‘Rejecting the narrative’ and ‘fundamental respect’

Consider, for a moment, the following story:

“But how did you know?”: Oh that age old question asked just one more time, and never for the last.

They sighed. A sigh so softly expressed so many times. A sigh so soft and understated that only a person accustomed to such moments would understand it. Barely visible to the casual observer, those in the know would recognise their hearts sinking as they prepared to answer the inevitable and recurring question. At least they weren’t being asked about the configuration of their genitals or their sexual preferences though. They’d been spared that indignity on this occasion. It was at least a tolerable question, and once more they found their selves giving out the very personal details of their personal childhoods.

“I always got on better with boys,” he said, “and then when puberty hit it was a nightmare. I just knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know what”.

“Oh, it was a bit like that for me to,” she interjected, “except I got on better with the girls. I used to like playing with dolls but my parents would take them from me when they caught me. My mum caught me using her makeup once. I guess I was just born this way.”

Why? Why, oh why, oh why must we go through this standard narrative again, and again and again?  Yes, I’m as guilty as anyone of this, but surely this is the sort of thing we should be telling our nearest and dearest -should there be a cause or desire for them to know- and not random strangers or acquaintances? If you actually like answering these questions and the ‘standard narrative’ applies to you, then sure, why not… but for the rest of us: Why?

Really speaking, this pretty much applies to LGB people as much as it does to trans people. We collectively feel the need to justify our existence by offering narratives, terminology and ideas that can be readily digested by the rest of society. We explain our histories and our existences according to the frameworks provided for us, which are inevitably designed to fit in with the pre-ordained rules of a hetero-normative society. We often seem to instinctively try to avoid standing out, and instead try to shape ourselves to fit the mold at the expense of our own unique individualities.  Not even cissexual people their selves are immune to this effect, from the schoolyard bullies, to the neighborhood yobs and interest groups hitting out at and questioning anything that poses the smallest challenge to the normative status quo, marking it as somehow different and inferior by its mere existence. For LGBT people though, there’s a difference – we tend to accept it, consciously or not, as being part and parcel of being LGBT, and it runs right the way through society.

While anti-abortionists claim that a woman’s right to do as she likes with her body is superseded by the rights of the unborn child in a similarly vitriolic battle over what choice women should have over their bodies, the argument against LGBT people is predicated differently. It is based on the idea that we, in ourselves, are disgusting and morally wrong simply for our very existences… and I ask – why? Why must we be special cases having to explain our origins? Why should we be subject to attempts to cure us? Why should we be considered as worth anything less than anybody else because of who we are in spite of the fact that we do nothing wrong, and nothing to harm anybody else? Ironically, there is even a section of the feminist community that believes in a person’s choice over their own body, and yet would deny trans people that choice – one feminist famously wanted to “mandate trans people out of existence”.  The anti-choice argument at least contains some kernel of reason (whether you agree with it or not), whereas the argument against LGBT equality does not. Such a lack of reason was seen recently in the UK, where a popular soap opera showed two men cuddling in bed and provoked outrage from some quarters, while hetero-centric casual sex, violence, threats and even rape have been deemed unworthy of complaint by the same people.

This argument that we are some kind of scourge on society, and that we’re somehow exotic or explicit material that should be kept out of the eyes of children spurs us on to justify ourselves with a whole host of purported medical, evolutionary, sociological, genetic, or psychological reasons. In doing so, we are the ones that create our own oppression. Instead of standing up to such questions, and instead of requesting the civil courtesy of the respect afforded to everyone else, we give in. In giving in and answering their questions with narratives that fit their views, we perpetuate a cycle where they feel they have the right to ask. They feel they have a right to know. A right to pry. A right that wouldn’t exist anywhere else, and thus lends itself to a sense of the normal vs the abnormal, which of course transforms itself into issues of right or wrong, above and below, inferiority and superiority. We hand them power. We give them privilege over us, and all by trying to fit into their world, rather than staking our place and our claim on our already being a part of their world, and one that’s worthy of equality and respect. I’m not going to seriously use terms like kyriarchy or patriarchy to describe top down systems of oppression. Power is seen to work like that, but only because that is the way we have organised it. If every fighter put down their weapon, we’d see an end to war – it’s unlikely to happen, but it’s true. Similarly, can you imagine a situation where every LGBT person responded with “That’s a personal question”, or “My body, my choice. I’m not hurting anybody else, so what’s the problem?” Admittedly, for some trans people it’s a choice between surgery or death – but that’s still a real choice, if an obvious decision to make (clue – death isn’t the obvious and logical solution to such a problem.)

