of all the shaming tactics that victims of abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or rape routinely face. Personally, I don’t know a single survivor who hasn’t faced at least a half dozen of them.

As a reminder, all of those are tactics used to shame the person who was ACTED ON, rather than the person who acted.

As a culture, we expend an awful lot of effort and energy on these types of things. Why? How do we, individually or as a culture/subculture, benefit from them?

We don’t. Go back through that list. As you read each of the things listed, as yourself three questions:

1) How does this other person doing this thing, in response to being victimized, impact the quality of my life?

2) How does this other person doing this thing, in response to being victimized, impact the safety of the social group/subculture I share with them?
3) Am I, or is that social group, harmed or made less safe in any way that is actually the fault of either the person who was victimized, their behavior before/during the assault/rape/abuse, or their response to it?

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the answer, across the board, is a resounding NO.

Yet we continue to shame them.

Now, ask yourself if your social group or subculture is harmed, or made less safe, by the rapist, the abuser, the harasser, or the perpetrator of sexual assault. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Oh. You’re done, already? Well, of course you are. Because the answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

So, instead of shaming the victims, why are we not shaming the people who acted on them? Why are we not shaming the behaviors that actually cause harm? Why are we so very hesitant to call out the harmful behaviors, and the bits and pieces of our culture which contribute to them? Why is there so very much pushback against that kind of shaming, and so very little against the rampant victim-shaming?

Of course, some of us are. Some of us are trying very hard to tilt the balance in that direction. And we face an awful lot of criticism and anger and shouting and pontificating and name-calling, and, yes, even shaming, for doing so.

Again… why?

I think it has to do, mostly, with fear.

Fear is not a rational emotion. It is instinctive, and often illogical, especially when we’re not discussing immediate physical threats to our own individual well-being.

I think, perhaps, that there are two types of fear that contribute to this shame-the-victim-but-never-the-perpetrator ethos.

One is the quite understandable fear of becoming victims, ourselves. It’s understandable, because it’s a very real threat. The problem isn’t that we’re afraid of being victimized, it’s the way we are responding to that fear. We’re responding by telling ourselves that there are things we can do, or avoid doing, that will render us invincible to becoming victims, or becoming victims again, in some cases. We want to believe that we have the ultimate power to keep other people from doing bad things to us, so we convince ourselves that this is true.

We convince ourselves that if we follow a list of dos and don’ts, if we are “resilient” enough, if we simply choose not to be victims, then we won’t be. We convince ourselves that we are, therefore, enlightened, and more protected, than those “perpetual victims” who don’t think like we do. We convince ourselves that some combination of behaviors and attitudes can work as an incantation to ward off the evils of the world.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Unfortunately, there is NOTHING we can do, individually, that will make us invincible to others who want, or do not know better than to cause us harm. No amount of resilience or confidence or preparation or prevention can change that.

The flip-side of that fear is the fear that we might, ourselves, whether intentionally or through ignorance, cause or have caused that kind of harm in others. That our behavior, somewhere along the line, may have crossed the line. That other people may see us as rapists, abusers, violators. That we might have to see ourselves that way. And this is terrifying, to most of us. The idea that we might “be that guy,” even though, perhaps, we never intended to be.

This fear leads to a knee-jerk defensiveness and denial which, while understandable, is entirely counterproductive, and even childish. It’s the train of thought that says, I once had sex with a woman who was incapacitated. Only bad people rape. I’m not a bad person, therefore having sex with incapacitated people isn’t rape.

Because it’s easier to deny that a thing is wrong, emotionally, than it is to admit we may have done a wrong thing.

Because there’s a false association going on, that only “bad people” can do “bad things,” and that line of thought just doesn’t line up with reality. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. We all learn some busted things, at some point. We all keep learning, I hope, throughout our lives. Sometimes, we learn that the things we once learned were wrong, or flawed in some way. The appropriate response to that is not to deny the wrongness of what we once understood, in order to alleviate ourselves from guilt or shame. It is to learn from it, and grow, and become better human beings. People who don’t do the things we now understand to not be okay, even if we didn’t understand it, before.

