Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New York City Inspires Me

This is a photograph taken of a NYC light pole. Surrounded by other stickers and posters, a bright yellow sticker reads: "OBAMA McCAIN FREE LEONARD PELTIER".

I saw this in early March and had been meaning to post it for a while. This was taken on a week when I had a friend in town from Chicago Showing him the city made me fall in love with it all over again. I promised I'd never become a New York-Essentialist (someone who believes NYC is better than any other place) and I haven't. But I do love New York.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Transgender Voices & Visibility: Naked on the Inside

This Saturday an incredible event will be occurring at my new work site! Transgender Voices & Visibility, a series I began in March with performance artist Sassafras Lowrey will repeat with a screening of the movie Naked on the Inside.

I saw the Manhattan premier of the film at disTHIS! and was amazed at how (surprisingly) non-cheesy it was! A documentary that asks six people to talk about their bodies could easily become overly self-reflective and pedantic. But not this documentary. Naked on the Inside manages to remain elusive of any over-arching theme on unity. We see six people struggling/past struggling to align their bodies with their spirits. An honest conversation begins about why this disconnection exists in the first place and subjects touch on religion, family, geography, race, and media representations. It's nothing new, but it is a different and dignified approach.

So come out to Bay Shore this Saturday!! 7-10pm at the Community Center. We'll have some refreshments and a wonderful Q & A hosted by Lawrence Carter-Long, Director of Advocacy for the Disabilities Network of NYC. I've been trying to upload the pdf but no luck just yet...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Transracial Abduction

In my perpetual search for organizations or individuals who embody the practices I wish to embody I stumbled upon this website, Confluere. Listed are some of the most amazing activists and educators I have ever heard of!

Of note, is Kim So Yung, the founder of Transracial Abductees a group that organizes around identities as abducted children from families that are not white. Now, most people would refer to this as adoption but So Yung seeks to call out the unequal power structures and the inherent colonialism & racism present in the adoption process by re-labeling it "abduction".

Reading her website I immediately remembered Jane Jeung Trenka's award-winning The Language of Blood that I read last year. In it I experienced the first adoption story that felt authentic and real - her story is complicated, and she expresses her story with amazing fairness and honesty. Jeung Trenka's writing illuminated for me the horrifying paradox of transracial adoption, that it is clearly a direct result of Western imperialism and to an extent the aide that the West gives to "allies" such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Jeung Trenka's book - like So Yung's website - addresses issues of multiple oppression. An incredibly documented account of stalking can be seen within the constructed identities of being an adopted Korean woman in the Midwest, as well as the more "traditional" SingleWhiteFemale narrative that is often given to stalking narratives. So Yung dissects the religious persecution, ableism, and sexual discrimination of the adoption/abduction process as well.

This book and website are especially illuminating for me as far too many couples who are unable to conceive biologically or unwilling to wait longer/pay more for a racially appropriate child turn to Latin America, Asia, and now Africa for their nuclear families. Within white LGB couples this is a specific and pervasive problem. Even at my Community Center there is a sickening group called "You Gotta Believe" teaching parents how to manipulate the foster care system to gain access to children from drastically differ net racial and/or national backgrounds and the checks that come with them. On our website smiling Black and Brown toddlers smile between their white mommies or daddies...but we never see these families as the children age. True, many things may result in these families not returning to the Center, but I believe the Whiteness of this Center and our affiliation with their inappropriate abduction/adoption could be a strong reason why the children show no interest in returning.

While I'm criticizing the squadrons of white LGB couples who adopt outside their ethnicity and race I should acknowledge that adoption is a persistent issue in my life as well. Should my partner and I ever decide that we're mature enough and stable enough to have children (which I don't foresee happening) my partner and I would have to look outside the automatically assumed means of having children. I have no statement about what we might pursue, but adoption has been on the table of options in the past. Which is probably what separates us in general: we have options.

Writing all of this, I must add that I know of friends who were adopted into families that were aware of the power inequality and made their child aware of their differences and identities by including adults of similar backgrounds in their lives, reading complex accounts of adoption/abduction and not trying to patronize a child's real experiences with difference. I have close friends who have spoken of the deep love between themselves and their families and I have come to recognize this as the direct result of dialogue around power structures and identity. But when a child is taught that they are no different from their parents then instances of racism and colonialism are inexplicable and surprising to a child who is never taught that their perceived differences are indeed real.

Turning again to So Yung's website she addresses this disparity in a section on adoption/abduction books. At the very end of the section she explores "Animal Stories" the tales of the chipmunk family that raises a baby bear only to have the bear search for her bear family. Of course when baby bear tries to live with the bears she finds out she doesn't fit in so she happily returns to her chipmunk family. However, as So Yung notes, in real life these books do not make a child happy to be different from his/her/hir guardians:
"I read books like this when I was little. I guess they were supposed to make me feel like the "chipmunks" were my real family who loved and accepted me even though I was a freakish "bear," instead they made me feel like I didn't belong anyplace at all."