Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

It’s a slight cliche to argue that history is written by the winners, but unfortunately it’s true. Admittedly the phrase does imply somewhat more of a martial perspective, so let’s adjust it; history is written by the dominant.

As marginalised people, we only have to look at our own histories to see the truth in that. We are absent from the historical narrative to a very large extent; sometimes there are obscure glimmers of proof of our previous existence, but most often even those of us who achieved a place in the historical hall of fame have been bleached with the ideals of the dominant groups that did the writing.

I am a historian – still studying, and not yet studying exclusively history, but a historian nevertheless – and it frustrates me. Written primary sources were often written by privileged people whose perspective neglects the marginalised. Secondary sources also tend to reflect academia’s skewing towards the kyriarchal ideal. There are ways of finding out about the marginalised, but we rarely find their uncensored voices ringing down the ages.

What effect does that have? A huge effect. Some groups find themselves cut off from their roots, with much about their past lost irretrievably. Others find themselves entering the record only on the terms of their oppressors, with their personhood denigrated and their voices erased. Others find no reflection of their existence.

The neglect of the history of some groups combined with the elevation of that of others has a profoundly harmful effect. People have always looked to the past, for lessons and for inspiration and guidance, and if they find only certain groups reflected there it is very easy to have the idea, already implanted by the kyriarchy, that only those groups are worthy and important validated. It’s also used to denigrate people in the present, implying that they’re making things up because they only came into existence recently when the only evidence we have for that is a void in the general historical narrative with clues generally so small most people wouldn’t pick them up.

It’s important to factor this in as we write our own histories. How will the English Riots of this summer be remembered? Will the memory of the alienation and disillusionment suffered by those who rioted survive, or will they be painted merely as thugs? And the Occupy movement – when protestors say one thing and police say another, who will be believed by posterity? As for the Arab Spring – how will history perceive that?

The privileged classes have always tried to write their history on a higher level than the rest of the populace. Sometimes, just access to the tools of recording ensures their voices are the only ones heard. Other times, restricting access to academia or to certain media spaces is their preferred method. And quite often, they merely rely on their privilege to amplify their voices, as it so reliably does.

Trigger warning. Transhatred, misohomy, dyadism, slurs, transmisogyny, discussion of abuse, victim blaming, ableism, biological determinism, ageism, discussion of violence.

In my travels through the Internet, I sometimes find things that are really, really fucking terrible. Such is a file being distributed by reactionary Catholic groups at the UN. I strongly advise nobody to click on the link, although I’ll put it here (http://www.couragerc.net/Transsexual_Issues/Sex_Reassignment.pdf). The trigger warning lists most of what they manage, but I’m pretty sure I’ve missed out some awfulness. Put it this way, they quote and support Janice Raymond… Yeah. This post is mainly referring to binary trans people – I am actually glad to be erased, and that’s something I never thought I’d say. However, I am grouping myself in with the trans label for the purposes of this post, even though I prefer non-cis.

I am not going to let this go past my radar unargued. It is really terrible. Frankly, we could play transhatred bingo with this. Only I think we’d have to have more squares than normal.

They accuse us of living in a fantasy world – and yet, they believe that sex is a binary. Their world is rather more fantasy than ours is – and their fantasy has been supported by blood and by murder, by hatred and by mutilation (such as they condemn). They also believe that the genotype can be told from the phenotype, which is again a fiction, a fiction you’d think they wouldn’t believe since I’m pretty sure you need to have some kind of biology qualification to be a psychiatrist.

They also have no idea of cause and effect, or the mechanisms of oppression. Their privilege is showing, and it is incredibly disgusting. Trans people experience high levels of abuse, bullying etc because of society’s non-acceptance of being trans. Not because experiencing those things makes one trans. Transhatred (and misohomy) is a real problem – and it’s a problem which their arguments have illustrated perfectly.

Besides this, they appear to believe that the so-called ‘trans panic defence,’ the defence often given by partners of trans people who have responded to the fact of their transness with violence, is evidence against our validity rather than evidence for the unacceptable level of transhatred and misohomy on the part of those reacting like that. Transhatred and misohomy that they are helping to support. The real ones supporting others in their fantasies are them; they, who support the oppressive delusions of the bigoted privileged rather than the people who are at risk and vulnerable. The non-acceptance of trans people means nothing about the validity of our gender/s/non-gender/s, but everything about the existence of hatred. Victim blaming is never okay.

