Showing posts with label activism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label activism. Show all posts

Perceived As....

When trying to explain myself, I sometimes use the term, "perceived as heterosexual."  It's a term that catches people off guard, usually, people that do not fully know me or know that I'm bisexual.  It raises an eyebrow and occasionally, provokes a question about what that means.  

As a cisgender male, I am in a committed relationship with a cisgender female and that is largely what people see.  And from that view, the assumption comes that I am therefore heterosexual.  That's the byproduct of a heteronormative society and part of what is known as bi-erasure.  While I get why this happens, I'm often frustrated by the way it mutes my full identity as bisexual.  That I am attracted to more than one sex is an important piece of my identity; though not the defining piece (I'm not sure, for me, that there is a defining piece of my identity--except maybe learner).  It's added infinite value in my life by acknowledging it and allowing it to shape the adult I've become and just because I have chosen to commit to a life-long relationship, doesn't mean it is any less of my identity.  It doesn't change a fundamental aspect of who I am; just like having a second child doesn't mean you cease loving the first child or if love dogs, you stop loving all dogs because you now have one.   

This muting may not seem like much but there are some ways to better understand it for those that aren't in the know.  Here are a few analogies worth considering:

  • We hang out regularly and while you do your best to ask me about the full range of personal and professional life, I only focus on your personal life.  When you offer up your something about your professional life, I either do not acknowledge what you have said or return to talking about your personal life. 
  • You and I are at a significant event for one of your two children (play, sports, competition, performance, etc).  The other child is present with us but I don't bother to acknowledge, interact with, or respond to that child.  My entire attention is focused on the child performing.  
  • You are driving a car and I am directing you to our destination.  But I will only allow for use to take right turns; thus we can reach our destination but only by essentially circling around it into to arrive at it.  

Each of these analogies captures an absence of acknowledgment and appreciation for the fullness of the other person's life.  By using, "perceived as heterosexual," I give those paying attention the opportunity to question their own assumptions and the opportunity to speak up.  It also signifies to some that there is indeed an ally in their midst, even if, on paper, I may not appear to be.
Bi triangles.svg
Public Domain, Link

Of course, one could ask why I don't just acknowledge my bisexuality right up front; aren't I muting it by saying perceived as?  Explaining bisexuality is tricky to explain.  People get heterosexuality; they get homosexuality (regardless of how they feel about it or at least they pit it as an opposite to heterosexuality), but bisexuality seems impossible to compute for many folks.  I remember telling one family member that was the case and of course, the reaction was a follow-up question as to whether I would stay committed to my partner.  I wish that was the easiest question I'd gotten on the subject, but alas, U.S. culture is great with either/or thinking but not so much with both/and thinking.  So to roll out the conversational grenade that is bisexuality is usually not necessarily useful in that particular moment when I'm using the term, "perceived as..." and I know it enough to not go down that road but to leave room for it, should someone at a later point want to better understand.  

I wrote this post, not to complain or to speak of any injustice that I am facing but rather just as a means of helping others to think not just about the language we use (or don't use), but maybe to help others (and myself for that matter) to think about how our perceptions of those we are close to might mute or ignore aspects of them that are in fact an important part of their identity.  In doing so, do we further alienate or harm those in our lives?  For some, probably not and yet for others, I'm guessing it has some negative effect.  

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We Can Do Better; I Can Do Better

So where am I with all this?

The swirling hurt, disappointment, and rage still swirls deeply in my soul.  I knew it was possible, but just like cancer and death, it is not something I conceive of happening until it's too late.  I had hoped the country would not go down the path toward a Trump presidency in the weeks since his election, I'm more scared for this country's future and in particular, those made more vulnerable by his hateful rhetoric.  At the time of composing this post, the count was at over 700 reports of harassment

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a lightbulb

And I'm mad at a lot of things, people and places--all the forces the colluded to make this election the barely-conceived win that it became--not for Republicans so much but how much the messages of Trump's campaign mixed together a message of hope that was deeply seeded in hatred, anger, fear and frustration.  I get and want change in our government like so many others;   I get and want change in our politics like so many others; I get and want a better future for myself and my loved ones like so many others.  But in the messages and plans that I came across on behalf of this candidate, they were dead-ends to me because so many of them were based on dispossessing others of their rights, freedoms, and opportunities or lacking any substantive means of execution.

