Punk Prayers

#30daysofsocialjustice 07: Bias

Bias can be the basis for prejudice, and it’s something that persons
in privileged groups sometimes mistake for oppression. But as was
discussed on day four, oppression is one way from the empowered to the unempowered.

But Constance, you might say, what of those ethnic markets and
eateries that only hire people of the ethnicity of the business? Surely
that is oppressive for job-seekers who are not of that ethnicity! I
would argue that in such situations, it is BIAS at work which is
manifesting as oppression of individuals, rather than systemic
oppression of entire minority groups. Yes, people in racial minorities
can be biased against the racial majority. It could be argued quite
successfully that the same bias can be found from gender minorities such
as the one to which I belong.

Bias can also exists within an oppressed umbrella group to
sub-groups. I know a young bisexual woman who had applied for an LGBT
scholarship while in college but was turned down on the basis that she
wasn’t LGBT enough. Being the “B” wasn’t quite good enough. My own
experience as a pansexual (who used to identify as a bisexual) is that
there is very real bias against multisexual LGBTQIA+ persons from
monosexual LG persons. In fact, we multisexuals are often told that
monosexual is a term of hate, seemingly because it includes gay and
lesbian persons in the same category as heterosexuals: people who are
attracted to persons of a certain sex.

Where oppression is top-down, bias is more universal. If someone were
to say that my use of #ProtectTransLives is a form of bias, it could be
argued that they are correct. I’ve actually been taken to task on
Facebook for not making as big a deal of other oppressed groups,
particularly those in other countries, as I make of those communities
who are oppressed and marginalized for their orientations, genders, and
bodies. I would have to agree with them. There is a bias in my activism
and ministry, as I am focused on serving particular communities. A term
that I could borrow from self-described radfems is that I “prioritize”
my own oppressed and marginalized communities.

However, this is a way in which bias can serve a greater beneficial
purpose. Being oppressed for gender and orientation is something I
understand as I’m subjected to it every day. And while I prioritize
serving my own communities, it is not that I refuse to serve others.
Rather, my bias helps me channel my resources in ways where I can have
the greatest positive effect.

Bias can be both good and bad, depending on how it’s used.

#30daysofsocialjustice 06: Classism

Merriam-Webster
defines classism as “unfair treatment of people because of their social
or economic class” and “prejudice or discrimination based on class.”
There are those who will insist that pointing out how groups in the
powerful majority is classism. I would argue that this is not true.
Classism, like other -isms, is a one-way form of injustice: from the
empowered toward the unempowered.

For instance, straight persons are in a higher societal class than
persons of any other sexual and romantic orientations. This is evident
not only in terms of what constitutes legal marriage, but in
entertainment as well wherein the majority of characters are straight.
Various sources I’ve found show that in 27 to 29 states of this country,
people can be legally fired for being gay. Some other searching
included that education, healthcare, and housing can also be denied for
this reason. If one can be classified as transgender, the number of
states jumps to include about two-thirds of the country. When people
talk about the rights to privacy while denying trans persons access to
gendered facilities, this is classism: the valuing of the cisgender
class over the gender expansive class. Even then, there are binary trans
persons (MTFs and FTMs) who hold non-binary gender expansive persons in
lower esteem, upholding the classist ideal of the gender binary.

Another form of classism related to the gainfully employed versus the
working poor versus the unemployed. There are many in our society that
seem to assume that if one is anything other than gainfully employed one
is doing something wrong. Unless, of course, one is a sex worker. Then,
our society suggests that it’s better to be under employed or
unemployed.

Classism is alive and well in this society.

#30daysofsocialjustice 05: Gender

CONTENT WARNING: LABELS

I’ve made a lot of posts here and on my other blogs (2nd half of life and double invert)
about gender: gender roles, gender expression, gender identity, gender
and religion (especially on the “Barc” blog), gender and politics,
gender and safety, gender and sex, gender and sexuality, etc.

