Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Medical Models and Watching Our Language

Tomorrow evening I will be traveling to Philadelphia for the 7th Annual Trans-Health Conference (I know, for once I post before an event happens!). As I perused the workshops offered at this three-day event I realized that for a while I had/have been trapped in the conundrum of discussing transgender identity within a medical model. A lot of issues for trans folks revolve around the medical and legal establishments, and as much as I hate this emphasis it becomes a necessity in a society that consistently demands documentation for all activities. My new NY ID card, which has a much longed-for “M” in the sex category, allows me access to men’s restrooms in clubs – a privilege consistently denied me in Minnesota where I was kicked out of multiple men’s restrooms.*

Within this medical model our status as certified (card-holding) citizens depends upon an ever-changing system of state and federal laws that can begin to stifle cultural imagination. If we define ourselves entirely by our bodies and our ID status then we leave no room for the multiple identities we know we embody. We should always remember the necessity of being safe (holding the necessary documents) and feeling comfortable (achieving the body we desire), however we should never confine ourselves to non-ally definitions of our identity. When this occurs, when transgender people play the access game by non-ally cigender assimilationist rules we often end up with disparaging mindsets.

The most recent of these is a statement I used to hear only from parents of transgender children or LGB activists educating themselves on transgender issues. But now transfolks, cigender politicians, doctors, and activists as well as transfolks ourselves are repeating this ridiculous sentiment. Again and again I see “transgender people are the last civil right group”. There are two main ways to decipher this statement. One interpretation is that transgender people are last possible group to struggle for recognition and basic human rights. The second interpretation is that the human rights struggles of transgender people are the last struggles to be realized – that all other civil rights struggles have been triumphantly reconciled.

While the issues of sex, class, and race brought up in the Democratic Presidential Race may have revealed to more U.S. citizens that these issues have not been so triumphantly resolved; there is still a residing idea that these “isms” are a thing of the past. Which is why these statements are so hurtful, they can either make invisible groups that have yet to see recognition of their movement or identity (as an inside example, gender non conforming people are consistently quieted in transgender debates) or further reify the idea that we live in a world where struggles for civil rights are a thing of the past.

Activists and allies: please. Please stop this. Stop saying we are the last group needing civil rights. If that were true we’d be saying that issues of white supremacy, ableism, sexism, heteronormativity and homophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism have all been resolved. Look at our situation. It is a direct result of being in a position created by sexism and homophobia. Our issues of medical access are class issues and racial issues. When we are told we don’t know the proper care for our own bodies that patronizing language is because of our relationship to issues of sexism and heteronormativity. The whiteness of transgender imagery is an issue of white supremacy. Our fear of identifying with disability rights groups is our fear of becoming more “ab-normal” than we already think we are, and our fear of disability is rooted in the upwardly mobile ideology of so many liberation movements later co-opted by rights movements. Our rights are not the “last” group of rights.

There is a lot of shit that comes with being transgender - and it can seem incredibly lonely at times – but using this language to describe our struggle only adds to this loneliness. Recently my partner mentioned to me that she doesn’t feel a part of transgender communities and movements. Despite being firmly genderqueer identified, and representing that identity in her art and writing, the whiteness and transition-oriented focus of the movement leaves her outside. Language isn’t everything, and there is often too much writing and speaking and too little action. But our words are powerful, and the way we think about words gives them power and meaning. We have to be careful about the way we word our emotions and our struggles in transgender communities are too heterogenic to be compartmentalized. Joining with other struggles – and recognizing that our issues are intertwined - will achieve a triumphant revolution that won’t be built on the invisible backs of others.

*A plus side of this bizarre practice is that the women’s restroom becomes by default the “undesirable” restroom – drag queens, transwomen, cigender women, transmen, and gender non-conforming people are all forced to use the women’s restroom. However, as perceived women are generally in the highest risk group for gender-based violence this creates a horrible situation of crowding a potentially dangerous space with drunken people as cigender men mince in and out of their separate bathroom. It also, lovingly, reinforces the idea that men come before women in all issues. I have been asked to write about this practice and I’m still thinking of doing so.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Slow Death While I Pay Off My Debt

I'm about to upload a new post I've been working on about transgender identity, but I stopped to pay my bills first and got sidetracked. If a person goes into higher education, are visibly LGBT, if they are Brown or Black or generally perceived to be of color, if they are female, if they have a physical or mental disability, if you live in a rural community - hell these days if you a white man even - you are probably facing the same issues I am in terms of making ends meet.