Then, of course, there’s the other problem with the standard narratives for trans people especially – they hurt other trans people. In some ways, the formation of the narrative has been clinician led… but it’s our internalisation of the narrative that’s perpetuated it. As more and more people repeat their stories, it becomes the accepted basis on which medical services are allowed. Nobody knows what causes transsexualism any more than what results in the existence of neutrois or other gender variant people that don’t fit the narrative… but it is the narrative that grants access to medical treatment. If you don’t fit it, you don’t get it. If you’re not transsexual, then you must surely have some sort of body dysmorphia that needs talking therapy or psychiatric drugs – it’s not right, and it’s not fair. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s likewise going to be even longer coming for as long as the ‘One True Narrative’ prevails. Is it right to leave other people out in the cold like this?

For bisexual people – if same sex attraction is not a choice, and “homosexuality is OK as long as you don’t act on it” is not a reasonable view, where exactly does that leave bisexual people? While “Being gay is not a choice” is great for defending gay and lesbian people, it leaves bisexual people open to the accusation that they really do have a choice, and should choose only to sleep with members of the opposite sex.

We need to stop clinging to the standard narrative – and many of us are unknowingly guilty of that, as we tend as a species to frame things in the language we are surrounded with. We need to stop giving away our power and subverting ourselves. We need to stop internalizing the narratives, and instead to proudly state the truth of our own individual existences. To live that truth. To love that truth, and to be that truth. We need to stop policing others for questioning the standard narrative and expressing opinions which stand against it. We need to stop crying “transphobia”, “homophobia”, “hetero-centricism” and “cissexism” at the slightest opportunity, stop tarring and we need to start living by example. Sure – there is transphobia, homophobia, hetero-centricism and cissexism in the world and it’s wrong, but overuse of the terms devalues them, and just makes us look irrationally angry and combative… all the while, of course, focussing our attention on why certain people think we are wrong rather than on why we are just as worthy and awesome as anybody else. It’s perhaps telling that I myself am wondering if I’m going to lose friends and contacts over this article – I don’t profess it to be gospel truth, but I do feel it raises a few interesting points and questions.

I’m going to tell you that truth now. It’s actually a very simple one, as most truths are – we are people of diverse backgrounds and experiences just as all human beings are, but in one thing you are just the same as anybody else…

… You are beautiful, and your existence is no less valid or rightful than anybody elses. You have a right to be yourself. You don’t need a cure. You don’t need a reason. You don’t need to explain yourself to all and sundry. You don’t need to justify your basic existence. Why you are the way you are doesn’t matter. What matters, is that you are who you are, and you exist – and you are beautiful for it. At the end of the day, we’re all just people, and we should be people. Live.

ACLU Continues the fight against School Filtering and Censorship

We reported last month about Schools filtering LGBTQIA sites.

The sites being blocked have included Gay Straight Alliances, GLSEN, support sites, and even blocking news items related to LGBTQIA issues. This affects all students, who are blocked from vital information, but especially the vulnerable LGBTQIA youth that are the inspiration for this site’s being.

Students from around the USA have been checking up on their schools filtering policies and reporting in. The ACLU has been collating all this information and has now starting acting against the offending school districts.

The initial round of legal action has resulted in letters sent to school districts in Michigan, Kansas and Western Missouri demanding they stop their censorship, and Freedom of Information requests to school districts throughout the rest of the USA on their filtering policies.

Its sad to see that schools have been doing this filtering, often hurting their most needy students, but hopefully the ACLU can start the momentum coming from the legal direction.

However its only part of the story, we need to contact our representatives, our board members and Principles to demand that censorship will not be tolerated.

I’ve started a new petition to be sent to the House, Senate and the Whitehouse demanding they take action against such unconstitutional, discriminatory and potentially life threatening censorship.

Please sign the petition to make your voice heard.

Found via Pink News

ACLU reporting on School Censorship of LGBTQA websites

Its becoming clear that many school’s filtering is including sites about Gay Straight Alliances, and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. However those schools doing the censoring often fail to censor the hate filled “god can fix the gay” groups who perpetrate potentially fatal lies about being able to cure being gay.

Example of a website block

Here's an example of what is being seen.

The ACLU is fighting against this unconstitutional censorship, and asking for student’s help with a survey of website accessibility.

Found via Pride in Utah.

A lawsuit with a happyish ending

When a lesbian couple wanted to walk as a couple in their school’s traditional Snowday Parade, they were told that it was not acceptable, because it might make some of their compatriots uncomfortable.

However you look at the response by Mary Olsen official for the schoolboard, she seems to think it was acceptable to try to sanitize these events, and does not seem to have any problem with repressing lgbtqa expression.