Like many others, I am pained by the idea that people chose fear and anger and in some way, were comfortable with disregarding the rights of people like myself and others.  But I don't want to blatantly categorize people.  They are not Trump, though their choices do reflect or feed into and validate the hate and vitriol that has emerged from the white supremacists to the degree that some white supremacists are being offered up as Cabinet members.  For me, calling people who voted for Trump racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc is just too easy.  It lets me off the hook from understanding and humanizing them.  It reminds me of how I used to talk about zombies when I taught about monsters.  Zombies are great enemies--because you can easily kill them without remorse; their humanity is gone.  You don't have to empathize with a zombie, but I need to empathize with the folks who voted for Trump--because we're all still here and in the days to come, we may likely need each other much more than we all realize.

I'm concerned that being on the left-leaning spectrum, we fumbled it a lot in how we related (or failed to relate) to those that chose to vote for him.  We shared ridiculous memes, we made simplistic and often passive-aggressive ultimatums (e.g. "if you are voting for Trump, just defriend me"),  we made assumptions about the typical "Trump supporter" (we collectively decided they were "uneducated"--a term I loathe for all its elitism), we villainized him and his followers.  We did that which we are supposedly not supposed to do; we marginalized.  I get that many did so because so much of what Trump says and speaks to was marginalizing.  We denied them the complexity and contradictions that we often grant ourselves.  But how do we get out of that cycle?  How do we fight hate in a way that doesn't look exactly like what we're fighting against?  We must be as nuanced and respectful of the variations within the people that believe what happened on November 8th was a good thing as we are with ourselves.  If we fail to do that, we fail ourselves.

I use the collective "we" within this post and yet I know not everyone of "us" did all of these things; but they were prevalent enough in our actions, commentaries, and media that we are complicit (or relationally as complicit as we have judged Trump supporter in the negative aspects that he embraces).  But in reality, so much of what I write here were things I grappled with prior to or directly after the election (hard to parse things out as this election riled up so much in all of us).  So this is more about me and what I'm trying to take and encourage others to consider about what has happened.   

I also am writing this from my own position of privilege as a white, middle-class, perceived-as-heterosexual male and I'm strongly aware of this, which is why I emphasize that what I say next is geared towards other white folks--folks who are rooted invested in social justice, equality, equity, and fairness in our society for one and all.  I say this to others whites because it is our responsibility to engage in the race politics of whiteness, race-baiting, and embedded within that, class. It's not enough to sit within our enclaves of privilege, diversity, or complexity, and then judge (often on stereotypes) and deny the complexity of those who voted different from us.  And to be clear, I am not saying that we are all doing this or saying this, but that these ideas are present in our discussions and are part of what leads to our inability to help other white people understand or appreciate the stacked decks that our culture is playing with.   

For white folks like me, we work hard to recognize and understand intersectionality and complexity in the lives of non-white folks as we should, I believe, given the systematic inequality that exists and is woven into the fabric of our culture and laws.  But even in doing so, we can't forget and also work to recognize and address the intersectionality and complexity of whites who live in working class and impoverished conditions that lack access to things--particular to post-secondary education and training.  I grew increasingly frustrated to hear these groups talked about as "uneducated"--a term that in the constructs of our culture and education system, says a million different things; it's not a neutral term but one that implies a lack of intelligence.  For all the left can get right about respectful language, calling large swaths of people "uneducated" and using their voting choice as proof positive of it, just seems like a non-starter. We failed to engage and listen and learn--which isn't entirely surprising given that this is a credo directed toward white allies pretty regularly. We need to understand and when possible ally with them on common grounds of things that are important to all of us (and there are far more things that are likely to be important to all of us than not--after all, many people are suffering under the current system of politics).   

Beyond talking around and about these people, we need to find ways of better talking with them.  I saw too often people that attempted to disavow those friends who were Trump supporters and offered up ultimatums to disengage with us if they believed something different from us.  That is the epitome of intolerance and in this case, I saw many of us use it inappropriately.  The general disclaimer to defriend if someone supports Trump isn't meeting intolerance with intolerance; it's assuming what the Trump supporter believes and minimalizing the complexity of beliefs of another person (something the left strongly advocates against); it is stereotyping and refusing to engage with people that are different.  It's refusing to understand why or having the hard conversations to trace of the nuance of their position.  Not everyone did this, but how many of us actually tried to understand and parse out the nuance of a given Trump supporter.  Instead, we embraced our echo-chambers, which told us of the extreme and problematic things he was doing (often in overexaggerated tones that we accused the right-wing "news" sites of doing--Mother Jones, I'm looking at you and your ridiculous click-bait), which allowed us to believe the worse in Trump and his supporters, while not recognizing the most important things that we actually agree on.    

