I have seen such posts before, but this is a new one, and by new I simply mean recent: John Pavlovitz on how he would treat his children if they someday come out as gay. His post is relevant in light of the controversy surrounding the SCOTUS ruling on marriage, and is impressively sensitive to all gender identities and sexual orientations. I appreciated his insights.
Are you? Really? I thought I was until I read this post by Sam Dylan French. I was making a lot of mistakes. How about you?
ICYMI: Presidential Hopefuls Huckabee and Paul Star in New Anti-LGBT Documentary (watch the trailers, too).
I just. Can’t. Even.
When did promoting such horribleness and hate become not only okay, but promoted? In what delusional world do some people live?
HOW IS THIS OKAY?
A recent DiversityInc article raised awareness of the 12 transgender women who were murdered in the US in 2014. The article isn’t perfect – it criticizes the media for its attention to Eric Garner and Michael Brown and not these transgender women, ignoring the fact that many more Black men and women’s stories were also not in the media, simply because they also were not killed by White police officers. Murdered Black men and women, cisgender and transgender and queer, simply do not make the news very often, so I doubt that homophobia is what prevented these stories from being heard (racism would be a more likely culprit). The lack of national outcry over these murders is, sadly, tragically, not a surprise to me.
However, the author does raise a more subtle point, and one that I think *could* be addressed and ultimately “fixed:” in reporting the deaths of these women, they are referred to as men, both by the police and the media. As Chai Jindasurat of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) notes, “The harm of the media misgendering and victim-blaming is that is sends a message to the public that these homicides are not as series, and that somehow transgender people deserve it.” Police departments have claimed that they are legally obligated to use the gender on the victim’s drivers license in official statements. But why is this necessary, and what harm is this causing?
1. Misgendering leads to inaccurate reporting of transgender attacks and hate crimes. When the gender identity of victims is not included in legal paperwork, this can lead to incorrect reporting of hate-motivated violence. According to the article linked above, the FBI only captured 10% of the attacks recorded by the NCAVP.
2. Misgendering is disrespectful to the victim and his or her family, who are already suffering enough. In this case, four women have been murdered. At least provide them with some dignity after death by using their preferred gender pronoun. It really isn’t that hard.
3. Homophobia is rampant, especially against transgender people. Mislabeling leads to victim-blaming and mockery of those who, again, deserve some dignity in death. While I’m not sure that proper gender pronouns would wholly eliminate this (I’m sure it wouldn’t, sadly), what it would do is demonstrate respect for the victim. And when others – particularly the media and police, all people in positions of authority – treat transgender men and women with respect, maybe the public will start to follow suit.
So what we can do: encourage the media and law enforcement to use a victim’s preferred gender pronoun when discussing his or her case. This humanizes the victim and shows him or her the respect he or she (or ze) deserves.
Google “Bruce Jenner” today. Go on. What do you notice?
The news, of course, is that Bruce Jenner has agreed to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer to discuss his assumed transition from male to female. I say assumed, because while the media has been rife with speculation, Jenner himself has yet to speak publicly (or herself, if Jenner prefers that pronoun; again, I do not know yet, so please forgive me for continuing to use “himself” until Jenner speaks publicly and lets his preference be known).
Some might say that Jenner’s (alleged) transition is of course subject to public scrutiny because he is a public figure, and in many ways, I agree. He has, in full mental capacity, agreed to be the subject of a reality television show and will star in a docuseries. He has opened his life to consumption, more so than a former Olympic athlete might otherwise. But, but, but – does that mean he is fair game for the type of bullying and ridicule that leads so many transgender people to commit suicide? I don’t think so, but apparently I’m in the public minority.
Go back to your Google search and look at the headlines. The best are sensationalistic (Bruce Jenner’s Mom CONFIRMS His Transition Plans! Find Out What She Had To Say About Her ‘Gifted’ Son HERE!). The middle are mocking: his “journey.” His “transformation.” The worst, of course, are those that automatically assume transgenderism is something unnatural and worthy of the utmost ridicule. These call him “strange” and worse.