And a part of that shift is shifting the shame. Instead of shaming victims, or their behaviors, or even shaming people, we need to be shaming the behaviors that are causing harm. The dehumanization of women and transpeople and people of non-binary gender. The marginalization of those who are “different,” whether that difference is race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, or some other thing altogether. The levels of culturally accepted aggression towards those people. The idea that the onus for halting any interpersonal contact is on the person being acted on, instead of the personacting. Victim blaming, silencing, and shaming. Brushing abusive behavior under the rug. Excusing or enabling abuses to continue. All of those behaviors are shame-worthy.

Being victimized is not.

It is far past time for us – ALL of us – to shift the shame to where it belongs.

There IS a “B” in There, You Know. I’m More Than “an Ally.”

In the following piece, I refer to my oldest child as my daughter. My child has since come out to me as trans, and we use only male pronouns. I’m leaving the piece as-is, at his request, but I didn’t want any new readers to come away with an impression that participates in his erasure, either. Thanks.


bisexual1

This town to which I recently returned, the shithole where I spent the first twenty-five years of my life, is a hotbed of ignorance and bigotry. I know, I know, I live in the south, blahblahwhatever. Even compared to the rest of the state, this town is about as bass-ackwards as you can get. Just a few current county demographics to help you out, and some anecdotal stuff from my younger years:

  • 92.8% white
  • per capita income: $16,109
  • 8 public elementary schools, 2 public middle schools, 1 high school, yet…
  • FOUR private christian schools, all administered by baptist churches
  • Completely dry county until 1984, when wine, beer, and liquor sales were finally allowed. “Liquor by the drink,” and beer/wine served in restaurants were not voted in until 2008.
  • City water wasn’t flouridated until 2004.
  • The book, “A Separate Peace” was challenged in a school board meeting, here, in 1996. (I was a junior in high school, here, then.)
  • Only 9% of the over-25 population has at least a bachelor’s degree (vs. 31%, nationwide), and less than 70% have a high school diploma (vs. 88%, nationwide).
  • There is one church for every 38 people or 10 households.
  • There is one Baptist church for every 93 people, or 25 households.
  • I was the first female outed as non-heterosexual at my school, ever, in 1996. There were two males who had been, during their attendance there, and no transpeople.

I was sixteen years old when I was outed at school. I’d made the classic mistake of coming out to my three closest friends, who were sworn to secrecy.

Of course, they told their other closest friends. And swore them to secrecy. And so on, and so forth. In less than a week, it seemed, everyone knew. And every single day was suddenly a gauntlet.

People didn’t seem to understand the distinction between bisexual and lesbian, and I was suddenly the resident “dyke.” And that was one of the nicer words.

I was bullied in the hallways, from straight-up assault and battery, to being “accidentally” shoved against lockers by other students passing by, to large groups waiting for me around corners, to shout slurs and other sexual insults, to groups of just guys waiting to tell me how quickly they’d fuck me straight again, given the chance. Or even given a half hour alone with me in a locked room, whether I gave them the chance or not.

I was bullied in the classroom, with teachers sitting idly by, or sometimes even laughing along. My junior year, I was in two different choral classes with the same group of girls. They taunted me every day, telling me how much God hated me, how I was going to burn in hell, how I’d better not even look at them, or they’d be sure to get me there early. The teacher ignored the whole thing, except to invite me to attend her church with her (soul-saving at its finest), and reporting all of us, me and my tormentors, to the administration for disturbing her class.