In my quest to follow Suze Orman's advice I have been trying to secure balance transfers for all my debt so that it's nice and consolidated - although the idea of seeing all that debt together makes me queasy! I keep getting denied and this increasingly keeps me up at night as these gay-for-pay jobs are a little light on the "pay" end of things. In my internet wanderings to find other solution I came across this website, Feminist Finance, and have really enjoyed reading it. A self-identified feminist lawyer discusses financial issues and employment as well as some personal tid-bits. I have yet to see her identify racially or ability wise, but then i haven't read the whole blog either. At times her financial struggle seems to be the furthest thing from mine, but I appreciate her level-headed approach to an issue that is pure emotion for me. One of her more recent posts discussed the costs of a name change, I couldn't help but think of the transgender slant to that issue!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Calls for Submissions!

More calls for submissions!

First, from one of my new favorite presses that has published my favorite authors including Eli Clare, Tim’m T. West, and my friend, Sass Lowrey. Homofactus Press has a beautiful commitment to the importance of voices from the margins, and they have released this call for people of color born female who identify with some aspect (or the whole kit and caboodle) of male identity. They are looking for all kinds of submissions and there is an ongoing deadline!

Secondly, a call for submissions from Minneapolis-based Revolting Queers for a zine to be published in June. It’s free so I assume it’s unpaid but another great opportunity to get your work, name, and feelings into the world! E-mail your submissions by June 14th to: revolting.queers at . I received this through e-mail so there’s no link:

The Revolting Queers will be creating a queer zine focusing on the lives of queer people, how day to day activities are political, and the violence of assimilation.

We are looking for various submissions ranging from art to personal narratives to short essays focusing on a variety of topics. We need to receive all submission by June 14th so that we can distribute them at pride.

We have a great smart group of people that have a lot to say about different issues, and this is great way of getting queers to start thinking about things, and make different voices heard and to make queer theory more accessible by grounding it in lived experiences.
With a wide variety of topics each person can pick whatever they are most interested in and submissions can be short and won't take much time for everyone to write.

The first three issues will be:

Urban Sustainability: exploring the different ways in which an urban environment can be be constructed to combat the oppressive forces of the new economy. Submissions can include urban gardening, vegan cooking, agricultural systems, bike culture, issues of public space and gentrification, social justice and community work.

Public Sex and Sexual Culture:
Submissions can range from cruising, internet culture, bar culture, body image, HIV activism, issues of public sex, issues of gender, activism against sexual violence.

I hate homonormativity:
This issue will give voice to concerns and personal experiences of queers who face the violence of assimilation from for elements within their own community. Little has changed since Queer Nation first distributed "Queers Everywhere Read This/ I Hate Straights." We want to hear how queers are marginalized and silenced by a social movement obsessed with obtaining middle class respectability.

Good luck with your writing, drawing, etc.!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gay Wedding Bells Sound a Lot Like Assimilation

Marriage is (almost) legal in California between gay, bisexual, and lesbian people as well as for transgender folks who are marrying their “opposite” sex and haven’t - or don’t wish to - change their legal sex.

But, as a blogger on the RaceWire points out, this isn’t necessarily a win. Ever since reading the “Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black” essay by Kenyon Farrow and Mattilda’s excellent interview in bitch magazine I have been fascinated by the way that LGBT organizers prioritize and debate the question of marriage. Across the nation LGBT groups are placing marriage as the ultimate and final legal grounds for “equality”. But I see this prioritization as a fall-back and an avoidance of the true issues LGBT people are facing. Moreover, as someone who actively identifies as queer, I see the prioritization of marriage as a denial of our responsibility to other struggles for justice. One of my close friends, a white bisexual woman, continues to ask me if my anger about the focus on gay marriage isn’t in itself denying the importance of gay marriage for communities of color. She has suggested that the legal protections and financial difference that marriage makes for LGBT people of color is significant and important.