As is par for the course for these people, they also believe that they can determine cisness from looks. Thus, they hold trans people up to an impossible standard of performing their gender that many cis people do not reach, and justify that solely on the basis of birth assignation. Everything will be interpreted by them as evidence of the trans person’s assigned gender being their true one, every. little. thing. Everything that cis people are never scrutinised about. Everything. And then they blame us for failing to live up to their unethical level of scrutiny. We are not actors, to be caught out in a mistake. We are people. We cannot fail to be ourselves, even when we are forced to lie by the pressures of a cruel world, of which they are a part. We seek the surgeries we seek – if we seek them – because we know what we need, because we are ourselves, we are more ourselves than our bodies are, and we are hurt by our body’s fundamental wrongness.

We cannot be spoken for by the cis gatekeepers of the medical process. While they continue to make us jump through hoops for the surgeries we need, they can never know our experience. And their voices can never replace ours, especially when they speak to discredit us.

And we are not mentally disordered. We are not unfit to make decisions. We know who we are, and we have made a commitment to telling the truth about that – and can any of those who hate us say the same? No, since they insist on upholding the lie that we are inferior – and supporting the lie that people who do not fit their narrow standard of ability are inferior.

Our youth are not incapable of knowing who we are. I would like to know at what age those who hate us knew that they were cis – and then I would like them to imagine that the world turned against them for it. We are the only people who can know who we are, what we are, and no other person, especially people who have never experienced what we do, can speak for us in that. The only person who knows us well enough to know our gender/s/non-gender/s is ourselves and those we have explicitly told.

Dissonance cannot be trivialised in this way, by calling it an ‘autogynephilic desire’ or the like. This is not a paraphilia. You will never know dissonance until you feel it, and when you feel it you will know why those of us who do seek the surgeries we do. Dissonance is pain. Dissonance is pain, and all society and hateful ‘medicine’ like this can offer is hatred and more pain. We are not making this up.

Neither are we motivated by a desire to deceive. We are motivated by the precise opposite.

We desire to tell the truth.

That’s more than one can say for those who hate us, who spread their lies to discredit us. Who accuse us of victimising ourselves, rather than looking within to see the true source of that which oppresses, hurts and kills us.

Who is causing harm? I think they should remember that ‘first, do no harm’ applies to us as well – and it harms us to hate us and to deny us the accomodations we need. It actively benefits us to align our bodies with our selves. The true breach in ethics lies with those who would knowingly deprive a large group of people medical attention they drastically need on the grounds of irrational hatred. As does the true inappropriacy.

They call our selves disordered. No human being can be ‘disordered’ in this way. Different, yes – needing accomodations that our cissexist, ableist society does not readily provide, yes – but disordered? No.

Our selves are valid, legitimate, good and true. And only we can know them.

Love, not hate

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Law, Religion, Sexuality
Tags: ,

Preface to this post; I have no problem with religion. If your religion is a positive thing in your life, if your religion harms no-one and perpetuates no oppressions, and if you do not try to force me to follow your religion, then I am supportive of your beliefs. I personally do not believe, but I respect the right of others to whatever religious beliefs they feel are right for them.

A Pentecostal Christian couple have been barred from fostering children because of their views on homosexuality, which they have drawn from their religious beliefs. This is a problem that I have seen consistently, in many outlets – people, mainly believers, getting the idea that Christianity disapproves of homosexuality. It does not. For a start, most Christians disregard most of the laws laid down in the same Book as those perceived as against homosexuality. Also, those laws are most probably made to oppose lust, as are the huge number of laws regarding heterosexual interaction. Besides this, the New Testament, which is generally held to be the principle holy book of most of the Christian faith, emphasises love. Love is the central tenet of all of Jesus’ teachings. To hate is to go against that, and to hate love is to doubly go against that.

So no, religious freedom is not really an issue. If it is invoked, it is a classic case of overprivileged people mistaking freedom to worship for freedom to discriminate, two things that are very different. They, as all others, are free to believe what they want; they just aren’t free to interpret those beliefs as an excuse for discrimination. And claiming that they are ‘normal’ Christians? Please, introduce me to your circle. Actually, don’t. I doubt both of us would walk out of there unscathed. Believe me, I know many Christians. They are on the whole tolerant, loving human beings who have no problem with non-heterosexuals. Hatred is not a mainstream Christian belief, it’s just the one we see most often in the news.

And now to address the misohomy aspect of it. (misohomy; hatred of homosexuals, following the same pattern as misogyny and misandry, as a non-ableist alternative to homophobia. Coined by myself, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find someone else had thought of it.)