The guidance counselor told me that I shouldn’t be “rubbing my sexual preference in everybody’s faces.” I should just be keeping it to myself. As if I had been running around, pounding my chest, screaming out, HEY, EVERYBODY! LOOK AT ME! I’M NOT STRAIGHT, instead of mostly keeping my head down, and defending myself only as necessary.

bisexual2

After that, I stopped trying so hard to be liked. I had this friend, one really amazing friend who was an awesome ally. She was straight, but didn’t care at all if the assholes who were making my life miserable thought otherwise. She came up with this idea. She would walk me to class, holding my hand, or carrying my books, and kiss me on the cheek at the classroom door. We figured, they were going to make my life miserable, anyway, so we may as well just put it out there, and I should stop acting like it bothered me. And I did. And it still bothered the hell out of me, and the bullying never got any better, while I was there, but I did the best I could with it. I avoided being alone in the hallway when I could help it, especially while classes were in session and they were mostly empty. I ate lunch in a classroom, most days, where I was a proctor. I walked down the middle of the hall during class changes, to avoid being shoved against the lockers. I kept a towel and a change of clothes in my backpack, in case someone dumped a surprise can of tuna on me.

I lost a lot of friends, but solidified a few other friendships, after answering some really awkward and personal questions. My one awesome friend introduced me to her cousin, who was gay, and introduced me to the half-dozen or so semi-out people in the county. At first, I was really happy about that. I thought I’d found a safe space to be me, to be accepted, to stop having to hide, or be careful about what I said, or to have my defenses always on high alert. After a couple of months, not so much.

I was playing pool with them, one day, when my friend’s cousin said, So, have you made up your mind, yet?

I just stared at him, eyebrow raised, confused.

What was the question, again? I was waiting on the punchline, when it came like a punch in the gut.

Well, are you gay or not?

Um… I was struggling. I hadn’t expected the question, and didn’t know what the hell to do with it. Um…neither? Both? I’m bi.

Oh, honey. Nobody’s really bi. People just say that until they figure things out. So which is it gonna be?

Um…no. I… already figured things out. I’m bi. End of story.

It was the first of several conversations I had that went basically the same way. Finally, I just stopped hanging out with them, because they would never ever let it drop. They insisted I had to choose.

bisexual3

When I was 17, I came out to my dad. I’d gone to a rally with a friend who was questioning his sexuality, and had found myself in a heated argument with a scripture-shouting bigot, just as the TV news cameras showed up. The cameras belonged to the only station that shows news for our county. Dad was a pretty hardcore baptist, and an unapologetic, all-around bigot. Racist. Homophobe. Misogynist. You name it, if it ended in -ism, he was probably a poster boy.

I went home and packed my bags, stashed them under the bed, and chewed my nails down into the quick while I waited on him to get home.

He didn’t throw me out, but he berated me for “the bad choices I was making,” and for the “impact on the family this decision of yours is going to have.” A few days later, he came back to me to let me know he’d “talked to his gay friends,” who’d told him that there was no such thing as bisexuality. That people claiming to be bisexual were actually just sluts or sex addicts, trying to get their rocks off in as many ways as possible. He told me he was ashamed of me, but that he still loved me.

I moved out, for the second time, a couple months later. (The first time had been a year and a half before, and my friend’s parents didn’t want to get into a fight with my dad, so they sent me home.)

The people I was living with, at first, kicked me out when their mother found out I was bi.

My first girlfriend cheated on me with her ex, then dumped me, claiming it was because I wasn’t a “real lesbian.”

The next guy I dated dumped me when he found out.

The next guy was to be my future husband. An abusive asshole who looked at my sexuality (because I refused to lie about it, or hide it, from the people closest to me, even then) as a prize he’d won. He badgered me about having a threesome for the first two years of our relationship. The one time I caved in, just to make it stop, I ended up being so disgusted by the whole thing that I nearly vomited before it could even get started. He kept badgering me, but I never caved in again, so he spent the rest of our seven year relationship using my bisexuality as an insult, as a weapon. When I left him, he threatened me with the specter of him bringing it up in custody court. I’d seen people in this town lose kids because of things like that, and I was terrified.

I left him. I moved to another place, one of the seven counties out of the hundred in the state to vote against amendment 1, several years later. Things were pretty awesome. I got involved in the lifestyle. I became a long term substitute teacher in the next county over. When the GSA lost their sponsor, and no one else would step up, I did. I immediately made an enemy out of the principal of the school. I later learned that the reason they lost their sponsor was because of him. There were ostensibly other reasons I was fired, but that was where it started. He made me cry five times over the course of my employment, there. Three of those were about the GSA.