So I want to clarify that my position isn’t anti-marriage. My position is that we have other more important concerns. What about caring for our queer youth – especially our queer homeless youth? What about the consistent murders of transgender people – especially transpeople of color – who are never respectfully mourned? What about dealing with the whiteness of our LGBT non-profits, a whiteness that often chases away the employees of color? We have a lot of work to do in addition to gaining marriage equality, and I despise the emphasis placed on it, as if once gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual folks can marry all concerns about the whiteness, the classism, the ableism, and the body stereotyping of our community will just go away. I have to also admit that the idea of marriage leaves a sour taste in my life. Having had the opportunity to study and discuss the institution I balk at the idea that it is desirable.

Clearly the use of marriage discrimination as a means of allowing white people to tear the families of Black people apart isn’t comparable to the anti-gay marriage rhetoric that is used to tear LGBT families apart or even the anti-miscegenation laws used to keep Black and Brown folk from marrying white folk. (I have yet to read a Black LGBT publication that acknowledges this history.) The use of property law to control the lives, money, and welfare of married women isn’t even the same sexism issue as the anti-gay marriage laws. However, all of these laws focus on the (mis)use of power and the use of marriage as a means to deny citizenship and humanity. And what about the marriage license taxes that keep low-income and poor folks as well as those on welfare from marriage? Without the right to marry families of people of color were not recognized. With the right to marry (white) women continually lost all of their money and property to the will of their husbands. Under anti-miscegenation laws white supremacy was legally recognized as the intermarriage of people of color to white people was the only concern of miscegenation law.*

Which makes me wonder, why the hell to gay, lesbian, and bisexual folks want marriage? Can’t we see what a fucked up institution it is? Can’t we see how it has always been used to suppress people of color, working class families, and women? Don’t we realize that marriage upholds values of white supremacy, capitalism, and sexism?

On our anniversary my partner and I drove to Provincetown to spend the weekend in a really super-gay capitalistic way. All of that aside, it was a very odd feeling to know that she and I could legally marry each other there and then, upon returning to NYC, have that marriage recognized (I’m legally male in NYC, but female according to federal law). I’ll admit that it was a tempting feeling, to have our love and commitment recognized as equal to that of so many other heterosexual couples. So I understand the joy of couples in California who finally see that their love and commitment will be seen as important and that they can access hospitals and their children’s schools and that their wills will not be as contended - among many other things.

Even as I admit how tempting it would be to go about my life in a “normative” way, I also know that by definition our lives will never be normative. We will have to contend with transphobia, racism, and sexism for the rest of our lives. I will have to explain double gynecologist bills to insurance companies and why I don’t need a prostate exam. She will have to contend with the racism of the art world, and we will both have to explain to friends and colleagues how we can’t afford to join them for $15 drinks. None of this is explicitly because we are queer, but it is connected to being queer. Even if she and I were legally married we would still face seemingly insurmountable discrimination that is already the concern of economic justice movements, anti-racism movements, and feminist movements.

Rather than focus on marriage as a cure for our oppression we should realize that the things LGBT folks wish to achieve through marriage are issues for everyone, not just LGBT folks. It shouldn’t matter if only legal and blood relatives can have a hospital visitation – the patient and not the state should decide hospital visitation rights. Who wants an abusive spouse or parent visiting an abused patient? Our immigration laws are ridiculously convoluted and xenophobic. Being married shouldn’t be what keeps a person in the U.S.; we should have an overhaul of the system that values the contributions of immigrants to our economy and our culture.

I am happy to see that couples that wish to get married can begin to do so (hopefully) in California, but I also hope this means the beginning of a re-commitment to the values that gay liberation came from. I hope to see a commitment to all forms of oppression and multiple identities within and outside of our community. I hope to see a movement that returns to listening to women, youth, people of color, and the elderly. A return to a movement that values sexuality and sexual expression and the all the various communities and histories that we, as individuals and a movement, belong to. Here’s to hope!

*Clink on that link, it is so tight. Chief Justice Warren actually claims white supremacy as the underlying value in miscegenation laws. I don’t know if there are any other court rulings where the institutionalization of white supremacy is clearly called out.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Open letter to a potential white ally

This is my submission for The Angry Black Woman's Carnival of Allies. You can submit too. Write a piece about why you are an ally and submit it here!