As a result, Desiree and Sarah filed a federal discrimination lawsuit. They were shocked that their school would do this. However in a move for sanity and understanding the lawsuit was resolved by mediation, and the couple were able to walk proudly with the other couples.

The reason i call it happyish, is because its clear that figures involved did not realize what harm they were doing by trying to censor this couple. Hopefully these figures will be more understanding next time an issue of LGBTQA rights.

Thank you for this couple who said do not step on me and stood up for their rights.

Censoring Elton’s Family…

US Weekly, while not my usual magazine of choice, showed a picture that made most people go “Awwwww”, but a few people to scream “The Horror!, Won’t someone please think of the children”. In response a supermarket in Arkansas decided to put a “Family Shield, to protect younger shoppers” in front of the magazine as it does for porn mags. So what could be so shocking, was it some emaciated child from a conflict in The Congo, or perhaps some controversial piece of artwork that perhaps you wouldn’t want your children to see without context. No not even a picture of Santa’s Grotto out of season, what the photo showed, was a family.

An Arkansas grocery store used shields to protect its customer from an US magazine cover featuring Elton John, his partner, and their new adopted son

courtesy Jennifer Huddleston

A family you say, what’s so controversial about that, its not like the Citizens Councils are going to complain about an interracial family, or the idea of a celebrity adopting from Africa. Sadly no, this was a different and equally unpleasant kind of prejudice to the Citizens Council, you see this was of a celebrity couple, and their newborn son, the trouble for these new bigots, it was Elton John and his husband David Furnish. Can’t you see their point, if little Suzy has been taught that gay people are depraved monsters to see them as a happy family is going to make her question her parents bigotry.

I was talking about this back in my “I’m not a good queer piece”, where there are people who want to censor reality from their children, in the hope they’ll never be exposed to ideas of free expression and self evolution. In some ways this article is very dated, a gay couple having a child would be news in the 1970s, not in 2010, however US Weekly is a celeb gossip magazine and one of the most universally famous celebrities in the world having a child is big news, the same as if any other major figure was.

It was a non issue, or at least it should have been, except the store manager felt it was acceptable to support and tolerate the open hatred of his clientele. I realize that Harps has already disowned the action, but i see no message of disciplinary action, that would have been applied if this had been a racist situation rather than a homophobic situation.

If the manager made a poor judgement call, then i’d like him to be disciplined, but if he did it because he agreed with the covering up, then i’d like the store to underline this action with a demotion or a firing, because thats what they’d do if he were to have done that on racist grounds.

Story source SF Gate

Some updates on Keith Olbermann

Everything is still pretty quiet, Rachel’s comments were cut short in the podcast, and everyone is digging at the story.

Watching Anderson Cooper, looks like its a political issue within MSNBC’s office structure with the Comcast take over. They are not saying its a direct link, but the Comcast takeover may have made the environment untenable for Keith or his superiors to have the editorial freedom he was used to.

However he’s back to tweeting, and hopefully we’ll see Keith, and a full explanation soon.

In the meantime, #FOK is the trending keyword on twitter. We are Friends of Keith here at No More Lost.

An ally falls, Keith you were a friend, a champion, and we want you back

It seems strange that i’m tearing up at the thought of a celebrity being forced out. But this isn’t about a celebrity, its about a friend who’s been the one glimmer of light in the dark places. I may not have been focused on the US back then, but the impression of 2001-2003 USA was one in which dissent was frowned upon, i felt sick that a country that stood up for freedom of expression was acting in an almost proto-fascist manner.

In that time someone stood up, and said No Mr President you don’t get a free ride, but due to the fact that John Stewart was a political satirist, he was not able to have the same impact as a “serious journalist”.

Keeping an eye on the American airwaves, someone stuck his head up above the sand and my first exposure was this special comment.

He risked his career, and gave voice to those who did not believe the talking points given by the Whitehouse, he challenged the cheer leading and stood up for what he felt was right.

I cannot show all his career in this article, but there is still one piece that comes to mind as one of his finest moments, a special comment on marriage equality.

I may be a brit and used to genuinely neutral coverage of the BBC, but his perspective and commentary has help make me proud to be an American, that such a voice stayed on the airwaves, who kept fighting for what was right over what was convenient or politically expedient.

In a total shocking move, apparently happening in the moments before a commercial break, Keith Olbermann was told that this would be the last show.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Its still unclear about what caused this departure, but the Comcast takeover may have been responsible, including the firing of Jeff Zucker prior to this.

As i find out more about this travesty i’ll keep writing about it, but unless i find out otherwise MSNBC is on the censorers of voices list. I hope that Rachel Maddow being off the air tonight is a show of solidarity with this firing.