“The trans movement has a face that could take it more mainstream than ever – and it is the face of a Kardashian,” bemoans Kevin Fallon at The Daily Beast. “Not only that, it is a face that we have cruelly belittled and joked about for over a decade now. A movement that has already struggled to be covered with nuance and care in the more legit corners of the mediasphere is now heading to the tabloids. Bruce Jenner is in the midst of what is probably the most human moment of his life. I fear that we’re going to treat him as part of an exhibit at a zoo…. We will demand that he talks about it. And because of that he will now be a mouthpiece for the trans movement, whether or not he wants to be, and whether or not he should be.”
What will this do to our next generation of young trans people? Will they see Jenner as a role model, or someone to be scorned? Will they be able to separate the “common” mocking of Jenner-as-Kardashian from the mocking of Jenner-as-transitioning? Look at the comments to the first article I linked to, above. Think about a young trans person excitedly reading this article to learn when Jenner’s Diane Sawyer interview will be. Then think about him or her reading the comments. Some of the more innocuous call him an abomination, a fruit cake, sad, sick, disgusting, a freak… I could go on.
By contrast, check out these comments from a Laverne Cox Gawker article. I hope Jenner is able to turn the conversation the way the inestimable Ms. Cox did. I sincerely hope, for the sake of young trans people, he is able to speak eloquently and honestly about his very public transformation. Bruce Jenner, as odd as it feels for me to say this considering the Kardashians, our young people are counting on you. Please don’t let them down.
I will admit that this article by Mark Joseph Stern in Slate is clearly biased – though I would hope you could tell that from the headline. That said, I agree with it, so here’s my endorsement.
It’s utterly ridiculous that, despite all medical evidence that it’s utterly ridiculous, the FDA still bans gay men from giving blood, even if they swear they have been celibate for the past year. Take a look at the article. What do you think? Is the FDA acting based upon homophobia and bias and fear? If not, what else could explain the ban, which effectively prevents thousands of men from donating blood in a time when blood is critically needed?
Three articles of note have recently been published, and I couldn’t decide which was more worthy of my limited time. So, here’s your Thursday news roundup.
First up: When attending a multicultural job fair, such as the Career Expo at the National Black MBA Association conference, it’s not uncommon to have up to 30% of the demographic be job seekers who are not the target audience (e.g., Black MBAs). However, it’s fairly obvious to the hiring employer that the person they’re interviewing is not a member of the minority group in question. It’s not as obvious at LGBT job fairs, which have now been “infiltrated” by non-LGBT (straight; cisgender) job applicants. Why is this a problem? Aren’t the employers there to show that they are inclusive – and doesn’t that mean inclusive to everyone? Well, yes and no. Employers are there to hire from a minority group, one with an invisible difference that cannot be asked in interviews or recorded on HR forms (unlike ethnicity). They are looking to increase their diversity of background. Job fair attendees who willfully misrepresent themselves are not the kind of people they want to hire.
Next up: “Is the word ‘Negro’ an offensive word or just an outdated word?” That’s what police in Western New York would like to know. See, Negro is still a category on their intake forms. The defense? They didn’t know it was an offensive word. Really? How hard would it have been to use African-American instead? Or Black? What does it say about our culture at large when an entire police department regularly used the word Negro and didn’t think about it? Pretty sure there’s not only a case for sensitivity training, but could I come teach your English and History classes in middle and high school, too? Civil Rights Movement, anyone?
Finally: “Freedom of religion is not the same as enforcement of religion,” notes a very astute commentator in response to this article on Bob Eschliman, who is suing the Newton Daily News in Iowa for firing him. The short story: Eschliman was the Editor of the paper. On his personal blog, he wrote: “It’s pretty easy to brush off a nonsensical contrived version of the Bible, but that’s not the deceivers’ end goal. No, they want all Christendom to abandon their faith. They do that by ‘proselytizing’ to church leaders to change their view on homosexuality. If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way. We must fight back against the enemy.” The News fired him on the grounds that this post demonstrated that he was not able to be an impartial journalist and he had lost his credibility. Eschliman, of course, argues that his freedom of religion is being attacked (ironically, not his freedom of speech). He expressed his religious opinion on a personal page. Now, you know that I think a lot about this public/private debate; see my posts here and here and here for more examples of this. That said, in this case, profession matters. Also, what the hell form of Christianity does he believe in? Certainly not a Christ-centered one. Plus, I have no tolerance for Nazi comparisons. There’s no justification.