* * *

You, me, and two women of color were sitting at lunch. You and I are both white. You said that you just don’t understand racism, how can people blatantly hate? One of our friends spoke up saying “it’s not blatant hate a lot of the time. It’s ignorance. It’s a lack of education. White people say and do certain things because no one has bothered to teach them why it’s wrong.”

You nodded in agreement but then turned to the other woman of color and asked her for help in dealing with racism. There was a bit of a silence and I spoke up. “You can’t ask people of color where to begin. You have to begin with yourself. On your own.”

“I don’t know how”

“Yes you do. Do you go out to movies? Then see movies with all-black casts or foreign films that are not from Europe. Do you read fiction at home? Then read fiction written by people of color. If you think the connection to yourself is too vague then read lesbians of color. Pick up magazines produced by people of color. Put yourself in situations where you are the minority and see what themes are discussed. If you don’t understand a concept or a word, look it up on your own time. Don’t ask these women for help until you’ve reached a beginning level of understanding.”*

“But that’s so exhausting”

* * *

Dear White Friend:

I hate that reason. Of all the reasons to not engage in anti-racism the amount of work is the least logical excuse. The fact that all of us must do a tremendous amount of work to destabilize these systems of power is the very reason to engage in anti-racism. And white friend, the fact that you don’t know where to begin shows that you don’t realize the ubiquitous nature of racism. Racism is present in the grocery store, in public transportation, on college applications, and in access to public parks. If you don’t know where to begin then go back to your own education.

Read books labeled “African American Studies” or “Asian Studies”. Read books with Brown and Black people on the cover. Yes, the books that are published, the magazines that are produced and the movies that are shown nation-wide generally have sweeping messages about “the Black experience” that leave no room for nuance. Yet they are still important. After watching or reading ask yourself what you were inspired by? Was it the role of families? Was it an issue of access to jobs or education? Was it the lack of sex education given the characters? Grasp onto that issue and begin educating yourself from there. If you care deeply about young women being given access to comprehensive sex education than educate yourself on sex ed’s racial background. Learn about the history of forced prostitution among female Chinese immigrants in the 1930s. Learn about the eugenics movement and how birth control is mandatory for female employees in many U.S.-owned sweatshops in Mexico. Know who Loretta Ross is and why she is important. Find out why the 2003 March for Choice was changed to the March for Women’s Lives. Start from where you are passionate because every single topic is embedded with race.

Know that there are many people working against white supremacy. You do not need to be featured in the paper or overturn a Supreme Court ruling in order to do good work, in fact accolades should be the last thing on your mind. Sometimes it is hard to know if people are fighting racism but don’t judge everyone by standards reflected in Western white middle-class college-educated values. Surviving is a means of resistance, so is creating art or raising children who are articulate and aware. Having a bake sale to bring picture books with Black and Brown kids into kindergarten classes may not be the means you think is most practical. But think about the immediate result for that generation of children, to see their selves reflected in literature. Likewise, litigating for 13 years to get non-discrimination clauses into a company may seem like 13 years too many but legal changes are as needed as medical, social, and educational changes. Know that there is no one-way to resist white supremacy, we need people resisting on all levels and in all ways. But any way that is not supported by people of color has something fundamentally wrong with it.

Yes, white supremacy can be overwhelming, that’s kinda part of the definition. But if you start small and focus on your passion then you will be making a difference. Consider the fact that people of color never get the option to stop working for change. When things get rough, and they will get rough, think about someone you care about. If no one comes to mind than think of yourself. Sometimes I worry about this narcissistic train of thought, but I must confess that my life as a white man would be 100% better if all the white people I interacted with were educated on racial issues and what “institutional racism” meant. If all the Black and Brown students were given an equal opportunity to visit doctors or see their history (which is our history) in the classroom my life would be improved as well. Half of my time at work is spent trying to re-forge connections with communities and organizations of color, and I could get a lot more done if I didn’t have to apologize for the continued ignorance and arrogance of my people. But I have to do this and I will continue to do this until white supremacy is taught as a negative concept in all the schools of the U.S. While I have friends and colleagues of color that I fight white supremacy for, I also know that I fight it for myself.

