Friday, November 30, 2007

fat and unhealthy are not synonymous

I recently found Shapely Prose, a great blog on fat acceptance. In one post, she outlines ten principles on health and fat that everyone should read--namely that the two are not synonymous. (Note: I copy and pasted this from her site, so the links are not working. If you want to access one of the hyperlinks below, view the post from its actual source)

1. Weight itself is not a health problem, except in the most extreme cases (i.e., being underweight or so fat you’re immobilized). In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events, and some studies have shown that fat can protect against “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Yeah, you read that right: even the goddamned diabetes. Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get fat for our health (which we wouldn’t be able to do anyway, because no one knows how to make a naturally thin person fat any more than they know how to make a naturally fat person thin; see point 4), but I’m definitely saying obesity research is turning up surprising information all the time — much of which goes ignored by the media — and people who give a damn about critical thinking would be foolish to accept the party line on fat. Just because you’ve heard over and over and over that fat! kills! doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means that people in this culture really love saying it.

2. Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle do cause health problems, in people of all sizes. This is why it’s so fucking crucial to separate the concept of “obesity” from “eating crap and not exercising.” The two are simply not synonymous — not even close — and it’s not only incredibly offensive but dangerous for thin people to keep pretending that they are. There are thin people who eat crap and don’t exercise — and are thus putting their health at risk — and there are fat people who treat their bodies very well but remain fat. Really truly.

3. What’s more, those groups do not represent anomalies; no one has proven that fat people generally eat more or exercise less than thin people. Period. And believe me, they’ve tried. (Gina Kolata’s new book, Rethinking Thin, is an outstanding source for more on that point.)

4. Diets don’t work. No, really, not even if you don’t call them diets. If you want to tell me about how YOUR diet totally worked, do me a favor and wait until you’ve kept all the weight off for five years. Not one year, not four years, five years. And if you’ve kept it off for that long, congratulations. You’re literally a freak of nature.

5. Given that diets don’t work in the long-term for the vast, vast majority of people, even if obesity in and of itself were a health crisis, how the fuck would you propose we solve it?

6. Most fat people have already dieted repeatedly. And sadly, it’s likely that the dieting will cause them more health problems than the fat.

7. Human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Fat people are human beings.

8. Even fat people who are unhealthy still deserve dignity and respect. Still human beings. See how that works?

9. In any case, shaming teh fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t fucking help. If shame made people thin, there wouldn’t be a fat person in this country, trust me. I wish I could remember who said this, ’cause it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You cannot hate people for their own good.”

10. If you scratch an article on the obesity! crisis! you will almost always find a press release from a company that’s developing a weight loss drug — or from a “research group” that’s funded by such companies.

So let’s just be clear that if you want to tell me fat people are disgusting and unhealthy in comments, all I’m gonna do is point you back to this post. And/or point you to other posts from my blog, or Junkfood Science, or one of my favorite fat bloggers, and/or bombard you with quotes from the aforementioned Gina Kolata, or Paul Campos, or J. Eric Oliver, or Michael Gard and Jan Wright, or Glenn Gaesser, or Marilyn Wann, or Laura Fraser. Seriously, you don’t even want to get me fucking started.

Oh, also? BMI is complete horseshit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

nutritional fanaticism

I have been in a mental frenzy this week because my energy level is really low, I feel nauseated, my head hurts, my sleeping is off--so clearly I must have some sort of nutritional deficit. I frantically recall the last time I had my blood work done for this very reason (2 months ago), and before that (2 months ago), and before that (2 months ago)...and I could go on. Last week, I paid 5 medical bills. Yes, FIVE. I have the health care routine of a senior citizen. (By the way, every time I come out well and healthy)

So amidst my compulsive google searches and related inquiries, I finally stopped, took a moment, and asked myself, WHAT THE FUCK?

Hunter-gatherers and nomads and cave people did not have food pyramids, had no idea what a mineral was, did not have a continuous and well-rounded dietary repertoire, went through periods of famine and what not--and we somehow evolved into where we are today. Like Neanderthals were getting all of their omegas, and our brains continued to develop!

It really is a recent historical luxury and phenomenon that one can sit and contemplate how much B12 and vitamin fuck-me-in-the-ass one receives daily. I feel like this has created entirely new paradigms of health and wellness that never existed before.

