Pass the Potatoes. Bitch.

Ah, the Holidays™.  That special time of year that we spend way too much money on, eat far more food than we should, and remember why we don’t visit our families that much.  Everyone has a Holiday tradition; watch certain shows, open presents at a certain time, gather at someones house, drink yourself into oblivion, you know, the things that make this time of year the most fun.

Many of us don’t celebrate the way we used to, especially when it comes to family.  Being a member of the LGBTQ community, especially someplace like Oklahoma, means that you probably have more than a few relatives who despise your very existence.  Okay, to be fair, everyone has a relative they hate, isn’t that right Aunt Grace…you hypocritical religious loon.  However, many of us have lost our families through coming out.  We aren’t allowed home, we can’t visit the relatives who still love and care for us, and we aren’t missed at the dinner table.

The holidays can be incredibly brutal for all people, not just LGBTQ.  It’s a season of family.  We want to eat together, tell stories, laugh, get each other gifts, catch up on old times, welcome new people into our lives.  All too often, there are people who have the Holidays mean nothing more than a broken heart and a quiet home.  People have moved away, passed on, or in those terrible instances, disowned each other.  The time of the year you should be with people you love, you spend it alone, or with a bottle, maybe even some of the other lonely people at the bar.

I have a recommendation to help you out with that.

Get a new family.

 

No seriously, change what family means to you.  We all want to hug our mom’s and dad’s, but that can’t always happen.  My parents passed away a long time ago, even before I came out.  Many of us have been separated from our parents and found new ones.  What?  You think “Drag Mom’s” were just people who helped you chisel off the fourteen pounds of MAC eyeshadow?  No, they’ve become a caretaker for you.  They ask how you are, make sure you’re staying out of trouble, give out helpful life advice.  People go out and find surrogate parents to give them advice, the help guide them.  Some have friends that are far more loyal than any family member, or even dog (A good friend doesn’t mind when you have an accident on the rug.)

There are people all around you who should count as family. Those who have held you when you cried.  The ones who brought you soup when you were sick.  Someone drove you home from the dentist, didn’t they?  You have friends that have helped you move, given advice, held your hair when you yakked in the toilet after that horrible break up bender you went on (Thanks Larry!)  These are the people in your life you should be celebrating with!  They’ve stood by you through your worst behaviors, joined you in one too many bad decisions, chewed you out when you screwed up and disappointed them, and hooked you up when you were broke with no expectation of repayment.

In my life, I’ve had friends who have let me crash on their floor when I moved clear across the country to start a new life.  They’ve talked me out of bad decisions about my love life.  I’ve been given gifts as repayment not for one huge favor, but because of hundreds of little ones.  While I still wish I could be celebrating Christmas with my family, and maybe one day I’ll have one of my own, these people have filled that role.  Every year, we gather together to eat, watch each others favorite Christmas movies and cartoons.  We scamper about buying or even making presents for each other.  There’s lots of laughing, joking, and even new traditions born out of it that are fun!  Okay, in all honesty the whole five layers of duct tape around the boxes is annoying, Kali.  Stop it.  If I find out you did that, I’m covering your present in epoxy and then plaster.  Not kidding.  Like fiberglas resin covered boxes.

Family, isn’t blood, it’s love.  Family are the people who we forgive, support, and care for.  We sacrifice for them, we put ourselves out for them, we sit in awkward silences with them.  They’re the people who pull your current date to the side and give the “if you hurt them, I’ll hurt you,” speech, just like your mom or dad would.  When my apartment got robbed last month, my friends showed up within minutes of me telling them, even getting off work early to come comfort me and calm me down.  When my ex cheated on me and left me for that person, they sat up all night while I cried and raged, just to make sure I was okay.  This year, just like the year before, we’ll gather together on Christmas, exchange gifts with each other, drink the hot chocolate from scratch that I make, laugh, enjoy each others company, and be thankful we have each other.

 

This Holiday Season, make sure that you spend it with the people who are your family, not just your relatives.  That way, you don’t end up being all passive aggressive and angsty towards each other over the deviled eggs and punch.  Seriously, Aunt Grace, stop it, I can smell the bourbon on you from here.