When you, white friend, put off learning about race and racism you put off learning about yourself. Trying to act superior all the time strains your health. Having no knowledge of other people and cultures keeps you in a whitewashed ignorance about the rest of the world. If you don’t know the history of the U.S. grabbing land from Mexican and Indigenous populations, if you don’t know about the Chinese Exclusion Act then you do not know your very own history. When your taxes go to support government programs that only engender racial injustice you feel that loss in your pocket. When your ignorance causes people of color to avoid your presence you miss out on friendships and partnerships that could be world shattering. White supremacy and racism hurt you every day.

You are a woman and a lesbian. White supremacy has never meant to help you. You are a recent U.S. immigrant, white supremacy does not want you here. When you ignore that racism is implicit in homophobia, racism, sexism, and classism you are hurting yourself all over again. Racism is very clever. When you fight for your right to love whomever you want but forget that women of color have fought for this very right you end up hurting yourself. When you choose not to fight racism because you have the privilege of not addressing it every day you ignore that the goals of white supremacy are as much about eradicating women's rights as they are about eradicating the rights and lives of people of color.

Yes, racism is an overwhelming concept. When we realize at 20, 30, or 70 that we have lived an unexamined life it can be disturbing to have to learn our history all over again. It is not unusual for white people to grieve the lost time, I certainly have. I can understand the appeal of sitting in ignorance. As long as you do not know how hurt you are, as long as you do not look at the actions of your ancestors than you are not burdened with responsibility. All that responsibility can be terrifying. But you are not alone in fighting against racism, there are many people dedicating their lives to it. When you choose ignorance (and yes it is a choice), you are hurting yourself and your children. When you chose not to act because of the amount of work that must be done you diminish the work of all those around you who choose action in the face of white supremacy. In the words of Damali Ayo “Truth be told, if white people really wanted to end racism, they would. White people are very smart. You’ve come up with some of the world’s most notable inventions. Racism is only one of these. No one is better qualified to dismantle it. Unless, of course, you decide you’d rather keep it.”

It is our choice. The size and extreme ignorance we’re up against are nothing in comparison to our hearts and minds. The comfortable ignorance we leave behind is nothing compared to the friends and information we will be making on our journey. It is your choice.

*OK, I know that there are people of color in Europe and that non-English speaking immigrants are discriminated against in the US. I know that skin-color hierarchies exist in a lot of countries and that even watching a film from India it is unlikely to see a racial mix of people. But this was in the middle of a discussion and I…you know…I stumbled.

disTHIS!: more thoughts on disability

Last Wednesday I attended the disTHIS! film series. It provoked quite a reaction from me. I started trying to blog about this on Wednesday evening, but found that I kept rambling. The films and the setting and the fellow movie-watchers invoked so many responses that I had to keep editing my writing! At any rate, here is my account of the night:

I arrived a bit early and sat in the corner reading my book and trying to resist the urge to buy a drink. The coordinator (?) of the night, a very kind man who later on proved to be both witty and very well versed in his film knowledge, came up to me and introduced himself asking how I had heard of the film series. I told him I had heard about it through blogs and that I was a transgender blogger who often writes about disability and links to disability blogs. He encouraged me to stick around for the Q & A and left me to my book (which is the amazing Dorothy Roberts’ killing the black body).

The lights in the room were very low though so I stopped reading and started people watching. People watching quickly turned into body watching as more and more diverse bodies entered the room: traditional college-age students, elderly people, Black, Brown, and white folks, people wheeling in and walking in, a few guide dogs, and a good split of men and women. Looking at all of these people I felt incredibly relaxed and comfortable. As one of the panelists would say later in the evening “finally not everybody is looking at me”. While being transgender or developmentally disabled or Brown or female aren’t identities that arise from the same historical precedents, they all can share the bodily identity of standing out in a white supremacist hetero-patriarchal (ableist) capitalist culture.

My partner tends to teases me about the amount of reading and writing I do related to disability. Whenever I suggest a movie or theatre event that discusses disability she’ll bemoan having to see more of “my crips”. So tonight I was wondering if she would be uncomfortable in a room filled with such varying bodies, or if she, like me, would feel much more comfortable. I ask this partially because since we came together I have made an effort to ensure that no event I invite her too will be completely white. This may sound a whole lot easier than it truly is, especially if like me you are a white person who works in a largely white space and graduated from a largely white college. My network of friends tends to stay white simply because of the spaces I navigated in the past. Now being white doesn’t make someone a bad person, it just sets up more barriers and can cause more initial discomfort. On her part, my partner tries to ensure a gender-aware mix of friends to avoid all the ridiculous questions I get.