I made good friends in the lifestyle, people who I soon considered my chosen family. I learned the term, “pansexual,” and identified with it.

I had four relationships I would consider at least somewhat long term, two with men, two with women, and four short flings, one with a man, the rest with women. The last one was abusive, and tore my world apart. My kids, mostly to get away from him, decided to move in with their father. Back in that town. I refused to be so far from them, so I began making preparations to move, too.

In the week leading up to my leaving, some of my friends had a farewell karaoke thing. It was an event I started, and had handed over to the woman who hosted that night. Her partner went on a tirade about how I didn’t know shit. I wasn’t in the armed forces before DADT, or on a police force in the 80s, so I didn’t get to have a voice.

It was a hell of a sendoff.

Now, I’m back in that shitpot town. Things have improved, some. I’m very, very glad for the improvements. I make sure to remind myself of them frequently, because I’d not survive the next eight years, otherwise. I try to remind others, too, because it points to progress, to hope, to things not always being as hellish as they were for me.

But it’s no cakewalk.

Mini-me, that brave and wonderful young woman, came out to her father. With predictable results. He dismissed it as a phase, when he wasn’t busy telling her how awful and wrong it was. His whole family started preaching at her. His mother brings up how she doesn’t want to “get lumped in with those lesbians,” in every damned conversation they have, while still pretending that she hasn’t been told about the coming out. Then she tries to badger her into going to church (mini-me is an atheist, btw.).

She team-wrote some fanfic, when she was living there, with her tumblr friends. It had, as do many fanfics, some guy-on-guy romance. They found it, and flipped shit, and grounded her from the internet, phone, and pretty much everydamnedthing else. That was before Christmas. She still can’t use the internet, there, nine months later. Not even to do her homework, which is ALL online, at least, so far.

They didn’t tell me about her being grounded, and neither did she, for over three months. When I found out about it, they told me it was because she was “having that cybersex with grown adults.” Which, you know, she wasn’t.

They accused her of stealing things, because, well, you know how those queer people are. They bullied her constantly.

She had a girlfriend. She introduced us. We hung out, on one of her weekends here. She was sweet, and they were adorable together, and I was so happy for my girl.

While she was gone to her dad’s for a couple of weeks, over the summer, she visited her grandmother, who let her get online for a few minutes.

The girlfriend got scared. She was too afraid of being outed to her mother, or at school. She had broken up with mini-me, via tumblr, five days before.

Mini-me called me, crying. I had to move mountains, and endure a great deal of verbal abuse, just to get her dad to let her come and stay the night. See, she couldn’t even mourn her breakup, there. She couldn’t cry. She couldn’t ask anyone for a hug. She couldn’t even admit she’d had a girlfriend in the first place, let alone seek comfort or consolation from anyone, for her first real breakup, ever.

She lives here, now. And she’s happy. But she has to go back there every other weekend. This was one of those weekends.

She was gone less than four hours, last night, when she called me, crying. She was at her grandmother’s. They had all been ganging up on her, bullying her, again. Even my son (who I’m worrying is being brainwashed into bigotry). Her grandmother had been there to see it, and took mini-me back to her place. And then brought her back home, here.

I provided what comfort I could, and she went to bed. Then I got online. On my other blog. And found some bullshit about my “passing privilege.”


Now. Let’s talk about “passing.”

Fuck the whole fucking concept. What passing means to me is going back in the fucking closet. I’m NOT INTERESTED. Everyone I know in this town already knows that I’m bi. Small towns (under 8,000 people in the city limits) don’t just forget such abnormalities, or the people who display them. And everybody knows everybody else, and their business.

But even if I could somehow make them forget my past, I wouldn’t. I despisedhiding who I was from everyone. It is a horrible feeling. It’s even more lonely than losing an entire community for standing up for your beliefs about something important, like consent. And I should know, because I’ve done both.

Do you know what actually happens, when someone sees me with my kid, and/or my partner? The whispers start.