They can’t tell a child that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable. Forgive me, but isn’t this a trifle absurd? It’s quite easy – you look at a child, open your mouth and form the words. The only way this would be hard for you to say is if you have trouble saying anything, or if you have trouble saying anything that isn’t misohomic.

They say that, “We have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith and we feel sidelined because we are Christians with normal, mainstream, Christian views on sexual ethics. We are prepared to love and accept any child. All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.” No, sorry to break it to you. You feel sidelined because the world has moved on from the days when hatred was okay. You feel sidelined because you can feel your heterosexual privilege trembling under your feet as all of us non-heterosexuals decide that we do not want to be trampled on anymore. Cry me a river. Listen, you experience kyriarchal oppression too. All our oppressions are interconnected. Stop standing on others to try to get to the top and start demolishing the pyramid.

You’re prepared to love and accept any child? Well, as long as they’re heterosexual. And, presumably, cis and binary (since misohomy and transhatred and binarism tend to come together). I don’t call that any child. Non-het/cis/binary kids deserve love and acceptance too, because we are human, and we are dying from the hatred of people like you. And also – the practice of homosexuality? The homosexual lifestyle? Bullcrap. Non-het folks are human. Those who love, love like you do. It’s not a choice, it’s not a practise. It’s human.

And as for the Christian Legal Centre saying that it ‘sends out the clear message…that Christian parents with mainstream Christian views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents’ – uh, no, it doesn’t. It sends out the clear message that misohomic parents with mainstream misohomic views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents. It’s a different thing. Christianity is not about hatred. If you want to align your own experience of your faith with hate, so be it – just don’t expect to be treated as anything other than the hater you are, and don’t try to claim that you represent others’ experiences of that faith. I really hope I’m misinterpreting the comment and that it was meant in a positive way, but it really doesn’t sound it.

Kyriarchy. Not just one oppression, but many, along many axes of oppression. There are many, many privileges, and many, many ways of being oppressed, of being marginalised. Areas interlink. People, humans, walk the intersections. History wove it, and the shuttle of today clacks across the continued warp yarn of the kyriarchy into the future.

It’s very easy to end things in a metaphor. Here, we just have to cut the warp and set new warp threads, weaving a society around justice, equality, diversity and universal human rights. But in reality, it’s not so easy.

People are very fond of kyriarchy. Often they can’t see it, or they can’t see what’s wrong with it. We’ve all been brought up to believe it – to believe that genitalia assigned male makes you a man, and genitalia assigned female makes you a woman, and nothing else exists. To believe that Whiteness and Western Culture is superior to all others. To believe that the conventionally able body is the standard of worth. To believe that a penis predetermines you towards toughness and strength, and that a vagina predetermines you towards caring and shallowless. To believe that capitalism is not only working, but right and good. To believe that who you love or don’t love dictates your character. To believe that there is a certain standard of ‘normal.’ To believe a whole host of messed-up stuff, and to defend that, even to the death.

We’ve all believed these things. That doesn’t excuse them. Living in the kyriarchy doesn’t excuse them. But we can all work to stop believing these things, work to help others stop, work to mitigate the harm that these beliefs do. Even on a tiny scale, on the personal scale – once you start examining it, kyriarchy loses its hold on your mind. It may not lose its hold on your life, but it has one less brain on its side.

Even so, we must examine as many warp threads of the kyriarchy as we can. It’s not helpful to take a stand against say, capitalism and the classism it creates, while furthering racism. In fact, it’s downright harmful due to intersectionality. Most oppressions overlap, and some among the people who suffer any one of them will suffer any of the rest. And then there are the areas so normalised that no-one even notices. Of course some cultures are civilised and some are primitive. Of course words aren’t harmful. Of course being fat is a bad thing. Of course non conventionally-able folks should be thankful for the peanuts we throw their way. Of course people with uteri are women. Of course this. Of course that. And it’s none of it true.

Kyriarchy. Keep a look out for it.

Trigger warning for self-harm and violent metaphor.

Anger is a hard emotion. It can lead to a person doing something they’d never normally do, can lead to inappropriate actions/words, can lead to succumbing to social norms in an effort to get the point across. It can be ugly, destructive, self-harming. It can hurt and hinder.

It is also valuable. Anger, properly managed, directed and used, is effective. It works. Anger is a motivation, a spur to actually tackle an issue rather than letting it slide. Anger is a wake-up call; if you see someone who is angry, you wonder why they’re angry and then maybe you open your eyes and you join them. Anger can even be beautiful.