Did you know?
Veterans Affairs uses state of residency (rather than state of celebration) in determining if a veteran’s marriage is respected or not in terms of ability to access a VA home loan. Apparently, even if you honorably served your entire nation, you’re only entitled to equal benefits if you live in one of the 19 states that have marriage equality.
There is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in places of public accommodation. Therefore, in several states, counties, cities, etc., LGBT people can be denied service at a restaurant or a room in a hotel. Funny, reminds me of that whole “you can’t sit at this lunch counter” issue that led to that little thing called the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT (which doesn’t protect on the basis of sexual orientation… yet?).
Over 40% of LGBT individuals report that they are closeted at the office. Among employees aged 18-24 are only 7% likely to be out at work, despite the fact that Gen Y is more favorable of same-sex issues than any prior generation. Guess they don’t trust that their bosses will be as open-minded.
Want a business case? Nearly three quarters of closeted LGBT workers are likely to leave a company within three years of employment, due to the daily stress of keeping their private lives secret. In other words – you’re hemorrhaging Millennials (see above).
In 2009, The New York Times compared the lifetime costs of a hypothetical same-sex couple compared with those of a hypothetical heterosexual married couple and found the same-sex couple would pay more overall – in the best-case scenario, the couple’s incremental lifetime “cost of being gay” was about $41,000; in the worst-case scenario, it exceeded $467,000. Thanks to the ending of DOMA, hopefully this isn’t quite as stark anymore.
Married, or not, LGBT employees can still be legally fired in 29 states; in 34 states, it is legal to fire a transgender employee. LGBT professionals who choose to be out in certain parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk prison time and in some cases, death. Homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries, and only 49 countries have legal protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In at least five countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Over half of LGBT workers report hearing jokes or derogatory comments about gay people on the job. Has it happened in your workplace? How did you respond?
May 9, 2012, a day that will live in gay-rights infamy, when North Carolina lost its position as the last Southern state to pass even more restrictive anti same-sex marriage laws. Yes, they already forbid it, but this was a “safeguard.” It reminded me of “The Daily Show” episode that aired just a few days prior, about a Texan lawmaker who passed an amendment prohibiting workplace discrimination against gun owners… not that there have been any gun owners in Texas who have claimed discrimination. But hey! Better to be safe than sorry, right? She’s anti-discrimination for even non-marginalized classes! Preventative measures and all that.
Of course, Jon Stewart et al. reminded her that she had voted against protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. She tried to justify this by saying she didn’t know of anyone who had been fired due to sexual orientation, so why did they need a law? I’m sure you’re seeing where Stewart went with that… oh, hypocrisy.
Anyway, so North Carolina left the list of places we would be willing to move. But then Obama actually took a stand and openly admitted he supported same-sex marriage. To me, the best part is that his daughters changed his mind. Apparently (shocking!) they have friends who have same-sex parents, and they don’t see anything wrong with that, and they don’t want their friends to be teased or feel bad for having a different family. Just like that, Obama was reminded of The Golden Rule.
You go, girls.
I posted a lot of images and links on my Facebook page that day that, to me, captured the issues of the day (and I mean that specifically, as in, that day). Some are inflammatory, some less so. In this retrospective, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come since 2012, and how far we still have to go.
If you are a white, Christian, middle-class man, you have privilege. It’s not your fault (most likely, unless you are actively perpetuating discrimination. But most likely, you are not.). We live in a society that affords certain privileges to White, Christian, cisgender, middle-class men that others do not get. Each one of those adjectives affords its own privilege; for example, I am a white, Christian, lesbian, middle-class woman. I am 60% privileged. Yes, I know I’m being simplistic for the purposes of illustration. There are many other categories that afford privilege in certain circumstances, geographies and demographics, and some may argue that occasionally, being a minority in one or more of these categories is a bonus. But in general, in America today, these – White, Christian, cisgendered, middle-class, male – are the ones that afford the most privilege. You are hired more often, promoted more often, less likely to be arrested and convicted, more likely to go to (and graduate from) college, etc. etc. Again: it’s not your fault. You didn’t ask to be prioritized, entitled. Your privilege is 100% sheer dumb luck. It is luck to be born a White, male, attractive, middle-class, Christian in the developed world. And those lucky factors allow you easier access to things like jobs. Yes, you can change your religion. Yes, your social standing and class may fluctuate during your lifetime. But the fact remains that some people start out lucky and some don’t, and that doesn’t make you Better Than another. It just makes you lucky.