Oh. I thought she was Gay.
I guess she’ll just fuck anything. Whore.

You know how I know that? Because even though I don’t get out much, this shitstill gets back to me. Or I see it on the Topix discussion boards. My name among a bunch of slurs.

What most people who accuse someone of passing seem to be saying is, Hey, you! You must be getting the best of BOTH worlds, and I don’t like you/you’re not really a part of my community/you’re only an honorary member/you don’t know what it’s really like/I think you’ve got it better than I do and that’s not fair and I’m going to lash out at you for it whether you are trying to pass or not/you’re with a guy, so your LGBT card has been suspended until you’re out making huge displays of PDA with a female, preferably butch.

Well, maybe not. I don’t know what they’re actually trying to say, but that’s how it feels, and it’s BULLSHIT.

I don’t get “the best of both worlds.” More often than not, I get the worst. Some straight people think I’m too queer. Some queer people think I’m too straight. I can’t really be LGBT, as long as I’m with someone who has a penis, or as long as I’m presenting as femme, or as long as I am out in public with a guy and my kid.But I’m still that chick. The one everyone here knows is “a dyke.” The one who is going to hell. The one who is a slut, and ought to be ashamed of herself. And now, I’m watching my daughter going through THE SAME FUCKING BULLSHIT. I’m fighting the battles all over again, at her side, or as her shield, when I’m able.

bisexual4

So. That thing my high school guidance counselor accused me of? I’m going to do that, now.

I’M. NOT. STRAIGHT.

You know what else I’m not? A lesbian.

I self-identify as pansexual, because the gender of a person has precisely dick (pardon the pun) to do with whether or not I’m attracted to them. I’m okay with being called bisexual, too, though. I was that for a long time, first.

And I don’t care if you’re het, cis, genderqueer, gay, trans, lesbian, or a goddamned cerulean polka-dotted purple plaid rhinoceros. You do NOT get to make assumptions about whether or not I belong in the community. You do NOTget to minimize the lifetime of fighting I’ve had to do just to be me, and continue to do so that others, including my own child, get to be themselves.

I’m not just “an ally.”

Ally: Typically any non-LGBTQIA person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBTQIA people.

L

G

B

T

Q

I

A

There’s a “B” in there. See it? Loud and proud, and been there for years. You don’t get to tell me that my struggles don’t count, that I’m not a “real” member of that club, that I can only ever be an ally. I fought for that shit. I earned it.

AFTER I was born with it. I fought to be able to have the basic human dignity of being me. I’ve done it for nineteen years, and will keep doing it as long as that is being denied to anyone.

You do not get to marginalize me by talking about a thing I’ve never been able to do. So what if I could pass, if I were traveling. I don’t get to travel. I’m lucky to be able to visit another town, let alone another country. This is where I am, and this is what it’s like being me, being here, being pansexual.

If that’s not good enough for you, if my queer credentials aren’t strong enough for you, then that’s not my fucking problem. Perhaps you should examine yourassumptions, because I’m not assuming shit.

I’m still too busy fighting.

How this blog came to be

I have been involved in the kink lifestyle, both online and in meatspace, since 2005. I’ve blogged only on kink sites, beginning on Alt.com, and continuing on FetLife, as bitchypoo.

 

I experienced a lot of the seedy underbelly of the kink world. My most recent experience with that inspired me to become a consent activist. I’ve lost many friendships, but made so many wonderful and inspiring new friends, along the way. I’ve been asked, a time or three, to post some of what I write on FetLife in someplace more accessible, and less of what one of my friends called “a walled garden.”

 

So, here I am.

 

I’ll start with a thing I wrote about a month ago, which explains the name of this blog. I hope you enjoy!

 


 

 

(TW: broad-strokes child sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence)

I was raised in a place where feminist was synonymous with either dyke or whore, and both were very bad things. I lived in constant unconscious certainty that men had the power over everything, and that was the way it had always been, and would probably be the way it would continue to be, forever and ever, Amen. Praise Jesus and pass the venison.