And we have a right to our anger. When someone treads on us, we have a right to be angry at them. We do not have a right to physically retaliate, but we have a right to safely and constructively express our anger.

Not expressing anger can hurt even more than the original pain that spawned the anger. If it is suppressed, it can boil inside, searing away beneath the bones of our existence and eating into our deepest selves. I have done that. I bear the scars, the scars that resulted from a poisonous brew of hiding, of pretending, of denying and of suppressing negative emotions.

Some of us are trained not to express anger by the kyriarchy. We are told that our anger harms our cause. We are told that we become less sympathetic when we are angry. We are told that we have no right to be angry, because no travesty has occurred. We are told this from an early age, and many of us internalise those messages. Some of us manifest anger destructively, either because that is how we have been trained or because we are reacting against the messages we received earlier. Kyriarchy does not allow for constructive outrage. It runs on destructive rage expressed by those it elevates and suppressed rage from those it denigrates. For the elevated, destructive rage serves to intimidate those they stand on the shoulders of into compliance. For the marginalised, we are not supposed to express our anger because our anger is dangerous.

Our anger is dangerous. The kyriarchy fears our anger. It fears it so much that it tries to train us to deny it.

No more. Every time a person realises the machinations of kyriarchy and its effects, every time a person allows themself that anger at the sheer injustice of it, we become more powerful. It happens often, but not nearly often enough. Once that realisation has been gained, the kyriarchy tries to make the person suppress it again. The person battles through kyriarchal shit every day, every time they try to do something; thus the kyriarchy tries to intimidate us. But we will not be intimidated.

We will not be intimidated. We stand together, united in our strength. The kyriarchy tries to divide us. Sometimes it succeeds – but there are always enough of us standing there to prove that we will never go away. We will never go away, until the kyriarchy must blink and slinks away, to be shunned by all people for ever more.

We are powerful. Sometimes, the slings and arrows the kyriarchy sends us become too much – for some of us. The wounded retreat behind the battle lines to the meagre protection we can offer, but we are still there and still fighting. We, the whole, the many.

Welsh students are to be protected from the university fees increase. The Welsh Assembly Government is going to subsidise fees above the current level by ‘top-slicing the teaching grant for Welsh universities’. Now, this policy isn’t certain yet. However. On the surface, it’s a good thing, and I’m personally glad about it… but. One, what the hell is ‘top-slicing’? Does that mean cutting? And does that mean that Welsh universities’ teaching standards will go down? If so, that’s something to be considered. Two, while I like the Assembly Government’s viewpoint, I really wish that England would follow suit. Only with a lot of caution if it means cutting teaching budgets still further. It’s still not fair to make English students foot the entire cost of an education that will benefit the whole country, and it’s even less fair if students from other UK countries are protected from the fees increase, although it’s true that Wales is generally poorer than England and will probably be hit harder by UK-wide cuts. I still support the student protests nationwide.

We have hate crime figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2009. 52,028 recorded crimes. What is wrong with the world? Most of the crimes reported were racially motivated. There were also significant figures for the rest of the classifications given; ‘religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or transgender issues.’ Of course, we know that there are always huge inaccuracies in these figures because so many hate crimes go unrecorded – and some hate crimes may not end up called such. Many people find that they can’t or won’t trust the police, sometimes because of the very thing they were targeted for, and so don’t report crimes.

So ‘Dolly‘ is alive and well – or her clones are. This will be interesting, to see how these four turn out, whether their lifespans are affected by being clones.

Forgive me for being underwhelmed about the Pope deciding, finally, that condoms do have a role to play in stopping the spread of HIV and are not evil incarnate or making the problem worse. I just can’t get worked up enough to get him a biscuit for it. Because this isn’t some huge, progressive step – okay, it is for the Catholic Church, who still equate women being ordained with paedophilia – rather, it is a tiny step from the Vatican towards getting in line with the real world and what is necessary there.

I am, however, glad he’s said it. Not because this is a great gesture, but because this will be a great gesture for the many, many Catholics out there. This small step should hopefully encourage those who were religiously opposed to using condoms to use them for the purpose of preventing the spread of HIV.

It is a great shame that the Catholic Church took the hardline stance for so many years; that stance will have cost many people their lives. This step can’t undo that damage. Nothing can. Hopefully though it will go some way towards preventing others suffering.