I mean, really, life apparently went on for millions of years without daily supplements.

So I am repeating this to myself to placate my unrelenting concerns over my own physical health. The funny thing is that I am so sure that this is FINALLY it, I ACTUALLY have something really wrong--I have NEVER felt this way before. But after explaining my symptoms to Monika, she just replied casually, "You're nervous."

Bewildered, I ask her, "You feel these same XYZ symptoms?"

Again, "Yeah, when I'm nervous."

I think it is really hard for me to accept mental and emotional strain on the body--I am always searching for some physical or empirical reason for everything.

control control with more control

You know, it just gets my goat every time when I reflect on how, in order to cope with my obsession over control and related dysfunctional compulsions and behaviors, I have to exercise even MORE control.

I have to control my need to control. hahahahah. I have to control my out-of-control need to control. Even better.

What amuses me even more is that I have finally mastered the technique! Now every time I control my out-of-control control, I a) reflect on the irony, and b) wonder if I am ever really winning, since it is still all about control.

c'est la vie

why veganism? MEET YOUR MEAT

I realize that in a culture of sound bytes, 13 minutes may seem like an eternity. But please give this serious consideration. I cannot watch this without dry heaving and/or crying.

Interestingly, although this clip POIGNANTLY depicts animal cruelty and torture in egg and milk production, it still advocates vegetarianism as opposed to veganism. I suppose it's the political viability of baby steps...

Friday, November 23, 2007

UN mis-counts HIV cases by millions

U.N. Overstated H.I.V. Cases by Millions

Not like switching the numbers from 33.2 million from the 39.5 million changes the magnitude of the problem...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

This Thanksgiving (or taking), I am thankful that I can make simple choices to help animals

I think veganism is extremely admirable, and I am slowly decreasing my dependence on animal products (keyword: slowly. Healthy and happy life changes do not happen over night). Last night, I watched a documentary on Ingrid Newkirk (founder and president of PETA), and although we share some fundamental differences, her work is inspirational.

I believe that there are differences between humans and animals, and I also believe that humans should eat animals--but animals do have feelings and we should NOT torture animals in factory farms and submit them to cruel and unusual treatment, fear, and gruesome death.

After being traumatized by some footage of chicken/turkey factories, I have resolved to just say no to turkey, and am bringing some vegan treats to provide animal-friendly alternatives. (I know, me preparing food--very funny)

Red Bean Salad (protein alternative to turkey)

2 15 oz. cans red kidney beans
1 red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
olive oil
1 lemon, halved
fresh chopped parsley
fresh chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste
(I'm adding black beans to mine)

Drain and rinse the beans and place into a medium sized bowl. Add the onions, parsley and mint and toss. Drizzle olive oil over the ingredients in the bowl and squeeze half a lemon over the top. Toss to coat evenly. The beans should NOT be swimming in sauce, but should just be coated with the dressing.

Allow to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste; and if necessary, adjust the olive oil-lemon juice balance to suit your taste. Garnish with very thin slices of fresh lemon and mint sprigs.

This is a very refreshing summer salad!

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Vegan Oatmeal Banana Carob Cookies:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour (or if you prefer whole-wheat flour)
3/4 cup apple sauce
1 ripe, mashed banana (if the banana peel isn't spotted black, cover the mashed banana with the juice of a lemon for about 15 minutes before incorporating it into the mix)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon soy milk
2 1/2 cups oats
2 1/2 cups carob chips

Cooking tools:
Large bowl
Mixing spoon or spatula
Baking pan
Non-stick foil
Ice cream scooper/ or fingers :)

1. Heat oven to 375ยบ. Mix the sugars, flour and baking powder. One at a time add in the apple sauce, mashed banana, vanilla extract and soy milk. Mix with spatula in a figure-eight motion. While mixing, slowly add in the oats and then the chocolate chips.

2. The final batter should be a cookie dough-like texture. If it is too wet, add extra flour. Or if you prefer it to be extra sweet, add more carob chips!

3. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop the dough into round balls and then place on foil-lined pan. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes. When done, let cool for 10 minutes on a plate or wire rack. Voila!