And, of course, many ask the question: What is gender? While the book Transgender History by Susan Stryker is a great trans 101 book, it also has a lot to say on the topic of gender versus sex.

The word “gender” has often been used synonymously with the word
“sex,” equating the sex of male with the genders boy and man or the sex
of female with the genders girl and woman. This is misguided for various
reasons, as transgender persons are proof that the sex assigned at
birth based on a visual examination of an infant’s genitals has nothing
to do with their gender. Yes, it does seem that many people identify
their gender with the sex they were assigned with at birth. This is
called cisgender and is not intended as a term of oppression. Indeed, it
cannot be a term of oppression as cisgender persons hold the
sociopolitical majority in this society (and it seems in most “Western”
societies).

How does gender tie into social justice? Over the years I’ve read a
lot of articles citing studies that say women are paid less than men.
There are men who will attempt to debunk these stories by saying you
can’t compare the salary of a receptionist to that of a software
engineer. Actually, I can because I don’t see why the receptionist
should be paid so much less. They both need food, shelter, clothing, and
healthcare. But another question is why are there so few women in
high-tech jobs? Hearing the harassment they describe could be one
reason. But I’ve also encountered articles showing that men working in
what have been historically “women’s” fields (teaching, nursing) are
getting paid more than women in those same fields. So, gender becomes a
social justice issue in the working world. And if one is transgender,
getting work can become much more difficult.

And, that’s just in employment. Where people like me can safely or
even legally eliminate bodily waste depends on laws that revolve around
gender. In two-thirds of the states in this country, it’s legal to deny
people like me education, employment, healthcare, and housing because of
our genders. How can this not be a social justice issue?

This society is so heavily divided by gender that I have a hard time
seeing gender as anything other than a social justice issue.

#30daysofsocialjustice 04: Oppression

[Yes, this is a day late. I spent a good part of yesterday with my second-born who was in the hospital. They have been discharged but have a follow-up today. So, some of these posts might still be a bit late.]

CONTENT WARNING: LABELS

The word oppression can suggest that a person or a group of persons
is doing something actively to keep another person or a group of persons
marginalized. The recent protests of a trans girl from using the restroom that matches her gender identity is one such example that springs to mind. But, acts of oppression aren’t always this overt.

Kaiser Permanente has a fantastic clinic for trans and gender
expansive persons. And yet the medical forms, both paper and online,
still only allow for female and male. This doesn’t allow for agender,
bigender, gender fluid, gender queer, intersex, and other gender
expansive patients. Furthermore, healthcare screenings are provided
according to sex. I get questions about PAP smears, menstrual cycles,
contraception, and preventing pregnancy when I lack the organs for these
screenings. I’m not offered screenings for the organs I actually have
because the electronic medical records system hasn’t caught up with the
work done and the services offered by the trans clinic. Cisgender
patients can be assured that they will get notifications for screenings
that will adequately address their anatomies. Gender expansive patients
have to be their own advocates, even with the existence of this clinic
at Kaiser.

This is just one example of oppression, even though it’s quite likely
that this oppression is accidental. Access to public toilets is
another. The nasty glances and verbal challenges, not to mention the
laws that some jurisdictions have enacted or tried to enact, are
examples of intentional acts of oppression as cisgender persons are
being valued above gender expansive persons. This
oppression ends up meaning that we have to avoid public toilets for our
own safety, even as it could lead to health problems from retaining
waste in our bodies for too long
.

The number of people who are opposed same-sex/same-gender marriage
are also persons who are engaging in intentional oppression, as they are
seeking to deny persons like my partner and I the same rights that
heterosexual couples, or even those couples that pass for heterosexual,
freely enjoy. No one questioned my right to those privileges during my
first marriage, when I appeared to be a man married to a woman. But now
that I have transitioned and am a woman who’s married to a woman, it’s a
problem even though I’m the same person.