I feel like as white people, we need to better communicate the importance of equality, equity, and fairness for all people in this country (and the world for that matter--but hey, baby steps)  to other white folks and to understand that when we address those things, we improve everyone's lives.  Moving forward, I feel like we need to change and do this differently.  We need to work hard to bridge efforts; we need to think differently about conversations we have with those we suppose, present, or assume to be the "enemy" or representations of those things we dislike, fear, or take issue with.  

I've started with trying to figure out how to go forward and then moved into rethinking how I do social media.  This post has helped me to flesh out what are some of the things that I am challenged by what myself and other white social justice folks have been doing in the last few months.  In future posts, I'm hoping to more concretely find actions that put in contact and collaboration with people that hold different views from me in order to better connect and relate and maybe, for us to at least understand and respect each other more in a way that this previous election seemed to fail to do.  

So that's where I'm about you?

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Politics in Social Media: Memes, Public Talk, and Snacking

As you know from previous posts centered on politics, I'm doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about courses of action that are important to me.  Within that, it means I am also starting to think differently about how I engage and act politically in social media.  I will always contend that social media is a powerful and important tool; one that has inevitably changed my life for the better, making me a better communicator, more thoughtful and sensitive person, and better aware of the world around me.  But it has me thinking differently about certain aspects of it that I need to change my approach on.  Here are some of those different approaches that are currently on my mind.


Moving forward--I'm largely done with memes.  Neutral memes that may be amusing and interesting are probably not off the table but memes in general, I'm done using.  We all like memes because they are perfect analogy machines, distilling our issue into something that is a picture and handful of words.  However, memes do not really encourage or make for better dialogue between people with differences but rather allows one to state their claim, relying on the (often faulty) logic or limited facts of the meme to be proof positive.  They are shields with which to stand behind but generally non-starters for actual conversation.  They're used as proof-positive, often with the implication that if we just share them around enough, everyone will finally get it.
Word cloud of this post in the shape of a word balloon.

In order to critique the idea at the center, one has to engage in a long and drawn out explanation which often takes time and often, the original poster is not interested in hearing.  Not only do they take time but because the meme has framed the point, one is often trapped in having to contend with the present frame, which because of its distilled nature often is a challenge to do so in an engaging way given the person who posted it feels strongly enough about the meme to post it.  

So for me, I am refusing to engage in the meme-wars.  They aren't constructive in the end I believe and therefore would rather spend my time sharing more constructive ways of publicly thinking.  That being said, I am still going to speak up when I see memes that marginalize or alienate people--not as a means of engaging the person who posted it per se (though I hope they are willing to listen) but to make sure others who see the post (especially people that might be a target of the post) know that not everyone feels that way.   

Public Conversation vs Private Messages

Social media has been fantastic in putting me contact with a great many people and enjoying the opportunity to have many interesting conversations and debates.  But in moving forward, I think I shall be trying a new tactic.  We know that when it comes to beliefs, we are often likely to dig in deeper when we are publicly challenged because it becomes that much harder to admit if our thinking is wrong in some capacity.  We stake ourselves as intelligent, professionals, or just aware and so to be shown otherwise in public means that we are likely to avoid it.  Thus, I can imagine for myself and others that as I dig into a conversation deeper and deeper, trying to defend my beliefs, I'm reluctant to give ground or to really hear the other person.  But maybe, if I move the discussion to a more personal nature--to just me and the person via private messages, email, phone calls or face-to-face, it changes the conversation.  It moves from public to private and creates better opportunities to hear one another.  

So my goal is that when I engage in conversations that seem in direct opposition to things I believe in, I will initially post my public response (agian, believe it is important that others see it that it will be an opportunity for those neutral OR those that the post targets feel supported) but if the conversation goes into a more protracted discussion, that I move that into a private realm for me and the person to better understand one another.  

Snacking Social Media

I plan to reduce my social media usage.  I still plan to use it regularly, even daily but I need to shift away from the mindless scrolling, the endless search for interesting content, the constant look for something.  I need to be more strategic and focused in going on social media--seeing it as a place to check in regularly but not constantly.  I want to hear the different voices of people I am connected with but like others, after this past week, I'm realizing how much I'm drowning in it and I'd rather not be so inundated.  So I plan to start planning spots within the day to tune in but to stop grazing while doing other things and recooperate time to do some of the actions that I am in pursuing as a result of where I find myself politically.  

Subordinated into that is going to be a reduction in how often I explore differnet news outlets; especially that includes clickbait or over-dramatic responses to what they present as news (on the left, Mother Jones, I'm looking at you; on the right, Breitbart news, I'm not having it or any "news" space that have a bajillion article links along the side and at the bottom to other tabloid news).  For me, these sites are not useful; I want to know what happened but I'm so damn tired of the hyperbolic rhetoric--that's what got us here; it won't get us out.  So I say goodbye to them.