Tonight, in a room filled with people with disabilities I felt even more relaxed than in an LGBT scene. My body began to feel normative and sexy. I look at all these other bodies – bodies that are not supposed to exist, bodies that are viewed as freakish, unnatural, unsexy (or nonsexual), and felt very confident. This is not that I looked at other bodies and thought “oh, well at least I don’t look like that” but instead a feeling of “look at all these beautiful people, they look a lot like me”. The ways that I have had to negotiate my body, everything from buying clothes to having sex, are similar negotiations for the people in this audience. Some of the panelists who born with a physical disability even used the gay “coming out” terminology to refer to the time when they accepted and embraced their identity.

There’s a possibility here that the important differences between disabilities and other identities can be ignored in this “we are the world” homogeneity. The man who is HIV + is experiencing something very different than the person with fibromyalgia. When I claim disability I certainly don’t want to diminish the importance of the tremendous differences between various disabilities, if anything I want to highlight them. Gaging by the amazing array of disability identity presented in the films that is the goal of the creators of disTHIS! as well.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Disability Identity: Why I am a (sometimes) ally

This is my entry for the Disability Blog Carnival. It's not exactly what i wanted (I think maybe it gives disability organizing mad props even when we all know there are some issues) but ce la vie. Anyway, it's spurred by the constant questioning of able bodied people.

One more voice is always a good thing. One more person listening and responding, celebrating and giving, one more person fighting is always needed. I ally to disability rights movements because I am a sometimes member of this various, growing, important, and diverse community. I ally because disability activists directly impact the movements that I hold dear – queer rights, feminism, anti-racism, and environmentalism. I ally because I see my freedom wrapped in the freedom of disability rights.

For as long there have been people labeled as mad, or freakish, or unfortunate, there have been communities actively trying to find truth and beauty in these forced labels. Trying to find a community to be proud of and into which they can dig deep roots. But too often able-bodied media analysts and medical professionals view disability through a completely physical lens and loose track of the individual lives and stories associated with the bodies who become numbers and statistics before them.

The communities I most identify with – outside of the monolithic, unnamed, and ethereal white (non)community – are the queer and specifically transgender communities. We are on the perpetual outside of disability identities, our participation in regard to communities of disabilities changes based upon what state we live in, who composes our local disability groups, and how we personally identify. So we are on the margins of disability, and we can choose to enter at specific points in time although these choices run the risk of claiming an identity we might not fully understand or appreciate.

I ally with Disability Community(ies) and I claim and explain a mental disability identity, and the physical aspects of transgender identity because I can see how close our struggles are and how easily cigender and able-bodied peoples dismiss our cultures and sense of self. Our art, theatre, writing, and familial units are viewed as secondary to “normative” culture. We are told both that our work is only given credit because of it’s subject matter and that we should keep our identities from our art and activism, that the identities and communities that form our world view diminish our art and activism.

When I claim the right to identify as transgender and when I claim the personal knowledge of what is best for my body, when any changes should happen, who should touch it (and how), and into what spaces my body should go I am depending on the voices of so many people who have gone before me. Feminist movements that began to talk about the body as a real ground for political struggle, womanist movements that complicated choice by claiming the right to have children if and when they wanted, the writings and struggles of so many women of color to ensure that their bodies were not touched when they should not be touched. Movements of Black Pride, Chicana Pride, Asian Pride that promoted self-love and respect among communities who were always told they were undesirable. Gay Civil Rights, Queer Rights, and Sex Worker Rights movements that complicated the issues of body and sex by demanding that in all consensual relationships no one outside of the relationship could determine who or how we should love and that certain bodies are not less deserving of protection or respect than other bodies because of how we make a living or who we come home to.

Of course civil rights movements and feminism had already said that. All of these movements feed each other and enrich each other. They come back to a very particular bodily identity: no one has the right to tell me how to use my body, when or if I can have children, how I can have sex, and who with, and nobody can tell me that inadequate medical care that does not consider my condition or current medical discontent to be pressing is acceptable.

