Monday, November 7, 2011
The Barrier Method
When society closes its doors of privilege to certain people the stress it causes the shut-outs is immense. So immense that just being a member of this shut-out group lowers life expectancy, and increases substance abuse, and in some groups lowers the age of sexual activity. What I find fascinating is how each and every marginalized group goes through the exact same steps, no matter who the group is or when the marginalization occurs.
There are quite often physical signs telling the group they are not allowed, as with both the Irish and the Blacks. Then their are the hidden signs but they are clear nevertheless, as in Jewish people not being allowed to join country clubs or professional societies. Or the unspoken, unwritten rules regarding LGBT's in the work force.
While the majority really gives little if any thought to the hated "group du jour", the outsiders give massive amounts of thought to living within the restrictive confines allotted to them. Which is why when each and every hated group begins to demand their civil rights, the majorities response is usually the same to each group.
"We've done so much for them! They need to be grateful for all we have given them!"
"Well! They need to know their place! And stop flaunting themselves around."
"I have nothing against ____. In fact I have a friend that's ____."
"Let's go slumming and hang out at the _____club. They are such a fun 'people'."
"The bible says ….."
Within group du jour life is often arbitrary and conflicting. Some members are picked out by the majority society and are considered "better" than the rest of the shut-outs, which quite often starts a chasm within that group, that is often unable to ever be repaired. And because of this arbitrary mark of being allowed certain access to the majority of society, the shut-outs often fall into inter-group bickering about which members of the group is more deserving of the largess of society.
When only scraps of the pie are given to marginalized people, what's left over is quite often fought over without any thought to sharing. And this is where I feel the LGBT is today, especially the T. Each letter of our rainbow has a certain faction that feels some level of hatred towards members of their own letter, and dissatisfaction towards the inclusion of certain other of the letters to the rainbow. All of the infighting stems from the 'haves' of society cherry picking which members of the shut-outs are less objectionable to them.
And so we have gay men often looking down on the femme more flamboyant gay men, the men who really can't hide who they are. However, if you think about it, its the flamboyant men who were first accepted into certain areas of the 'haves' lives, fashion, decorating, and theater for example. Now if a femme wanted to teach school? Heavens above, like that would ever fly! So, we have the more blend-able men being able to do most any job, and the femme guys regulated to only certain areas of society. But the blend-able men also suffer, and mightily so, in order to keep their wee corners of ledge they had to hide and lie about who they were. The femms were free to be 'out' but only in certain situations, and so are curtailed on their own ledge.
In the transgender group, t women who can 'pass' consider themselves better, much better. Lately an interesting new chasm has arisen with the trans group, that is of transsexuals not wanting to be grouped in with the transgendered, in any way whatsoever. Reading many of the transsexual's posts one gets the feeling t girls feel superior to the transgendered members. Cutting the group into ever finer slices transsexuals who have had SSR feel they are more authentic women than those who are still intact and are tucking. All of this infighting has lead many transgendered folks away from the T and to the Q. Many of them call themselves genderqueer because there is much less binary thinking within the Q than within the T. If you want to see a conservative group, just look within the T's. Many of them rigidly hold on to the binary gender rules, and woe to anyone who doesn't want to fit into their neat box, or who can't.
Many people in the LGBTQ feel that the T or the Q for that matter, don't belong within their rainbow, say its not the same thing at all. Well, yes it is the same thing, but you have to be willing to see the larger picture, and not the narrow one. Many T's at one point in their journey are considered to be either gay or lesbian. M2F's who are attracted to men start out as gay, but when they transition they are now straight. Some M2F's start out as straight, but after transition are now seen to be lesbian. Interestingly enough, some people after transitioning, change the sex they are attracted to, which needless to say is very confusing to them. The transsexuals who are bi to start with have all the marbles, yes? But even looking past this position of transsexuals being two letters of our rainbow, there is yet another view point, that of to many 'haves' view gays and lesbians as flaunting gender rules. Think of the stupid question many gay men and women get when they are with a partner long term, "so, which one of you is the girl/guy?" They can't imagine that two women or two men can live as spouses and not have one of them act the part of the opposite gender. So while gays and lesbians don't see themselves are gender warriors, the 'haves' do.
