Saturday, January 30, 2010


In many ways I consider myself a skeptical liberal. 15 years in the clutches of religious fanaticism left me with a bad taste in my mouth for extreme following. Whenever I feel like I'm asked to muffle logic and intuition in order to be part of a group, I start backing towards the door.

Because of that, I've never felt like a single-issue voter. We are all multifaceted. I am not just a feminist voter, queer voter, urban voter, racial minority voter, etc. Weighing the economy with social progress sometimes means delaying one or the other. These are difficult decisions. (I choose not to be a politician because these issues are messy and exhausting...and I've lost some enthusiasm for/optimism in the political process. Mostly, I'm just fucking tired.)

In a microcosm, we make these decisions all the time. Can I pay down my debt this month or fix the transmission or get that root canal? Do I save money for my child's college tuition or do I pay for braces? And these are, in terms of survival (think: Haiti) very luxurious options. But they illustrate the age-old struggle of deciding which desired goods can be obtained with limited resources. More significantly, which cannot be obtained. So Taxes, the Economy, Jobs, Government Programs, Helping the Poor and Social Policy are not party-line black and white in my mind.

Recently a few things have set my non-single-issue stance on its moderate ear.

Exhibit 1
A couple of weeks ago a transgendered woman, Myra Ical, was murdered in Houston and her body dumped. The Houston Police Department sent the story to the media in a way that makes me want to wring my hands and somebody's neck. The Chronicle's initial story: (subsequent stories were more respectful after the community outrage that prompted a vigil/protest)

Police are trying to determine why a man was killed and left half-naked in a field known to police as a hangout for prostitutes and drug users near the Montrose area.

Ruben Dario Ical, 51, of Houston, who also went by the name of Myra Chanel Ical, was found dead in the 4300 block of Garrott about 2 p.m. Jan. 10, police said.

He had numerous bruises and defensive wounds, as if he had struggled against his attacker. He was partially clothed.

Police said that the area where Ical's body was discovered is a well-known spot where homeless people camp and is frequented by prostitutes and drug users.

First of all, jesusfuckingchrist, it's an established practice to refer to a transgendered person by the gender with which they identify themselves. You can say, if necessary, that she was also known by her birth name but show minimal respect, assholes.

To compound that crime, they associated her death with the place where she was dumped, a "well-known spot where homeless people camp and is frequented by prostitutes and drug users." Well, shit. It's hard enough to get people to care about another death in a big city. Not to mention a transgendered person's death. Then, compound the insensitivity by insinuating that she was a prostitute/drug user and you know what happens? Nothing. NOTHING. Because people can tuck the tragedy away as just the loss of another one of society's undesirables. Not a lovely, caring woman who fought like hell not to die.

Exhibit 2
Like many of you, I am both fascinated and annoyed by Facebook. Often at the same time. But the one way in which I must give the phenomena its due is the reconnection with far flung family members. Cousins, to be specific. I'm now aware of their children going to college, their homes being renovated and holidays shared...all with cousins that I haven't seen or talked to in years. And that my fellow-jaded readers is fanfuckingtastic.

Here is a partial exchange between my wonderful cousin, one of his commenters and me:
Posted by my cousin:
"A man and a woman together create a family where individuals of the same gender cannot create a family," said NH state rep. Jordan's Ulery. (AP) Seriously?

Friend of the cousin;
Why is it that a man cannot have an opinion? Just because we may not agree with it doesn't mean our opinion isn't as valid as his...Opinions do not threaten anything if you don't get offended. If Mr. Ulery said fat people cannot create a family, I wouldn't be offended. It's his opinion, my human rights would be affected? Seriously?

Opinions cannot threaten anything unless they get enacted into law or are used to prevent one group from having equal rights...Ah, there's the rub. Ulery's completely in his rights to have an opinion. And so is anyone else protesting that their human rights ARE affected if, as a lawmaker, he works to codify that opinion.
Now, I'm not trying to pick on my cousin's friend. She is probably a lovely person and perhaps just playing devil's advocate. Besides her simile is weak and an easy target. But since she gives voice to the opinions of so many people, I felt the need to jump in.

You'd better believe that if anyone (in politics or not) advocated that "fat people" could not create families, it would produce a ground-shaking response from our overly-sated population taking to the streets. And as absurd as it sounds, if that notion moved towards law there would, and should, be an uproar. This particular discrimination, however, is not a real threat to the full-figured. (They deal with plenty of other irritating types of discrimination, though. And I'm not just Speaker for the Extra-Larges, I'm also a client.)

The point is, of course, that when a lawmaker says, this group...this group of "others" is not to be given credibility, respect or protection, his "opinion" can morph into legislation that discriminates. And that, my queer and non-queer friends, pisses me off.

Exhibit 3
In his State of the Union, Obama looked into the surly faces of the military brass and said, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is going away. High fucking time. Is there anyone out there that doesn't understand the logical and constitutional cluster-fuck that is DADT? That's rhetorical, obviously there are hordes of ignorami.

If I said, You can stand in front of me, protect me and even take a bullet for me but you can't tell anyone you're a Christian, most people would sprain their middle finger tendon shooting me the bird. And rightly so.

But we, as a nation, have no problem saying to thousands of soldiers, Look, you can sacrifice your life for your country but you'll need to offer that priceless gift in silence. If you want to Die for Us, you gotta Lie to Us.

End of the Exhibits
No, it actually wasn't these three experiences that pushed me here. They were the proverbial straws.

So here it is: if you vote against same-sex rights, you vote against me.

I may love you as family or friend but now (and always) it's personal. And I'm not proposing that friendship with me is the brass ring. I don't expect want of my friendship to topple organizations or cause wholesale apostasy (though, that would be sweet, wouldn't it?) I'm just saying that I view friendship as powerful and rare, each person's gift to give or not to give. I'm no longer giving on this one. This, by the way, is how I feel about racial bigotry and all the other ignorant attitudes used to discriminate against anyone swimming outside the mainstream.

You can no longer count me as your friend if you are an active part of a
  • church,
  • party,
  • civic association or
  • club, etc.
that works to deny me
  • the right to marry my partner of 23 years,
  • the right to teach outside the closet,
  • the right to serve my country openly,
  • the opportunity to foster or adopt children,
  • Social Security benefits if I lose my spouse,
  • spousal rights in hospitals and emergency rooms,
  • the right to raise my children without fear of losing custody of them,
  • general legal equity as an openly queer citizen,
  • etc., ad nauseum
and you quietly acquiesce.

The government demands and receives my taxes. Civic organizations appreciate my patronage. My community expects me to fulfill neighborhood obligations. Charitable and political groups ask for donations of time and money. And then I'm told: but you don't get to have the same rights. Enough. It is political and it is personal. This is my life and if you love me, you will not silently condone this bigotry in your church or party or organization or community or family and get to call me friend.


e. said...

my darling sister epiphenita. my sister in arms.... i am so on board with this. i find myself questioning so many people in my life. people who are VERY close to me.... who would vote for politicians who work against me. as always, you've put down in words (so eloquently, i might add) what i so often feel.

Epiphenita said...

Your words were part of the catalyst, too, Eric. I remember your patience growing thin on this issue and how it resonated with my own sense of frustration. It is so good to have you in my life!

StevensVox said...
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