Of course, I outgrew most of what I learned from my upbringing, but I still had this aversion to feminism. To be completely honest, the term still makes me cringe a little. Instead of seeing better examples or a less negative image of feminism as I worked my way through adulthood, parenting, working, and BDSM, I got just the opposite. Most of the people I knew, even the most progressive or radical in every other way, discussed feminism with a sneer. The perception of feminism I had was this, and this, and this. Crazy extremism to the point of absolute absurdity.

I believed in taking personal responsibility, but I’d never even considered the ideathat anyone could extend that to the point where rape wasn’t the rapist’s fault. I’d never really grasped how people around me blamed women for being abused, often in somewhat subtle ways, but sometimes blatantly, and always as if stating facts. Like this is just how it is. Bitchz be trippin’, yo.

Overlaying all of this was my own experience with being victimized. Early childhood full of physical fights between my parents until they divorced. Seriously controlling, extremely patriarchal upbringing in a house full of bigotry and right-wing ideology and Baptist dogma. Being molested for five years by my stepfather, then shamed, blamed, gaslighted and silenced when I finally spoke out. Gang rape at 15. Dosed and raped at 19. Married to a man who, long before the wedding, blamed me for my own rape, and made it clear that he would leave me if I resisted having sex with him, whenever he wanted it, after. Finally left him, after over 7 years of a redneck, pothead, gambling, idiotic nightmare.

Enter BDSM. Male dominant, OPP poly for the first 7 1/2 years. And public play, usually on my own. In another post, I detail some of the consent violations I have experienced in my time in the scene.

I was the good girl, throughout. The quiet girl. The one who didn’t make any waves about the idea that I had a right not to be violated. I had internalized the idea that, if I just did all the right things, I could avoid being a victim again. Except, that’s not really how it works, and I found that out the hard way.

And I stopped being quiet. I started making waves.

The funny thing is, not once during the beginning of me standing up and speaking out about the rampant problem of consent violations and victim-shaming and silencing within our communities, not once during the first several posts, up to and including my controversial post, “Choosing Sides, did I even think about feminism. What I thought about were the countless people who had their consent violated, who were abused and raped and whose safewords and limits were ignored. What I thought about were the ways in which I had been shushed when I tried to politely raise these same concerns, in the preceding years, within my local community. What I thought about was how much we were getting it wrong. What I thought about was trying to do what little I could do to change all that.

Feminism never entered my mind, then.

The first time that mental association was even considered was when some of the people trying to shush and shame me over taking my stand threw it out as an accusation. As an insult. And that’s exactly how it felt. That’s still the picture I had in my head.

Through post after post, I started making friends. I started getting comments and private messages about others’ stories. About how often this happens, and the sadly predictable paths it almost always takes. I lost a lot of ‘friends’ who didn’t agree with my approach, or my stance, or who maintained a relationship with my abuser, tried to shelter others, or outright blamed me for what happened. I gained a lot of friends who knew better. Most of them are feminists.

I started rethinking my ideas about feminism. I’m still not very fond of the term, especially as it’s used by the extremists on both sides. The MRAs and general asshats who like to tout personal responsibility to every woman who just stopped blaming herself long enough to speak up make me feel pretty stabby. Likewise, there’s an awful lot of, FSM! Could you PLEASE just not be on my side with your extremist BS?

What I’ve realized is, every subculture has its extremists, and they simply don’t define the subculture. Only its outliers. As it applies to the thing so many of us are advocating right now, this really isn’t an extreme viewpoint. We just want for everyone to have the right not to be touched, in whatever way, unless they want it. We want for those folks, of whatever role or gender, who can’t or won’t respect that right, to not be welcome in our spaces. We want for the onus of personal responsibility to shift to where it belongs: the people who harm others.

If that makes me a feminist, then I’ll wear that label proudly.

Just remember, you MRAs and “False accusation” shouters and shamers and blamers and violators and “DRAMA” accusers and “personal responsibility” gurus, you’re the ones who both gave me that label, and the reason to wear it.

oops

I never said, as a kid, “I want to be a feminist when I grow up.” But I am, and you played a part in that. Deal with it.