Monday, November 19, 2007

2008 College Rankings

America's Best Colleges

Don't even ask what I am doing googling this in my spare time...

Inverse Reality: How Anti-Semitism Ensures Jewish Survival

“…In order to exist, slave morality always first needs a hostile external world; it needs, physiologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act at all—its action is fundamentally reaction.” Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Although anti-Semitism has exposed Jewish populations to socio-political oppression, forced conversions, and even death throughout the medieval and early modern worlds, the ultimate impact of anti-Jewish sentiment has ironically supported Jewish survival and identity. Segregation, expulsion, discrimination, and massacre have deeply impacted the Jewish psyche, prompting refuge and reflection among disparaged populations. These reactions have taken place in many forms and to varying degrees, but they have inevitably diversified, developed and revitalized the Jewish experience.

The precarious political backdrop of the medieval world cultivated animosity among the Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who, despite similar religious foundations, had contentious relationships with one another. As the Pope summoned a rallying and violent Christian insurgence to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslims, the crusaders themselves, a mob of ignorant commoners, could not tease apart the political objectives of Muslim conquest from the ingrained propaganda of Jewish deicide. Lacking the analytical skills to comprehend the Augustinian doctrine, which sought to preserve the Jews that they might bear witness to the second coming of Christ (p 105), the armed masses abandoned a war over land for a war over ideology, based on demonized perceptions of the Jewish collective. The unabashed Christian anti-Semitism of the first crusade lead to the deaths of approximately 5,000 Jews, whether directly killed by crusaders, or prompted to martyrdom as an alternative to massacre. In this case, Jewish refuge took the form of suicide when attempts to enact contractual protections as stipulated by secular rulers failed (p 106). As hopes of physical protection dwindled, Jews prayed and murdered themselves.

While this incident weakened Ashkenazic rabbinic learning, it stimulated a spiritual revival that immortalized the experience of the crusade in three major Hebrew chronicles and a variety of Hebrew liturgical poems. Thus, Jewish survivors were forced to reflect and “reevaluate their attitudes about Christians, their own religious face and their own self-image” and in the process, reinforced themselves in opposition to the “other.” Despite the causality of the devastation being the mere fact of Jewish identity, the crisis reinforced that identity instead of compromising it. Rekindling memories of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people emboldened a spiritual platform that chose death over Christianity (p 107), and in doing so, balanced the loss of life and Rhineland centers of rabbinic learning with explicit and romanticized ideals of repudiating Christianity at any cost, thus reinforcing their own psychological connections to Judaism. What is more, the crusade served as an impetus to convert rabbinic oral tradition into writing, therefore preserving rabbinic thought. It was the process of documentation by R. Solomon b. Isaac (Rashi) that lead him to prodigious biblical commentary, composition of the responsa (an independent Jewish legal tradition) and establishment of a critical school of Talmudic scholarship (p 113-114). In this way, Jewish culture continued to thrive and grow in light of, and in response to, the crusade of 1096.

Although configured as martyrdom in the first crusade, refuge took a very different form in response to the Spanish Inquisition, although some Jews did choose death over forced baptism. The Spanish Inquisition represented the apex of anti-Semitism, as Spanish Jewry was the oldest and largest Jewish community within the Christian world, and the only one (with the exception of a small English community) to be banished at once. Prior to the official expulsion, the massacres of 1391 bore witness to Jewish conversions measured in the thousands. Although many Jewish apostates would publicly rally against Judaism, historians cannot accurately gage the degree of sincere conversions, as many Jews continued to practice secretly, despite a pseudo-baptism (p 119). In fact, it is plausible that widespread conversions took place at a disingenuous level, because the threat of insincere conversos lead to the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The Inquisition marked the more literal practice of refuge, whereby 100,000 Jews immigrated to Portugal, Italy, North Africa, and Turkey.