Within the lesbian circle there is a group of radical feminists who look down on any woman who has been married to a man, or who enjoys penetrative sex. Yes, you read that right, they look down on those women for enjoying a good fuck. They consider penetrative sex as "rape", sigh. Umm, without any woman being penetrated there would be no children, am I right? Of course the butch lesbians don't blend in real well, and suffer more discrimination than the femme's do. Many lesbians have extreme anger at m2f's, and feel they are attempting to take over womyn's spaces with their male prerogative. They feel that f2m's are poor deluded women, seduced by the lure of male prerogative who would butcher their bodies to get that golden ring. And of course many lesbians plain out hate all men, so they see no reason to bind their L to the G or B and never! the T.
Ah, the lot of the B's. They seem to be dismissed on all sides. Unbelieved by all to be actually bisexual. Yes, there are some men who stop at the way station between straight and gay at bi. Why? Because it has that wonderful aroma of possibly being straight, of being just a touch gay, so no worries. While many men use the bi station to rest up before the next stop, it clouds the reality of life as bi. There are many ways to operate as bi, and they are all completely and totally valid ways of being.
And while how the society views these different groups varies, life outside is a cold and unwelcoming place, and warming ourselves over the fires of other shut-outs is beyond the pale wrong. The more we bicker among ourselves the better off the 'haves' are. Remember the old saw from school, "divide and conquer"? The 'haves' are doing a fantastic job of throwing scraps to us to keep us divided and no threat to their status quo. If we want equality, throwing some of under the bus to get there, isn't a good thing at all. When the 'haves' keep some of us under foot, and elevates other's it causes this nasty bit of infighting and the forming of micro groups, and this has to stop. And not just for the achieving of civil rights, but why alienate those who understand what your world is actually like?
Each group seems to go through a period of worrying about loosing their culture if they are assimilated into the 'haves' of society. The Jewish leaders say the easy acceptance in America is leading to the eroding of their culture. Deaf people are fighting against cochlear implants, because they see it as the end of their culture, and many parents who chose cochlear implants for their young children are shut out of the deaf culture. It is so bad that it has divided entire families!
A few weeks ago Rachel Maddow was talking about how marriage equality would disintegrate gay and lesbian culture. At first I understood what she was attempting to say, and then slowly what occurred to me wasn't the loss of gay culture, but the loss of how we lived as a hidden culture. During the dark days surrounding the build up to WW2, many people who were on Hitler's list of hated people, learned to submarine who they were in order to live. They lived a shadow life, a life filled with fear of being discovered that was so great many of them refused pain medications afraid they would blab who they really were. Is that what we want to keep as our culture a remembrance of life as a 'shut-out'?
We need to understand that many of us don't want to get married, and thats perfectly fine and dandy. We also need to understand the grief many of us feel about not being able to marry our beloved partners, never being able to mark the box as married. While I don't think that marriage equality is the end all and the be all for LGBTQ people, we do need to be on equal footing across the board with the 'haves' with civil rights.
But on our march to equality we need to remember our weaker members, the young and the elders. Since many shelters are ran by religious groups they refuse access to gender variant teens, or outwardly gay kids, leaving these vulnerable members out on the street and prey for the wicked. Why the police don't prosecute the parents who throw their children out into the wild, is beyond my ability to understand. If they don't want the child back, that's perfectly fine, but make them pay for housing these kids in a more welcoming and hopefully loving situation. Ideally what would be the best of all possible worlds if the child cant be with loving parents, would be to have group homes ran by LGBTQ. But where would the money come from? At the present all of our funds seem to go toward fighting marriage equality, state by slow slog state.
The elderly have an entirely different concern, the death of a spouse and the loss of their pension can mean the loss of their home, the inability to afford medical care. There are living centers for elders that allow spouses to share a space, this option is usually not offered to gay or lesbian couples.
Again due to the fact we are marginalized in all facets of our lives, its the weakest members who suffer the most. The members who have no lifeline from the 'haves' to grab hold on until things get better. So, what's the answer? Not to get involved with the back stabbing, to not get drawn into bitch sessions about other parts of our rainbow, to truly find ways to stand together, firm on what is right, what is morally important. We need to start yelling louder at our LGBTQ groups to find ways to protect our more at risk members. More importantly we need to consolidate our civil rights groups into fewer, which I know to be a complete pipe dream, but at the least have them operate in tandem pushing together will accomplish much more than fighting separately.
Come on, lets join hands and hearts and win this fight, yeah?