Race adds a whole other dimension to oppression that I will never
fully appreciate because I’m white and live in a society that lifts
whiteness above all other visible signs of race. I’ve had persons
explain to me why simply existing as a white person in the US is a form
of passive oppression because of the fact that persons of color will be
treated as less worthy than whites. And from what I’ve read, persons of
color are not oppressed equally as Native Americans often have it far
worse than other racial groups.

One doesn’t have to be actively hateful to be oppressive toward others. Oppression can occur even with the best of intentions.

#30daysofsocialjustice 02: Diversity

CONTENT WARNING: LABELS

Years ago, I had someone try to assure me that the concept of
diversity in society was ridiculous. After all, the US wasn’t built on
diversity. I can’t make this up: that was exactly what was posted on the
message board (by a person who used a pseudonym and an avatar that was a
photo of a celebrity, but I digress). This person was a white,
cisgender, heterosexual male who was anti-gay, anti-trans, and
anti-foreigners/immigrants. There were others on this message board with
similar political views. Yes, there are a great many white, cisgender,
heterosexual fe/male persons who don’t espouse these views, but there
were the minority at this particular web site.

Diversity is essential for life. The principles of evolution describe
this. A limited gene pool can lead to stagnation of a species and
possible extinction. The more diverse a population, the stronger it will
be. So, too, with the types of persons in a society.

Now, I’ve certainly been told that society doesn’t need trans persons
like me to make or keep society healthy. In fact, I’ve been told the
opposite. Since there are those trans persons who seek to have the
reproductive systems they were born with removed, we’re actively working
against the survival of the species. We then point out the current over
population, and the retort is that if there had been more trans or
non-heterosexual persons in the past the human race would have died out.
Of course. Because all trans and non-straight persons don’t want to be
parents.

Those whom I’ve encountered speaking the loudest against diversity
have often, though not always, been in the sociopolitical majority. The
expect and even demand compassion for who and what they are even as the
mock the idea that they should be compassionate in return to those who
are different. But a society can indeed benefit from a diverse
population. There are so many different ways to live and to be. Some of
these differences are indeed by choice, and some are by circumstance.
And I feel that we can always learn from the ways of life of others.

And, yes, I have learned from those who have a problem with
diversity. I’ve learned that I want to be completely the opposite in my
way of life. Diversity is life.

Blessed Be and Five-fold Things

Recently here on Tumblr, there was a heated debate regarding the use of the phrase “Blessed Be,” with the assertion being made that it is unequivocally a reference to the Five-fold Kiss used in sex magick. While this origin is no doubt true, there is more to the phrase “Blessed be” than its origins.

At my first degree initiation into the Open Source Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca, a form of the Five-fold kiss was indeed used, but OSAT doesn’t use a different version for male and females. Rather, a gender neutral version had been created. On the one hand, this was great for me as a pre-op/non-op trans woman. But, the seemingly sexual nature of the Five-fold kiss made me uncomfortable. When I mentioned as much to my coven elders after my initiation, they asked why I didn’t say so before hand.

“Because I felt it wasn’t my place to challenge this,” I replied.

“Then we failed you,” came the reply from one of my elders.

This led to our coven redacting the Five-fold kiss even farther to how it exists now, the Five-fold Blessing:

  • Blessed be thy courage, that has brought you to these ways.
  • Blessed be thy faith, that will worship at the sacred altars.
  • Blessed be thy body, that shall enact thy will.
  • Blessed be thy heart, formed in strength and beauty.
  • Blessed be thy breath, the emblem of life.

This is the blessing as it has been used ever since.

So while “Blessed Be” might have its history in sex magick, that is not the be-all-end-all of that phrase as the various traditions within Wicca are free to adapt, redact, and change things as they see fit.

I’m an ordained third degree priest. I will always strive to be sure that my ministry is respectful of people’s boundaries, mine included. Additionally, as I promised in my ordination vows, I will be the teacher that is not afraid to learn from the student.

Be blessed.