Just as the crusade of 1096 had forced Jews to reconsider themselves in opposition to Christians, the Spanish Inquisition forced the expelled Jewry to reflect on “the ultimate meaning of Jewish existence and Jewish belief” and to question “where was God in their hour of need and what future could they expect as wandering, unwanted castoffs?” (p 127). Statesman, economist and philosopher Don Isaac Abravanel paralleled Jewish plight to parallel devastations in Jewish experiences, namely the destruction of the temple and the Exile. He called upon the Jewish legacy of divine intervention and traded his secular lifestyle with spiritually and religiosity, proclaiming the coming of the messiah (p 128). Former Portuguese converso Samuel Usque delivered a similar message. Premonitions of the messiah ran rampant among Jews and conversos alike, undoubtedly influenced by Christian apocalyptics, astrological events, the discovery of new lands, as well as the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (p 142). Despite other external factors, the impact of the Inquisition marked a thematic shift in Judaism, focusing on messianism and redemption, and underscoring reflections of sin and purity in the Jewish psyche.

Historiography as a means of post-Inquisition Jewish reflection gave way to mystical interpretations of reality that sought to explain Jewish suffering as the result of a pre-historical event (p 130). In this way, intellectual retrospect was replaced by a spiritual introspection to contextualize the Spanish Inquisition. As Spanish immigrants were welcomed into Ottoman lands, kabalistic scholarship developed in Salonika, Cairo, and Constantinople. Specifically, the town of Safed in the northern Galilee became a religious center for post-Inquisition Jewry, serving as a viable platform for the re-emergence of an empowered Jewish scholarship and culture. The “messianic fever” in Safed prompted passionate religious practices, including midnight prayer vigils, public fasting and ablutions, prayers at the graves of ancient sages, meetings of worship and spiritual meditation, all of which served to “reinforce a deeply felt sense of spiritual ecstasy and spiritual mission” in the region.

Through the incessant historical presence of xenophobia and Jewish hatred, the vilification of the Jew has served to reinforce Jewish identity and cultivate Jewish self-perception in relation to the “other.” The understanding of self through opposition against and separation from, operating in tandem with elevated panic and heightened crisis throughout medieval and early modern Europe, has forced refuge and reflection among Jews, diversifying and stimulating the Jewish identity. Forcing Jews to examine the causality of their plight, anti-Semitism provoked internal and spiritual revelation, as well as alternative modes of living, that ultimately fostered a Judaic evolution, placing Judaism in a constant state of stimulation and growth. Whether romanticizing the martyr, disingenuously converting to Christianity, or abandoning one’s home and livelihood, the Jewish people have internalized the urgency of survival. Anti-Semitic segregation and persecution have never allowed Jews to forget that they are in fact Jewish, and therefore Jewry must always consider and re-define what that means. The continuous reminder of self has engaged the Jewish identity, kindled its growth, and allowed Judaism to adapt and last throughout time. That is to say, Jewish survival is merely a reaction to anti-Semitism.

Source Cited:
Hallo, William and Ruderman, David. Heritage, Civilization and the Jews (Study Guide). United States of America: Prager Publishers

Sunday, November 18, 2007

a discussion of ecofeminism, its devaluation of women's work, female insubordation and complicity...and whatever else

Ecofeminism is dead-on in its alignment of female and environmental insubordination. Ynestra King boils it down like this in The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology:

  1. The building of Western industrial civilization in opposition to nature interacts dialectically with and reinforces the subjugation of women, because women are believed to be closer to nature. Therefore, ecofeminists take on the life struggle of all of nature as our own.
  2. Life on earth is an interconnected web, not a hierarchy. There is no natural hierarchy; human hierarchy is projected onto nature and then used to justify social domination. Therefore, ecofeminist theory seeks to show the connections between all forms of domination, including the domination of nonhuman nature, and the ecofeminist practice is necessarily anti-hierarchical.
  3. A healthy, balanced ecosystem, including human and nonhuman inhabitants, must maintain diversity. Ecologically, environmental simplification is as significant a problem as environmental pollution. Biological simplification, i.e., the wiping out of whole species, corresponds to reducing human diversity into faceless workers, or to the homogenization of taste and culture through mass consumer markets. Social life and natural life are literally simplified to the inorganic for the convenience of market society...
King goes on to say: In this way, nature became "other," something essentially different from the dominant, to be objectified and subordinated. Women, who are identified with nature, have been similarly objectified and subordinated in patriarchal society.

The nature/female dyad is profound, and ecofeminism (which extends far beyond the work of King), deserves socio-political recognition, to say the least. But, like everything else, it has holes.