All of these ideas are prevalent in Disability Rights discourse. The modern practice of disability rights comes from all these movements and coalesces in an intersection of understanding. Not always, not in every group or individual, but the people organizing and allying with modern disability rights organizations tend to be aware of the histories of previous movements. We have learned not to leave out the voices of people who may appear “promiscuous” – LGBT people with disabilities, disability activists fighting for the right for sex, sex workers with disabilities. We have learned that multiple identities don’t complicate our issues - they enlighten them. For the people on the margins of society are most often the people with the least access to health care and living in the most environmentally degraded neighborhoods. Women, people of color and immigrants, working classes, people in poverty, the homeless, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are all more likely to come into a disability identity. So intersecting and multiple voices are valued. Voices that make us aware that disability rights work must be fought in environmental and women’s movements, LGBT, and anti-racism movements. Disability is a multiple identity. It is this that gives our culture - the culture that I am allied to and sometimes a part of - it’s great richness. For often we are painted as being simply concerned about medical access or legal rights and very rarely are the cultural gifts of people with disabilities seen as desirable. All of us on bell hooks’s famous margins are balancing between the seriousness of demanding our rights and extreme joy of celebrating our communities.

We should always celebrate our communities – multiple and various that they are, intersecting and intertwining they are what give us the strength to be visible in a world that would rather not acknowledge us. Our communities and culture give us the rich framework of our struggle, and remind us that we are never alone. Our struggle may change playing fields and rhetoric, but our communities and our sense of self will always stay strong.

Amanda Morgan: BFA Photography Show!

This Tuesday is the opening reception of the BFA Candidate's Photography show at the Calumet Gallery near Union Square. The show is goign to have a reception from 6-8p.m. but the photographs will be up until May 17th so you can check them out during gallery hours. My partner is going to be displaying 15 photos. We spent all Saturday hanging the show so I hope to see people there. If you come you will certainly see me!

Click on the images for a close up. (Image Description: the top image is a photograph from the show, it shows a white hand laying on a bedspread. The two middle fingers are covered in blood. In the foreground is the leg of a Brown person, and in the background we can see the legs and feet of the person whose hand is centered. The second photo is the back of the promotional card, It reads "Amanda Morgan: photography/writing. Selections from: Mik, a portrait. May 6-17. Opening Reception Tuesday May 6th 6p.m.-8p.m. Calumet Gallery 22 W 22nd Street 2nd Floor. Monday-Friday 8:30a.m.-6:30PM Saturday 9a.m.-5p.m.")
On a personal note of someone who is not an art critic but who is involved with the artist, I think these photos are creating new narratives of sexuality and gender. I know I'm biased, but I think they're new and unusual images. I've never seen men depicted with so much softness and I've never seen people with female bodies being depicted so free from objectification. All the artists are going to be amazing, but I hope you'll be as excited by Amanda Morgan's work as I am! It'll make you think, which is always a good thing.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Calls for Submissions!!

One of the few concrete ally lessons I have ever been given is the importance of disseminating information. If you have insider information about a job, let people know. If you know the Dean of a college, introduce your friends to hir. If you know about a call for papers, tell the people whose voices need to be heard! Don't keep this information in circles of privilege. In light of that, here are three amazing opportunities to get written or artistic work out into the blogosphere or the published world of books. Two have deadlines of this weekend so I apologize for not getting these up sooner but I’ve been behind in my blog reading…

The Disability Activist Collective is taking submissions for a rolling blog carnival. Deadline is technically May 4th (although it sounds flexible) and entries from people with disabilities and allies are welcome. The subject is “Disability identity: what do you think?” focusing on “disability identity and culture in all its forms”. The carnival is open to poets, essayists, artists, and vlogers.

The Angry Black Woman has created a blog carnival for allies. Submissions of blog entries are due May 5th and should be written as one ally talking to another ally. “Self-identified allies write to other people like themselves about why this or that oppression and prejudice is wrong. Why they are allies.” Open to all forms of allies.

Finally, found on the Questioning Transphobia blog, a call for papers for the anthology “Feminism For Freaks”! They are seeking academic, non-fiction, and creative written work that “affirm the voices of socially excluded people, that seek to create new and exciting knowledge and address themselves to feminist theory and activism or the wider culture”. An abstract of up to 250 words is due by May 31st.

Good luck with your entries!