 

A version of this article appeared in the December edition of The Gayly

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I Want Candy. But Chocolate will do just fine.

I’ve decided to try to be relevant and cash in some up to date page hits on my blog.  So let me just weigh in on this issue so that I can promote myself shamelessly.

What?  Is being transparent about my intentions that shocking?

 

Anyway.

So about a week ago,  C☆NDY magazine released a cover that featured  members of the transwoman community being PHAT.  You know, Pretty Hot and Tempting.

candy-cover-2

Let me be perfectly frank.  I would do each and every one of these ladies.  Yes, that is gross, disgusting, and objectifying.  But then, that’s how sexual attraction works.  Fine, I’ll throw in some cuddling and sweet conversations about puppies at the end of the fantasy.  Happy now?

Probably not.  Because a lot of people already aren’t.

This article  of course showed up on Advocate.com, critiquing it as being heteronormative (meaning straight acting), objectifying, reinforcing beauty standards, and not real activism.

Then this article  showed up critiquing the critique  as an attack on transgender women of color.

Of course my natural response to this is:

Remember kids!  When you sense drama: DUCK AND COVER!

Well, since my twitter account is at about 400 followers, that means that I am hereby required by Internet Participant by-Law 34…wait, 86…to participate.  Don’t look up rule 34, especially if you’re a fan of My Little Pony.  Just don’t.  Your childhood will thank you.

You looked up Rule 34 didn’t you?  I warned you.  You have no one to blame but yourself.

Well, now that you’ve washed your brain out with bleach, let me get on with this.  Firstly, yes, the cover is reinforcing standards of beauty…it’s a fucking fashion magazine.  If they got the frumpiest, soup sandwiched looking transgirl in the world for the cover, they would have spackled her with some MAC make-up, strapped on some steel belted Spanx, and sewed the the Johnny Choo’s onto her feet, and then pulled some fucking Industrial Light and Magic level photoshop to make her look like Kim Kardashian.  Hell, Kim Kardashian doesn’t even look like Kim Kardashian most of the time.

But seriously.  That’s a fashion magazine for ya.  Still not getting it?  Fine.

Untitled

Both of those are Tina Fey.  One is her in an airport, the other is…you guessed it A MAGAZINE COVER!  You see that’s how it works.  They glam you up to sell shit.  Because sexy works.  Now, we all know Tina Fey has done a lot for women in the entertainment industry, has made some brilliant satire of cultural expectations of women’s beauty and femininity, but there she is, all gussied up like a call girl from 1953.  Still, I’m sure someone is still angry.

Now, look.  Some of the criticism is valid.  I get it.  Yes, all of the women on the Candy cover are traditionally beautiful women.  But to say they aren’t activists is about damn stupid.  Just because they aren’t all testifying before Congress about ENDA, giving highly paid lectures at universities, or have been kicked off of every mainstream website because they pissed off the editors, doesn’t mean they aren’t activists.  Do you think marching in the streets and chanting with signs is the only way to be an activist?  You ever hear this story before?

Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.

And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.

 

That’s Nichelle Nichols talking about playing Lt. Uhura on Star Trek.  Martin Luther King, the go to guy when talking about activism in America, straight up said it to her.  “Your being on t.v., putting out a positive role model and image does just as much for us as marching on Selma does.”  You see…he got it.

Hell, this scene in The Heat of the Night did more for black actors in Hollywood than the invention of the camera:

In a media driven society, the images of our communities are the first ones people get.  You know how many people I deal with, who have never met a trans person in real life before me?  Lot’s.  Lot’s and lots.  Of course, where does their usual image of trans people come from?  If you guessed popular media, you guessed correctly!  Because I totally set that one up for you….  But you do realize that the old image of transwomen in the media was basically this:  crazy hookers, crazy killers, crazy drag queen hooker killers, and drag killer hooker queens.  That’s pretty much it.  I think probably the most positive media portrayal had to have been this:

That's a huuuge bitch.

Yeah.  John Lithgow in a wig.  It was that or the Crying Game for the first 70 years of trans media exposure.  Now you have Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Carmen Carerra, and those other women in that photo.  Seriously folks.  There were like seven other people on that cover.  Give them some love too.