To say that MAN has conquered nature and exploited/dominated natural resources to fill material needs through industrialization, technology, and capitalism, IS INHERENTLY ANTI-FEMINIST.

I hardly agree that women sit on the sidelines innocently as men devastate the earth for their own purposes. While politically without a voice, it is anti-feminist to devalue the contribution of women throughout history in reproducing the home and replicating social values that serve to perpetuate larger institutions and loci of power.

Just as wives of anti-Semitic Nazis in Germany nurtured the cause, propagated sentiments of hatred, sent their sons to Hitler's youth camps, sewed uniforms and cooked food, organized events and fund raisers, alienated Jewish neighbors, and turned them into Nazi authorities (and by extension, death camps), WOMEN HAVE BEEN COMPLICIT IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION BY REPRODUCING THE WORKER/CONQUERER AND REPLICATING THE HOME AS A SOCIAL INSTITUTION OF HETERO-NORMATIVE/PATRIARCHAL INDOCTRINATION.

Therefore, while women are aligned with nature, female insubordination is inherently different because women actively participate in their own oppression, and to deny that fact is to devalue the contributions of women in maintaining social order and industrial progress.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

taking up space

I am thinking about what it means for a woman to take up space in a context that idealizes female smallness. What are the implications of believing that your body must be confined to as little space as possible? Why is taking up space so offensive?

What about your physical being can be so detestable? If you think about it literally, becoming smaller--to the point of anti-health--is to disappear. Why do we worship an ideal that calls for female deterioration?

To impede female competition in the work force? That just seems too contrived.

I suppose if you believe in traditional femininity--you know, you are the counterpart to strength and protection, so you embody frailty and vulnerability--it makes sense that you should be physically worthless, because the very act of your health and strength over space usurps the territory of your protector.

I suppose if you are looking for someone to come around and make you happy, you should be weak so that you can make yourself available for rescue.

Just like a big tree has roots stretching far and wide, I feel like a strong person takes up room literally and figuratively. Confining development and existence, especially self-electing to do so, just sounds horribly self-deprecating.

This really does not resolve this phobia of taking up too much space.

I don't know how (normative) men feel about space. I would think they like to dominate it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

presidential forum on energy and global warming

To be held this Saturday in Los Angeles, the presidential forum on energy and global warming will be the first event to directly confront candidates on their green game plans.

Sponsored by Grist and Living on Earth, the event opens at 5:15 EST with a welcome note by Mayor Villaraigosa, and will allocate half an hour on stage for candidates to make clear their plans on handling the crisis of global warming. Out of all candidates running, only Kucinich, Clinton, and Edwards have committed.

You can watch it here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

when did you first become aware of your body?

I think this is an important discussion to have, specifically for women, to put into perspective the omnipresent imagery of the frail and sexualized female and its impact on young girls. I want to look back on my own life and think that since I was always really thin and ate as I pleased, I never really developed obsessive tendencies around exercise/food/the body until late high school. But a recent interview I underwent for just this topic jogged my memory and revealed the opposite--the foundation for obsession had long been in place, and I have been aware of my body and all of the regulations placed thereupon since around 6 years old, and possibly much younger.

A few moments stick out for me. I remember in first grade standing with a friend on the playground, and squating to show her how that position made my legs bulge out on the sides. I also remember jiggling my thighs in a humorous frenzy asking, "what is this?"

I distinctly remember being in third grade and very distraught that I weighed 57 pounds, instead of the 52-54 pound range that I deemed appropriate.

That same year, I would look look at my profile in the reflection of the classroom window and decide that my sway back pronounced my butt in a very favorable way.

I remember in 5th grade deciding that I should do 25 sit-ups every night.

Perhaps the most interesting of my memories is in the beginning of middle school, when I was too skinny to fit into teen clothes and, consequently, was still stuck in the kids section. I was distressed because everything was baggy on my frame--but at the same time, I was well aware that I did not have washboard abs. I would cry because I was too skinny for the tight jeans, but apparently not skinny enough for the right stomach.