I didn’t ask for it, either, but I benefit from it, and I know it.
I can recognize when I’m being given the benefit of the doubt because I look safe. Just today, I went into a store to make a large purchase. I brought only my credit card, slipped into my back pocket, because we have to go through metal detectors in my building and it’s annoying to stand and wait while my purse is scanned. So when the cashier asked to see my ID, I had to smile sheepishly and admit that I didn’t have it on me. She smiled and rang me up anyway. I know that that has pretty much everything to do with the fact that I don’t “look” like someone who would make a purchase on a stolen credit card. I am young, white, female, attractive enough, and professionally dressed. I am under no illusions that a Black male wearing a hoodie would get the same benefit of the doubt.
It’s hard to combat privilege. Privileged people LIKE being privileged. I take comfort in knowing that I could make my purchase even without ID. It’s hard to convince people that they should care that they are sometimes afforded benefits that people who inhabit other categories are not. Societies – including, especially, America – are built on the notion of the Haves and Have Nots. If everyone is treated equally, then we will not be special. We will not be Better Than. Yet we need those privileged folk in order to make the system fairer for all. For example, the Abolitionist movement benefitted greatly from the assistance of anti-slavery white people. A class of people in a status of disadvantage will progress closer and faster to equality with the assistance of the advantaged class. People with privilege need to help because it’s the right thing to do, and because – and this is key – they are NOT Better Than; they were just lucky to be born with better circumstances.
Okay. So privilege isn’t your fault, and it’s not mine. But that doesn’t absolve us of all responsibility. I know that the world is a better place when a diversity of voices is given equal room at the table. It’s my job (literally) to demonstrate that inclusion is the tool to making everyone better.
#YesAllWomen was a good start in helping ensure that the voices of women are heard. You may not believe that women are silenced more often than men, but they are. #YesAllWhiteWomen is also a good start, in that it recognizes that women of color are still disadvantaged compared to White women. You could just as equally create #YesAllStraightWomen or #YesAllPrettyWomen or #YesAllThinWomen or #YesAllChristianWomen or #YesAllMarriedWomen or #YesAllWorkingWomen (I could go on. You get the point.). Sometimes recognizing that these hierarchies of privilege exist is mind-opening, and it’s the first step to addressing microinequities when you see them. Address the fact that yes, there is a problem. Yes, we treat people differently based on these categories. Society does it. I do it. You do it. So how do we stop it from happening?
First, we have to help people accept, perhaps reluctantly, that riding on their own privilege through life isn’t the best way to go. Which is hard, because privilege can be a pretty sweet ride, and who wants to give that up? Reframe: it’s not about giving up the privileges you already enjoy. You can’t really do that, unless you choose to, say switch to a non-traditional religion. It’s about ensuring others get the same privileges you do. Don’t you want to know that you got the job because you were the best candidate and not because you’re White (or, in some careers, Asian)? Inviting and allowing others the same privileges you’re afforded does not diminish you, but rather raises you both up.
We can also help people see that passively allowing discrimination based on ANY category isn’t okay, because it silences voices that are worth listening to if we want to create a society that has a rich tapestry of opinions, beliefs, and thoughts. Some might argue that our country was founded on discrimination (Native Americans, anyone?) while other argue that it was founded on freedom (Puritans, natch). Regardless, we live in a melting pot of constantly shifting demographics, and privilege may soon be in flux, too. That’s not meant to sound like a threat, just a wake-up call: you and I are in positions of privilege now. We might not always be. Cultivate empathy and responsibility now, and it may be shown to you in return.
I want to say something other than “be on the right side of history.” “Love your neighbors as yourself.” “A rising tide lifts all boats.” “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” If that’s not the society you’re looking for, then maybe you shouldn’t be living in the Melting Pot.
This is all well and good, you might now say. I recognize that I have privilege. I want to ensure that others are treated equally. What can I do, today, to help make this happen in my own, small part of the world? Well, this, to start. And stay tuned for more.