But honestly.  When Laverne Cox gets on t.v. and makes us seem like deep, intricate people with her character on OitNB; when Janet Mock gets on t.v. and tells some reporter, “You know, there is like this whole person here that is wrapped around that vagina you keep focusing on.  I’m right here.”  They’re doing activism.

 

Honestly, most activism is stuff OTHER than writing spiteful Tumblers, and yelling at guest speakers on campus.  Activism is sitting down to talk to the head of H.R. about why they should cover hormone treatment, it’s talking to your co-workers about what to expect, it’s correcting accidental misgendering in casual conversation, things like that.  I have a friend who works in women’s reproductive health, and she will tell you bluntly, that the screamy-shouty activists do less for supporting her organization than the ones going around with a clip board collecting signatures.  Activism comes in all forms.  Additionally, it ignores all the times these people have given lectures, written articles, spoken at meetings, and performed “mainstream” activism.

Now I’ll be honest.  I would like to start seeing less “Mainstream Beauty” trans celebrities.  I want a dreadlocked and nose pierced black transwoman on tv.  I want to see a well….dreadlocked and nose pierced white transwoman on tv.  Okay fine, I like chicks with dreadlocks and nose piercings.  But you get my point; I want to see a greater diversity of body, personality, and culture type be presented.  Yet, I’m not going to shit on what I got.  If I want to see a transwoman who hates to wear lipstick, thinks Converse are the pinnacle of fashion, and is more about talking history books and dick jokes than clothes and glamour, then it’s on ME to get that person out there.  Me.  I’m talking about me.  I want to be a famous comedian and I really like my Chucks.

 

As for the racial aspect.  Shit.  Look, I don’t care who’s speaking for me as long as they are doing a good job of it.  They could be a handicapped albino transwoman.  I’m not going to steal anyone’s thunder.  Transwomen of color have a double whammy of having the uphill fight of being trans on TOP of the issues of being a racial minority.  There’s so much bullshit there I wouldn’t know where to start shoveling.  Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and all those other transwomen of color are doing a damn fine job of representing me as a person, so I’m not going to bitch about the job they are doing.

 

How Racism Against Black People Affects Me as a White Person (aka, this title is clickbait)

Clicked on this just to see if you were going to be pissed and angry or cheer me on because of my massive enlightenment didn’t ya?

 

Well, I know no matter what I say either one of those results will occur from someone.  I mean, you think everything someone says is supposed to agree with everyone else?  Are you stupid?  You’ve read my stuff before right?  You know I piss off everyone at some point.

 

Anyway, I guess since you are here, I might as well share my opinion since I suckered you into clicking on this.

 

Racism against black people does affect me as a white person.  Seriously, it does.  It doesn’t in the same way it would if I was black.  Duh.  Still, it plays a role in the society I live in.

You see, black Americans share something that I, a white American do.  It’s that word, American.  This is the country I live in, the society I interact with, the identity I am part of.  We share a part of a Venn Diagram that actually matters.  There are white people in Europe that probably have more in common with me personally that many black Americans do, but what does that actually matter?  They live on a different continent, different country, and probably speak a different language.  If someone was shitty to them, it probably doesn’t change my life all that much if at all.  There are black people in Africa that have shit happen to them that doesn’t matter to me, but there are black people in America that have shit happen to them that does.

America is the place where I buy my groceries from.  I park my car here.  I work here.  Europeans, Africans, East or South Asians don’t.  I have a vested interest in how the people who live in the same country as me are treated because it affects the life I live.  Does that sound selfish and a touch solipsistic?  You bet your ass it does, but it’s also socio-cultural anthropology 101 type stuff.  You see, I have a better chance of living a happy, productive, safe, and stable life if the people around me do.