About a year ago, I uncovered my sketchbook from my elementary years. In horror, I skimmed the pages, suddenly understanding the basis and future development of my skewed body image and warped ideals. The pages were filled with women--but they weren't really women; they were practically skeletons. Each drawing had severely structured cheekbones, shoulder bones, clavicle bones, and other rib-related indentations. But I remember the years I drew those women, and I was never intending to draw "thin" or "attractive" women--I was just drawing what I perceived as plain women. That was my image of a seemingly normal, everyday female: rail thin, big lips, long eyelashes, long hair, jutting bones, and low-cut clothing.

There is no point in asking how this could have happened to my little mind--how at such a young age, a very thin girl could come to understand that certain parts were just too big. It is quite obvious why my brain internalized this feminized propaganda--because it has been draped everywhere for so long that as a child, I thought such things were natural.

This is an important realization and provokes a lot of questions: how do we work with young children to offset harmful representations of reality? Perhaps more difficult, how do we offset these representations later in life, after they have already been ingrained?

I have some ideas, but those are for another time. I think that looking at the impact of feminine representations on children, and tracing those experiences to adulthood, really adds depth to discussions of "vanity". There is an extent to which concern for the external is superficial, but those concerns are complicated by the fact that they have been commingled with embedded notions of the "natural." Understanding the intersection of age and the "body issue" really exposes the magnitude of the problem.

After all, eating disorder recovery centers are being opened for children only to deal with the increasing percentages of bulimia and anorexia among 10-year-olds and the like. Even younger is not uncommon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

remember, remember, the 5th of November

I spent the last weekend at the University of Maryland at the first youth summit on global warming, Power Shift, and the largest gathering ever to be held on the issue.

I'm not kidding--6,000 people.

The weekend was filled with speakers, workshops, panelists and fun. Even Nancy Pelosi came to share her gratitude that we, like the founders of our country, are "great disrupters."

Then came Monday, the 5th--our lobby day with approximately 2,000 people, a rally, and most moving for me, congressional hearing on global warming.

Five youth leaders, one still in high school, testified before the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, ranging from demands for 5 million green jobs, 80% emissions reduction by 2050, and no new coal plants--to a personal account from an Eskimo girl on coastal erosion and dwindling subsistence foods--to articulating the disproportionate effects of environmental devastation on disenfranchised communities and communities of color.

I am so moved because I do believe that was has taken place is truly historic, and that this is a transformative moment in the green industrial revolution. I am so happy I got to be there.

teaching kids about global warming

The Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming (appointed by Nancy Pelosi) has a pretty nifty site, but what I appreciate most is the variety of links providing educational resources for kids on Global Warming.

The human collective has an obligation to raise a new generation of environmentally-sustainable youth. If we are ever to get our climate under control, we need to foster a new era of understanding and consideration.

For those caught up in years and even decades of habit, remembering to turn off lights, unplug electronics, recycle everything possible, bring your coffee thermos around with you, avoid one-time use items and the like may be a somewhat difficult transition. The easiest way to go green is to never learn any other way.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

house passes enda...well, at least an exclusionary version.

So ENDA passed--without an amendment protecting gender identity.

This is why I am pissed: if you are a sexual minority, but you still perform your heteronormative gender role, you can pass--unless it comes down to talking about a partner or bringing one to a company event. But the point is, you CAN pass.

The only sexual minorities that stick out like a sore thumb are those who are also gender benders in some way or another, to whatever degree. GENDER AND SEXUALITY GO HAND IN HAND, PEOPLE.

I am a bit at a loss for words. But I like what this blogger writing for the Huffington Post had to say:

What has been missing from the debate, mainly focused on transgender people with foes playing up fears of penises showing up in women's locker rooms, is the very real discrimination against all people -- straight, gay, bisexual and transgender -- for not conforming to "rules" about gender expression. It's about the straight bartender who refused to wear makeup at a Reno casino" and ended up losing, the court siding with the casino, ruling she was not unfairly dismissed from her job as much as it's about Susan Stanton losing her job when she announced she would be transitioning.

For me, it's personal -- I'm not a petite blond in a bikini. I get called sir on a daily basis. I had a job where I was asked to wear a skirt for client meetings. I interviewed at another and refused because at this small start up software company in the early 90s, women were not allowed to wear pants. I love getting dressed up but please don't ask me to wear a dress. It makes me miserable. If you ask me to wear make-up, I'm going to look like a clown.

