Butchwear!

I just need to share some good and happy news with y’all.

My sweetie just bought me these Thai fisherman pants! I am so excited and I can’t wait for them to arrive. I found them by following a series of links left in replies to my original posts about what to wear as a butch midwife. Honestly, I can’t imagine a lightweight pair of pants more suited to midwifery work in Austin in the summer, let alone their appeal to my soft-butch heart. Classy and professional while not being girly at all. Found ’em over at this lovely shop on Etsy.

Of course, it would never do to wear these pants with that beautiful vest I still need to make for myself. The thought alone makes me giggle at the ridiculousness. But I’m thrilled and so pleased to be continuing to add items of clothing to my collection that I feel comfortable and at home in within a professional environment. Items that let me be visible as my butch self as well as the type of midwifery student I want to portray to clients and colleagues.

P.S. I’m finally getting around to reading Butch is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman and it is changing my life. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to pick up a copy of this incredible and very important book.

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Fighting for racial justice IS queer

Mia Mingus is amazing and if you don’t know who she is, you should definitely go and check her out. She is “a queer disabled woman of color korean american transracial and transnational adoptee working, creating and loving towards wholeness and connection, love and liberation” and one kick-ass activist.

Her recent blog post “Intersectionality” is a Big Fancy Word for my Life pares down the keynote address she recently gave at MBLGTACC 2010. I think I’m in love. Listen.

We have to confront white supremacy within LGBT and Queer communities.  A queer politic MUST include solidarity with people of color; it MUST include fighting racism and white supremacy.  Because we aren’t queer OR people of color; queer OR white; queer OR able bodied; queer OR working class.  We can’t just decide to come together as queer people and expect that we are all going to be united and work together—or that we’ll even feel comfortable.

We must be willing to have hard conversations as queer people with each other about how we are different as queer people.  It helps us to expand what “queerness” is—to see that there are many different ways to be queer.

This talk about intersectionality is my kind of politics. The more I move out in the world, the more I realize that thinking in this way is part of a radical politic. Also, the more I grow the more I know without a doubt how absolutely necessary this kind of thinking is.

Racism and white supremacy are so pervasive, that we don’t even have to be consciously or intentionally doing anything to participate in them.  It’s in the air we breathe; it’s how the machine rolls; it’s the default.  It’s backed by everything in our society.  That’s the thing about oppression, power and privilege: unless you are actively challenging it, you are colluding with it. We live in a heterosexist society, we live in an ableist society and we all have a responsibility to actively work against it. We can’t guarantee that things won’t be ableist or won’t be racist (that’s not the world we live in right now); but we CAN guarantee that when there is racism, when there is ableism, that we will do something about it.  We will LISTEN to those most impacted; we will listen to people of color, we will listen to disabled folks; we will listen to trans folks; we will listen to queer disabled people of color—and hear them.  We can guarantee that we will act and communicate with each other.  And maybe we will make mistakes; and we will learn from them.

There is no such thing as neutrality.  If you have privilege, you can never be neutral, because you are constantly benefiting off of that privilege—even at the same time as you are also being oppressed. That is what “intersectionality” (for lack of a better word) is about.  It is about moving beyond single-issue politics; it’s about understanding the complexities of our lives.  It is understanding that fighting for racial justice IS queer; fighting for disability justice IS queer.

Intersectionality informs the type of student midwife I am and the type of midwife I hope to be. How can we wake the birth community up to the necessity of this expansive way of thinking?

Dyke

I got a haircut the other day at a student salon because I am a poor midwifery student. I went in with the intention of getting a stylish, short hair cut a la Natalie Portman. Instead, I got a very very very short haircut that looks like someone gave me a buzz cut. I look very much like the hair I had after I was growing out my shaved head in high school. I’m getting used to it. It’s not so much that I don’t like my new hair as much as it’s not at all what I asked for. I also find myself almost unconsciously preparing myself for unfriendly remarks – probably because that was my experience when I last had hair like this.