I’m framing all of this through this particular prism, because there is absolutely no sane argument against it.  It doesn’t get into never ending arguments about privilege or appropriation.  There is no reliance on historical framework, what someone said or did somewhere else, debatable academic viewpoints on social or racial dynamics.  No arguments based on a half remembered college class or blogger buzzwords.  There is no discussion of positions of power or arguing from personal experience and bias.  When you bring those things into it, those abstracts and constructs, someone is going to get pissed off.  Even if you share the same goals and desire for the end result, someone is going to get pissy.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the internal workings of any social movement, be it feminism, racial civil rights, LGBT-rights, and you’ll see people who all want the same goal, equality, tearing each others throats out for not following the same school of thought.  Third Wave vs. Second Wave, Sex Positive vs….Prudes(?  Seriously, what do you call them?), Assimilationist vs. Segregationist.  Hell, Protestants and Catholics have hated each other so much they fought the most destructive war in Europe’s history till World War I happened (The Thirty Years War), and they believe in the same freaking God!

 

So no, no endless arguments about emotional abstracts, which kind of are impossible to win (because even if we end up agreeing about X, we might end up killing each other about Y).  Let’s keep this simple and disgustingly and dehumanizingly pragmatic.  If black people in America get treated shitty because of racism, it comes back around to me because I’m an American too.

If a black person isn’t given an opportunity to go to college because of their race, and they would become a brilliant doctor, better than the white one who will do my heart surgery, then I suffer from not having the best possible surgeon, just as an example.

If a black person isn’t hired because they are black and they are more qualified, then the employer we share suffers from under performance, or the goods and services I purchase are of lower quality.

When a black person is treated shitty by a cop because of his race, and because of that, he doesn’t become a cop, even though he is a moral and just man who loves a law abiding society, I stand a better chance of ending up with a an asshole cop.  This asshole cop then is shitty to more black people who turn entire communities of minorities into ones that are fearful, loathing, and distrustful of the police, which means they aren’t likely to cooperate with them to remove criminals from our society.

When black people are disproportionately punished by the legal system, it builds a criminal culture and loathing of the justice system.  It shatters families and ruins lives when the same offense by a white person is punished with probation.  Now a good person who made a mistake is in jail and I might end up with an asshole who thinks he’s above the law making me miserable.  Seriously people, it’s incredibly fucked up that a black guy will go to jail for years just for having a joint in their car, but some white kid who kills someone while driving drunk gets to go to rehab. It’s a gross miscarriage of justice.

When whole communities of black people are poor and forced into a cyclical system that perpetuates it, it creates a community that is hopeless, distrustful, and resentful of the society it is part of.  Those people then leave their communities and come around mine and in their desperation commit crimes against me.  And no, this really has nothing to do with race, it has to do with poverty, as poverty fuels crime, not race.  It’s just that a disproportionate amount of black people are poor because of racism, this means that the racist stereotype of all black people are criminals gets to endure.

Because that stereotype endures, I now have to deal with paranoid people who think they need a gun everywhere they go.  I get cops who think every brown person is a thug ready to fight it out, so they go straight to their guns.

When these minorities that I’m not a member of endure bigotry and hatred on a scale I can’t comprehend, it hurts me when I simply come from a place of ignorance and say or do something that can be taken poorly.  It’s then tossed into the racist or bigoted category when it was simply a miscommunication or ignorance.  Yes, this has happened to me.  It’s happened to everyone who has encountered a person who has put up with enough mean shit because of their race, gender, ability, sexuality, or whatever that they see others not like them as adversaries by default.  When you try to help, it can end up being seen as patronizing or appropriating; now you’re a scumbag, when all you wanted to do was help.  Now that you’re seen as a scumbag, you’re angry at them for treating you shitty, so now you don’t want to help them, meaning now you don’t want to have anything to do with them.  This creates a cycle of anger and apathy that keeps feeding on itself.

 

All of this and more creates an “Us vs Them” mentality and hurts the people I have to live and work with.  It drags my society down.  It makes my country a poorer, more dangerous, divided, and unhappier place to be.  I have a vested interest in seeing people of all types treated the same, not just because of moral reasons (which easily change from person to person and society to society), but for grossly pragmatic reasons of self interest.

We can now commence with the abstract debates about how this makes you feel and how we should implement a resolution to this, that inevitably leave someone with a variable level of butthurt.

 

 

See why no one likes pragmatism?  No matter what, you’re gonna sound like an asshole.