It's personal because one of my kids struggles with gender identity. I watch his pain and know there is a very real chance he is transgender. Threaten my children's rights and I am no longer sane... throw him under the bus and I'll go out and pick that damn bus up and throw it off the road.

And it's personal because it is a statement about my community. What we are willing to do, and how we are willing to walk in the world.

It is a devastating loss. In 1987, Massachusetts passed a gay and lesbian civil rights bill. Twenty years later, we still have no gender identity protections. The only state in the country with legally recognized gay marriage and no protections for gender expression.

As a community, we need to reframe where we are. It's not about making chicken salad out of chicken shit, which implies making due with what we have. It's about creating a calculated, thoughtful strategy for moving forward, building on what we have. It's about making stone soup. I believe that's what Congresswoman Baldwin was trying to do. Regardless, I am going to support her because I am unwilling to throw anyone under the bus.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

the problem with just HAVING democracy

The problem with democracy is the illusion that just because your country is democratic, you are good to go. That is to say that simply by knowing your government is structured in accordance with the democratic process, you are "safe" and "heard" and "represented."

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Democracy is not a self-sustaining or autonomous unit. It NEEDS participation from everyone--and not just on voting day.

When citizens of America, for example, sit around with their thumbs up their asses, feeling content that every vote counts, and they happened to vote, we fail democracy. Democracy is only operable if we are all attentive to the process, involved, concerned, and take action.

That means understanding what legislation is on the table. That means being in contact with your elected officials. That means knowing how to organize and get organized. That means lobbying and protesting and communicating and challenging and everything else that is the opposite of complacent and stagnant (and I understand the classist dimension to what I just said, but for the sake of getting my point across, I am not going to dwell on that right now). Clearly, you can't know and do everything, but there is certainly a reasonable degree that should be expected.

So when you think that our country is a sham, I just have to point out: is it so unlikely that our entire process is abused and corrupt because the very keepers of democracy, the citizens, have relinquished all responsibilities of oversight and participation?

I think of it like this: if a student leaves her/his laptop alone in the library, goes to get food and fart around campus...s/he can be expected that the laptop will be gone upon return. Of course, the student can get upset over how cruel or selfish the thief is, philosophize on the ethics of our world, and throw her/himself a pity party, OR the student can simply employ the proper precautionary methods and not leave valuables alone and unprotected.

Most Americans leave their most precious valuable, their RIGHTS, all alone on the front porch, the library, the coffee shop, in the car with the windows down, wherever. I suppose it to valid to question and feel pain over the existence of corruption and ill-will, but that is not productive.

I am going to stop rambling, but the point is, it is not enough to HAVE democracy, you have to DO democracy.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"gays and lesbians going mainstream"

Here's an interesting post from The New Democratic Review:

Today’s New York Times reports that gay enclaves in cities like San Francisco are melting away as gay and lesbian couples increasingly take up residence in more integrated middle class neighborhoods. The money quote:

These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification.

There has been a notable shift of gravity from the Castro, with young gay men and lesbians fanning out into less-expensive neighborhoods like Mission Dolores and the Outer Sunset, and farther away to Marin and Alameda Counties, “mirroring national trends where you are seeing same-sex couples becoming less urban, even as the population become slightly more urban,” said Gary J. Gates, a demographer and senior research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles.

At the same time, cities not widely considered gay meccas have seen a sharp increase in same-sex couples. Among them: Fort Worth; El Paso; Albuquerque; Louisville, Ky.; and Virginia Beach, according to census figures and extrapolations by Dr. Gates for The New York Times. “Twenty years ago, if you were gay and lived in rural Kansas, you went to San Francisco or New York,” he said. “Now you can just go to Kansas City.”

I don’t doubt that this trend is experienced by gays and lesbians as something disconcerting, even, perhaps, traumatic. It is, after all, the erosion of a community. But I think it underscores the reality that communities are formed out of necessity—whether the need is food and shelter, or a safe harbor from bigotry and oppression. So this trend provides at least a little hope that American culture is growing up.

(I would like to throw in a friendly reminder: although public discourse generally suggests otherwise, sexual minorities include more than "gays" and "lesbians")