These are some of the actions in my daily practice that I am pursuing.  What about the rest of you?  How might your relationship with social media change given your experiences over the last few months?  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

What Am I Doing...Actions Taken

So in my last post, I said that the election for me and anyone else that was not something they liked in terms of its execution needs to do something to avoid it happening in the many problematic ways that it played out.  How's that going for all of us?  What are some of the action items you've taken up in the last few days?

Here's my run-down of what I've done thus far:

November 8: Election Day

I voted, of course but I also wrote the initial post from the other day that has got me going down this path of thinking about what to do next.

November 9:  A Day of Mourning & Reflection

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a lightbulb
I stayed up through most of Election night and had trouble sleeping (maybe 2 hours that night).  Wednesday was a really hard day for me.  It was spent in a bit of a haze.  It was spent shedding public and private tears and commiserating with friends.  I cried because the loss to me represented so much that was wrong--wrong with how the election was fought and the differing reasons why those who lost, lost and those who won, won.  It was navigating a path of sadness and frustrated and fear and not letting that turn into hate and anger but into actual things that I can learn and do better by this.  It was looking in the mirror and doing my best not to villianize those who are not us.  There are many things I feel that I am right about (e.g. caring for the equity, equality, and fairness of all humans) but recognize that I have gotten a lot of things wrong in how I go about it.

November 10:  Connections

I spent a large part of my free time on this day reaching out to as many people I knew that were as heart-stricken or felt particularly threatened under the rhetoric that President Elect Trump voiced.  I wanted them to know I cared about them and that I was there to help.  In my own mind, I spent the day thinking about what it means to connect and how to engage in action that is meaningful to move foward.  I realized that I and others would need some group support and guidance so I created the Time to Act group on Facebook to help people (including myself) to find guidance, support, and feedback on how to move forward.

November 11:  Time to Act

I spent time further wordsmithing the purpose and setting up the Time to Act group before launching it and inviting friends who I thought would be interested in joining or learning from.  Since then, it's up to about 500 members and more people are joining and inviting others.  Beyond that I also began to work with a good friend of mine about looking at an opportunity to reach out to the Electoral College (we began talking about this on the 10th actually).  A petition started int he past few days had us thinking.  The petition is an attempt to get the people that compose the Electoral College to change their vote.  It is an absolute moonshot to convince them but at the time of this composing, over 3.5 million people had signed it.  I also had conversations with my partner about the actions we wanted ot take together in the days to come.

November 12:  The Actions Grows

And today.  Today has been a mixture of engaging in idea-exchange with the group; composing a list of groups I wanted to monthly donate to, working with my friend in the above-mentioned project, and forming a plan for the days ahead.  It's getting energize by hearing from others in the group about the actions they plan to take and thinking about ways to better understand and connect with people that are different from me.  

Where am I going from here?

So now I'm off to think about more ways to act and seeing what are things I can do each day to act.  As I execute or explore new methods I will be definitely sharing them here on this blog but also within the group mention above.

What can I do?

I provided some initial ideas in the previous post about what to do.  Here are some more personal actions that people can take in the aftermath of the election.  
  1. Check in with people who may be made more vulnerable by the change of things to see what it is that you can do to help them.
  2. Reach out to organizations (e.g. local Muslim centers, women's centers, immigration protection organizations) to communicate support or ask ways in which you can support and advocate for their protection in the days to come.
  3. Write letters to local, state, and federal representatives voicing your concerns about how the country is moving forward and ask what you can do and what they can do.
  4. Avoid posting memes: Sound strange? I'm starting to think memes are one of the misinformative ways in which created echo chambers as they often marginalize the other person's point of view beyond the ability to create reasonable difference.
  5. Talk with people who did not vote the way you did and listen carefully to why it was they made that decision. The goal is to listen and learn; not to defend and attack. Just a few off the top of my head.

It's Not About the Candidate

I'm already writing a blog post about the issues around the election, my emotions, and things I'm reconsidering. But I want to be clear about my views on this. I'm not necessarily hateful towards the President Elect. I ultimately want him to succeed because his failure will do even more harm. However, it is undeniable that he used a range of hateful and fearful tactics that increased the vulnerability of groups that were already subordinate in our society. In the days since the election, hate groups and individual bigots have seen his election as a justification for their disregard for human decency and respect. And for that, I do hold the President Elect accountable for, especially since he had done nothing significant to quell the hatred.

That's all for now!  I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing and hear more about your ideas.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.