What is it about a haircut that gives people permission to violate your sense of self and safety? Today I was called a dyke for the first time since high school. I could see it coming a mile away. Parking our car outside of our tiny apartment, I could see the two guys across the street staring at me. They were about my age and lounging against the side of their car, enjoying the rare Maine sunshine like any sensible person would be doing today. I glanced over, they were still staring. I got out of my car to their laughter, and then one of them calls out, “Dyke.” I ignore them and keep walking.

On the scale of harassment, this is a pretty minor offense. I’ve had people do things that actually scared me and made me worried about my safety – I’ve had people follow me for blocks at midnight in a neighborhood where it was commonplace to beat up queers, I’ve had people corner me on public transportation and say things to me that were so dirty and disgusting I would never repeat it to anyone else. All in all, I count myself extremely lucky. No one has ever hurt me physically, and what queer person hasn’t these things or much much worse done to them? Still, I say to myself, this should not be a commonplace experience. It should not be my experience. I should not have to steel myself against these sorts of intrusions when I am in public spaces.

There’s something about the word dyke, though, that I can’t let go. It ricochets me right back into high school and a whole separate world of rules. I have since worked hard to reclaim that word for myself – preferring it as a term to describe myself over all others, even enjoying at times the momentary looks of shock when I describe myself as a dyke to people who never hear that term used in polite company. But in high school, it cut deep. It immobilized me. Unlike now when I hear that word verbally hurled at me and I keep walking, more aware of my surroundings perhaps, but essentially unfazed. In high school, though, I couldn’t. Senior year I had a girlfriend and I couldn’t be anywhere on campus without being called a dyke and being told that I was going to hell (oh the creativity of high schoolers). At that time, I was a loud vocal opponent against anything I perceived to be racist or sexist (I have since learned the subtle art of nuance and a whole lot more about the actual manifestations of racism and sexism in our daily lives), but when it came to standing up for myself or other queers I was paralyzed. It cut too deep to the bone, I couldn’t say or do anything. Plus, there was the phenomenon of the power of anonymity where the only people who said nasty things to me were nameless people I didn’t know and couldn’t track down again. In my small high school, no one I knew ever said anything derogatory to me (even those I knew did not approve of my queerness), only folks from other classes who didn’t know me.

So I’ll keep trucking, but I can’t say I’m thrilled about this latest development. But I am pleased that I don’t feel as powerless and paralyzed as I used to. And looking on the bright side, I can always channel that anger into something positive – like continuing to queer up midwifery. Because what else is a dyke to do?

Marriage

The day Prop 8 passed in California, I found myself at a protest march in Long Beach marching with hundreds of other grieving and dismayed Californians. Today I find myself living in Maine after a similar vote on One, again dismayed and grieving. It seems Mainers come from a different breed than Californians. There are no riot police yet, no promised protest marches that will shut down traffic in Portland. There was one very mild mannered and New-England-polite round of speeches held at city hall that I attended with L. today.

I am still baffled by the right of the majority to remove the rights of the minority. If we had put it to a popular vote, I doubt the Lovings would have been allowed to get married either. It baffles me that at the rally today I listened to a man tell me I was not being “Jesus-like” because I was for gay marriage. I refrained from telling him that I didn’t think that hatred and discrimination was a very Christ-like characteristic at all. What does it mean when the American citizens of 31 states have rejected a basic human right for me and my fellow queers? (And if you think it’s just about the right to a piece of paper, think again.)

If  you have time, make your way over to Cat Chapin-Bishop’s blog for a moving guest post about one man’s view of defending marriage. He has the best idea I’ve heard all day:

The way to save our marriage would have been to take all that money spent on anti-gay television ads, and give it instead to cancer research.

At the protest marches in Long Beach, my favorite protest sign said “Gays 0, Chickens 1” (for an overview of Prop 2 and the chickens go here). Somehow I feel like the chickens have won again.